By Audrey W.
This picks up where Johnny is under the house with the victim, Tom.
With the shoring beam off Tom’s shoulder, Gage went to work to get him out from under the house. Squatting nearby the man in the cramped space, Johnny began to explain the situation.
“Alright, now listen to me, Tom. We can’t work on ya here.” The paramedic jumped as a large piece of debris tumbled down the slope under the house nearby. Creaking and banging noises could be heard in other areas underneath the house. “Everything’s coming down around us,” Johnny said with a nervous laugh. He turned his attention back to the injured man. “Alright, look. I’m gonna have to move ya out of here. Now it’s gonna hurt like hell, but there’s nothing else I can do,” Gage said, shaking his head. “Okay? ”
Tom grunted. “Yeah, just get me out.”
“Alright, now, Tom. Listen. Are your legs hurt?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Can you move ‘em?”
Tom gave it a try. “Yeah.”
Johnny kept the questions coming to get the rescue procedure underway. “Do you think you can stand?”
The victim grunted again. “If you help me.”
Gage moved closer and began to clear small debris out of the way.
“Okay, okay. Give me your good hand. Pull yourself to me,” the paramedic directed.
He watched as Tom struggled on his stomach to crawl out from under the beam and over towards him. As the injured man got closer Johnny continued coaxing him.
“Give me your arm.”
Tom complied and Gage linked his right arm with Tom’s left, moving small debris as he pulled the man up to a sitting position against him.
The victim groaned loudly. “Oh, oh God, my arm!”
Johnny held the man’s back against his chest and reached for the injured arm.
“Okay, okay. Okay, hold it.” He carefully maneuvered Tom’s arm. “Here, put your arm. . . in your shirt,” Gage said somewhat breathless. He was now ready to help the man get to his feet. “Alright, c’mon. . .I’ll lift you--”
Suddenly there was a horrendous creaking noise that filled both men’s ears. Johnny’s first thought was to get Tom out from under the house that much faster. Unfortunately, as he tried to act on that idea, their world caved in.
Johnny could feel pain shoot through his body as shoring and debris came down around and on them. Pieces of the stucco coating on the house fell from the underside of the floor above. As his next option, Gage had hoped to cover the already injured man with his body, but Tom quickly threw himself to the right of the paramedic as he tried to get away from the falling debris, ignoring the pain in his left shoulder.
When everything settled, the crawlspace under the house was slightly less in height. Johnny and Tom were both trapped in the tangled mess of shoring and debris.
The crew inside the house looked around at one another, dread in their eyes, as they heard the noise from under the house. Roy could see his partner beginning to help the victim to his feet, when suddenly the hole was filled with pieces of shoring falling past. The floor inside the house dropped slightly, causing the men’s stomachs to lift up, like the effect from riding on an elevator. As quick as the noise around the house had started, it ended and the interior of the damaged home became ominously quiet. No one wanted to breathe, much less move a muscle. Finally, still on his hands and knees, Roy chanced a glance up at Captain Stanley. He could tell by the man’s expression, Hank was having grim thoughts, too. Roy looked to the hole again.
“Johnny! Johnny! Hey, can you hear me?” DeSoto stared down into the hole in disbelief. His partner had been so close to getting the victim and himself out. “Johnny!”
When he didn’t receive an answer, the blonde-haired paramedic tried to devise a plan to suggest to Stanley. But the house began to creak again, causing the men to have to evacuate. They very carefully and slowly made their way to and out the front door, praying all the while nothing more would fall.
Chet had been on the side of the house watching Gage rescue Tom, when some of the beams underneath the building began to fall. He stared in disbelief as debris suddenly was knocking his shiftmate over, forcing him to the ground. Johnny disappeared from view in a tangle of shoring.
Tom’s friend stood rooted in shock behind Chet. He was speechless. Why hadn’t they just let the house get condemned? Now the price of their lack of good judgment increased, as the fireman who was risking his own safety to help Tom was in as big as, if not more, danger than Tom had been.
