By Audrey W.
Roy and Johnny walked out to the parking lot at the station, their shift having ended. It was December 31st and the duty had been a busy one. Some early celebrators drinking and driving, people injured in mishaps taking down Christmas decorations, and a house fire caused by an over-dry tree still on display with lights.
“I sure am glad we aren’t on duty tonight,” Johnny remarked as they neared their vehicles.
“Yeah, me, too,” Roy agreed as they reached the two vehicles parked side by side.
Roy placed his hand on the door handle to get in his car, then paused and called across the roof to his partner, who in turn was just getting into his vehicle.
“Hey, you’re still coming over to our New Year’s Eve party tonight, aren’t you?”
Johnny was already sitting in his vehicle, but had the door open.
“Yeah! 7:00, right?”
“Right! Everyone else won’t be there till around 8:00,” Roy explained. “But Joanne wanted you to end the year on a home cooked meal.”
“I cook at home,” Johnny defended. “I eat home cooked food all the time.”
“Well, she wants you to have more than hot dogs or hamburgers.”
Johnny smiled. “It’s nice to know someone’s lookin’ out for me! Tell her I’ll be there on time!”
“Okay, see ya then!”
Johnny waved as he closed the door and started the engine. He drove out of the parking lot, Roy following close behind.
The DeSoto house was still decorated for the holidays. They had a big white artificial tree in their livingroom, with assorted glass ornaments on it. Some of the ornaments were paper ones made by the kids. A red and green chain made of construction paper took the place of garland on the tree. Tinsel hung off the branches like icicles.
The windows were trimmed with blinking lights around the outer edges. The sliding glass doors that lead to the patio off of the diningroom, revealed multicolored lights trimming the parameter railing outside.
Joanne had a festive tablecloth on the diningroom table. The stoneware plates and cups at each setting had a snowflake pattern on them, and there were serving items to match.
The children were watching a holiday special when a knock came at the door.
“It’s Johnny, it’s Johnny!” The two kids shouted, as they jumped up and down.
“That means it’s time to eat!” Chris added. “I’m starved!”
“Now, Chris, you know that’s not why we act happy to see someone,” Joanne reminded her son.
“I know, but I am hungry. And we couldn’t eat till he got here.”
Roy grinned at the boy, as he walked to the door. “Just remember your manners.”
Roy opened the door and saw his partner standing on the porch.
“C’mon in. Dinner’s all ready.”
Johnny stepped inside and started to take off his jacket.
“I’m glad you got here now, ‘cause I’m starvin’!” Chris called out from near the table.
Joanne shook her head and walked over to their guest. “Hi, Johnny. I’m glad you could make it for dinner.” She gently kissed him on the cheek, which elicited two moans from behind.
Roy gave the two kids a stern look.
“We’re having ham. . .I hope that’s okay