Johnny lifted his head. Reaching up with his left hand, he swiped at the dirt on his face as he looked around. Considering the battering he’d taken, he wasn’t surprised to see blood from his face on his hand afterwards. But luckily, by nothing short of a miracle, Johnny found himself to be surrounded by boards and beams, but not completely buried underneath. He was sore as hell where he had been hit by the falling debris. But most of what had hit him, continued on past or to the side of him. Only one part of Johnny’s body had pressure on it and that was his right leg. Gage slowly eased himself onto his back, twisting his midsection since his right leg couldn’t move with him. A shoring beam held his leg in place. Ignoring his own predicament, he searched in the darkened space with his eyes, looking for Tom. The man was a yard away from Johnny’s feet, directly to the right of the hole they had cut in the floor earlier. Numerous pieces of shoring boards and other debris covered his lower half. A large chunk of stucco undercoating was beside his head.
“Tom!” The paramedic called out. “Tom!” There was no response. He looked at the hole that was now cluttered with a maze of boards. “Roy! Roy! Are ya there?” Johnny took a couple of deep breaths. “Cap?”
When no immediate answer came, Johnny lay on his side, resting his head on the ground.
How are they gonna get us out of here?
Once they were out in the open, the firemen trotted towards the exposed underside of the house. Chet was trying to find a way into the tangled web of beams as Captain Stanley called out to him.
“Kelly, don’t even think about it! I don’t want two of my men needing to be rescued!”
“But, Cap! We gotta get Gage out of there! Look at the support posts at the edge of the house!” Chet pointed towards the area of the building that sat the highest off the ground. The support posts were starting to shift in their angle where they supported the house. It was a sign that the house was slipping.
Hank walked over to examine the wooden supports more closely, Roy and Chet close on his heels. “I know you want to get John right out, Chet, but we’ll all be watching this house go down if you or anyone else goes under there and makes any wrong moves. Who knows what’ll set off another avalanche of debris again.” He shrugged his shoulders. “We don’t even know what just caused the last one. I’d guess it’s the fact this house is going down bit by bit,” Hank offered, motioning towards the support posts. “But it’s not a sure thing that the boards underneath weren’t just put up poorly.”
Chet frowned. Captain Stanley was right. Going in without a well-thought out plan could spell disaster for Gage and Tom, if they were still alive.
The three men began to climb back up to midway on the hill beside the house, when they heard a noise from the structure. It was faint, but sounded like someone calling out. Hank held up his hands, signaling for everyone to be quiet.
Roy stared at the mess under the house as he waited to hear the sound again. In seconds they were rewarded with what they had hoped for.
It was Gage’s voice. He was still alive.
DeSoto took a step closer to the structure. “Johnny! It’s Roy! Are you hurt?”
“I’m okay! Tom’s hurt!”
As Captain Stanley started to open his mouth to talk to Gage, the paramedic spoke again.
“You gotta get Tom outta here!”
“How does it look around you guys, John?” Stanley asked.
“Not too bad! But Tom’s partially buried under a pile of debris! I think a chunk off the underside from the house hit his head!”
“Can you reach him?”
Hank, Roy and Chet exchanged glances. They knew if Johnny could see Tom and not reach him, that it meant the paramedic was most likely pinned underneath something.
“Cap,” Roy began, “if I can get back in the house and look inside the hole, maybe I can see them now that everything has settled. We’ll know exactly what we’re up against.”
The captain gave it some thought. He looked at the maze of debris under the house and rubbed his chin. Turning to face Roy, he nodded. “Take the HT with you and let me know if you think we can get either man out with minimal effort from inside. Whichever man is the most accessible comes out first.”
Johnny wiped at his face again, as he felt the blood mixed with sweat trickling down the side. Once again, he tried to get a response from the other victim.
“Tom! Hey, man, can you hear me? Tom!”
Still no answer. The man hadn’t moved. Gage hoped that the others could get to them soon. He wasn’t sure this man had much time.
Roy took slow, but steady steps over to the hole in the floor. It felt like an eternity before he reached it. Once he was there, the blonde paramedic eased himself down onto his stomach and hung his head down inside to survey the situation. With the aide of a flashlight, he could see Tom beside the hole, the lower half of his body hidden underneath the heap of debris that was on him. Johnny was a few feet away, his leg pinned underneath a beam.
“Hey, Junior,” Roy said, eliciting a grin from Johnny. “Don’t worry, we’re working on a way to get you both out of here.”
“Who’s worried?” Johnny joked. “Get him out first,” he said, indicating Tom. “He needs to get out as soon as possible.”
“Cap said whoever is the most accessible. I don’t think he wants to put either of you at more risk if one is more stuck than the other and we try that one first.”
“Roy, I’m okay. Just my leg is stuck.” Johnny could tell Roy was looking at the blood on his face. “Well, something hit my head. . .” By the look he got, Johnny could tell Roy was waiting for more. “Okay, a bunch of the falling debris hit me all over. But I know who I am, where I am, what day it is. . .”
“Did you lose consciousness at all? You didn’t answer me when I first called out your name.”
“I. . .I guess so. But not for very long.”
Roy nodded and pulled his head up out of the hole in the floor. Keying the mic on the HT, he reported to his superior.
“Engine 51, HT 51.”
“Go ahead HT 51.”
“I can see them. Tom is just to the side of the hole. He has debris covering his lower body and is unresponsive to voices. Johnny has a beam pinning his right leg and a head injury. He thinks he might’ve briefly lost consciousness.”
“10-4, HT 51. What’s your take on the situation with getting the two men out?”
“I’m not sure, Cap. It looks like it’s a toss up on who’ll be easiest to get free, but as far as getting them out this way. . .I think so.” Roy paused a moment. “Johnny wants us to take Tom first.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Roy heard Hank mumble, probably not meaning for it to go over the radio. “What’s your call?”
“I think he’s right. Tom is most likely more seriously injured and needs to be out of here as soon as possible.”
“Okay, let’s do it. What do you need down there?”
“The port-a-power is still below, I can use that for the beam that’s on Johnny’s leg. As far as Tom goes, I think I can get him clear by hand. I’ll just need a little help getting these guys up out of the hole.” Roy glanced at the doorway where help would soon be coming through. “Have whoever it is slide a stokes in beside the hole. That way we can slide the vic--” He paused and corrected himself. “That way we can slide Tom and Johnny out of here and not jar this house anymore than we have to.”
“10-4, HT 51. Let us know when you’re ready.”
Johnny watched as his partner lowered himself in through the hole above them.
“Careful, Roy! There’s a board near your feet that’s holding others in place.”
DeSoto moved his feet to bring them down in another spot. Once under the house, he squatted in the cramped space and shined the flashlight around, being careful not to put the beam directly in Gage’s face.
“Welcome to the pit,” Johnny said, forcing a laugh. “Pardon me for not getting up.”
Roy knew the younger paramedic was more worried than he was letting on. And when he looked closer at the beam on Johnny’s leg, he could see why. One end of it was tangled with a jumbled mess of boards and stucco pieces. Moving it could set off another avalanche. It was bad enough the house was slipping, but now they had to deal with the shoring that had fallen everywhere underneath. DeSoto wondered how long it would be before the house would begin to slide again, or if it would. He decided now wasn’t the time to mention his thoughts to Johnny.
“You doing okay?”
Johnny nodded. “Get Tom taken care of. I can wait, but I’m not sure he can.”
“I will.” Roy checked Tom’s pulse and respirations. He then started talking to Johnny again, as he began to unbury the other man. “How’s your leg? Do you think it’s broken?”
Johnny shook his head slightly. “No, it doesn’t really hurt that bad. It’s just stuck.”
“Your ribs okay?”
“Yeah, Roy, really, I’m alright. Just worry about him.”
DeSoto was relieved his partner appeared to be in good shape. Now they just had to get him out in that same condition before the house came down on him.
It took Roy longer than he’d hoped to clear the debris off of Tom. As he worked at freeing the man, Roy was able to assess his apparent injuries, including the blunt trauma to the back of his head. Once Tom was ready to be taken up, DeSoto took out the HT and contacted Captain Stanley to give him the word and request the necessary items to move Tom. He also informed Hank that the K-12 would be needed to cut the beam that had Johnny pinned. It was going to have to be cut where it was wedged in with other boards and debris.
Chet and Marco helped to get Tom up inside the house and into the stokes, being careful to keep the victim from being jostled around too much, and not to disturb the c-collar Roy had placed on the man’s neck.
It was decided that Roy and Chet would swap out places since Tom needed immediate medical attention and Gage was yet to be freed. As soon as the men had the victim out of the house, Roy eased himself up through the hole. He looked down inside before leaving.
“Hang in there, partner. Chet’ll be back in a few seconds to get you out of there.”
“You got it. Tell ‘im I only have one favor to ask. None of his stupid jokes allowed. I’m not in the mood.”
Roy forced a smile, although Johnny couldn’t see it from where he was positioned. “I don’t think he is either.” He got up on his feet and slowly made his way out, wishing he had Gage beside him.
It wasn’t until he was completely alone that Johnny realized the house was still making creaking noises now and then. He hoped that nothing would come down on him while he waited to be freed from the beam. Roy had said Chet would be back in seconds, but it felt a lot longer to the dark-haired paramedic. Soon a pair of legs were visible, followed by the familiar face of Kelly.
“How you doin’, Gage?”
“Okay. But the sooner I get out of here, the better I’ll feel.”
Chet studied Johnny’s face in the brightness of his flashlight. “You sure you’re okay? You don’t look so good.”
“No, I’m not. But if I told Roy that, he’d of never left.” Johnny wiped at his face again. “I think I’m about to pass out, so could you hurry this up?”
“Yeah. . .sure. Should I call DeSoto on the HT?”
“No. Let him concentrate on taking care of Tom.”
Chet nodded. “Okay, man. You’re the boss.” He shined his light around until he found the port-a-power. He pulled it over beside the beam on Johnny’s leg. He then lifted the K-12 he had handed down to Roy earlier and cut through the shoring beam.
“Just hang in there, Gage. I’ll have you out before you know it.”
Johnny felt himself slipping away as he listened to Chet. He felt dizzy and weak. Just meaning to rest a minute while the fireman worked to clear the shoring beam, Johnny laid his head back on the ground and put his left arm over his eyes. Chet’s first thought was that Johnny was trying to be humorous. But when he called out the paramedic’s name and didn’t get a response, he picked up the HT and contacted the captain.
“Tell Roy that Gage just passed out.”
When the senior paramedic heard the transmission, he looked up sharply. Johnny had said he was okay. What was he hiding?
“Cap, tell him to just get Johnny the hell out of there. I’ll treat him as soon as he’s brought out here.”
Hank nodded and relayed the message to Chet. They could deal better with Johnny’s injuries once he was topside.
As he worked to free his shiftmate, Chet kept a close eye on the cracked floor above. He could swear it had grown just in the time he’d been down there. The fireman sighed as he placed the K-12 on the other side of where Johnny lay and cut through the beam again. Chet then moved aside the piece of shoring that remained in place. He stared at the still figure in front of him. It hadn’t been but a few seconds before this call that he and Gage were arguing over the paramedic’s choice of musical instruments to play around the station. Chet was even ready to let Johnny play the bagpipes again, if he would just be okay.
“C’mon, Gage. Wake up.”
Johnny was trying to come around. He squinted in the dimly lit space as he tried to open his eyes. Unfortunately, it was easier to leave them closed and drift back into a state of oblivion.
Chet carefully pulled Johnny beneath the hole in the floor as he updated the captain.
Marco was sent in to help lift the man up to safety. He waited, seated on the floor, a stokes nearby for Johnny.
“You ready, Marco?”
“Yeah, lift him up, Chet.”
The fireman below struggled to get Gage on his feet, leaning the paramedic’s limp body against his as he started to stand along with him. Marco reached down and pulled Johnny up by his arms, while Chet continued to lift up on the unconscious man’s midsection. Once Johnny was out, Lopez laid the man out on the floor and waited for Chet to help get him in the stokes.
Gage groaned and moved his head, but wasn’t aware of what was going on. Marco patted the man’s right arm, and glanced around at the damaged interior of the house.
“It’ll be okay, Johnny. You’re almost out of this place.”
Roy looked up as his partner was brought out. When the two firemen placed the stokes down on the ground, Hank Stanley and DeSoto were taken aback by the bruises on Gage’s arms. Blood still trickled down the side of Johnny’s face from a one-inch gash on his forehead at the hairline.
Roy gave the younger paramedic a quick sternal rub to elicit a response from the man. He was rewarded with a moan. Gage’s eyes fluttered open and he squinted in the bright light.
“Wha. . .?”
“Hey, partner. You know, you should’ve told me, down there, that you felt this bad,” DeSoto chastised.
Realizing he was safe and out in the open, Gage felt relieved. He gave Roy’s comment thought. “Why? You had to get. . . Tom . . . first.” Johnny mumbled. “Would’ve felt worse. . .leaving me.”
Roy shook his head. Johnny was right, but he still would liked to have been informed. He was going to tell the younger man that, when he realized Johnny was unconscious again.
After getting Gage’s vitals and setting him up with the prescribed treatment, Roy had the others help him transfer Johnny to a stretcher. They loaded him in the ambulance with Tom. Marco gave two slaps on the doors and the emergency vehicle was on its way.
Chet and Marco heard a horrific noise behind them and turned just in time to see the house they had been in, and under, begin to slide down the hill as the end supports gave way. They exchanged a glance with Captain Stanley and Mike. Luck had definitely been on everyone’s side this day.
Two days later, Johnny was still in the hospital. Although he had shown a lot of improvement, he was still sore and bruised. His head wound was the most serious of his injuries. Gage had lucked out with his right leg, in that he only had deep bruising from where the shoring beam had come down on it.
Despite the lack of severe injury, Brackett didn’t want to release Johnny until the paramedic could stand up and walk around without having frequent dizzy spells.
Turning off the television in boredom, Gage picked up the Outdoor Magazine that Roy had left him the day before. He had only read it fourteen times, what would one more matter?
Johnny was glad when the door to his room opened, revealing Roy, Chet and Marco.
“So how’re you doing?” Roy asked as he walked in, the other two following.
“Not too bad. I hear Tom’s much better, too.”
“Yeah, he had a moderate concussion, along with the bad shoulder. . .some nasty bruising on his legs. But he’s gonna be okay,” Roy answered. “It’s a shame he lost the house, though.”
Johnny shook his head. “I don’t want to be in a situation like that again anytime soon. Why do they build houses like that, anyway?”
“Because they can, I guess. They’re kind of neat. . .’til they slide down a hill.”
Gage looked at Roy and nodded. “Yeah, I guess so. I know I’d never own one. Especially not now.”
“Hey, speaking of owning,” Chet interrupted, “I have something for you.”
“Well, seeing as how you’re gonna be laid up a few more days. . .and you’re gonna need something to keep you busy. . .well, here, I got you this.” Chet held out his right hand.
Johnny took the gift out of Kelly’s hand. “A harmonica?”
“Yeah, why not? You might actually be good at it.”
“Oh thanks. Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“Play it in here, they might let you go home sooner,” Roy said, a smirk on his face.
Gage glared at his partner. “Just you guys wait. You’ll see. I’ve got talent. I just have to find out what with.”
“Maybe a few rubber bands wrapped around a Kleenex box,” Chet snorted.
“Okay. Keep it up, Kelly. We’ll see who gets the last laugh when I get outta here.”
“Hey, I hear the Triangle’s easy to learn.”
Johnny looked at the other two grinning men and shook his head.
A few shifts later, Johnny was back on duty. Chet was cleaning up the counter in the kitchen, while Mike and Marco played chess. Roy was helping Chet. Suddenly the strum of a guitar and the words ‘Howdy folks. This is Johnny Gage.’, caused Kelly to drop a dish.
“What the?” As Chet turned around, he saw Johnny walking towards a chair near the table, a guitar strap over his shoulder and neck.
Gage sat down and began to play a tune. Chet shrugged. “Beats the bagpipes.” And to himself the words he couldn’t allow the dark-haired man hear.
I’m just glad he’s still with us.
Thanks for the beta Kenda and Jane! Also a huge thanks to my husband for watching the scene with me and helping me with the structure of the house. And reminding me of the name of the K-12! Any mistakes are mine.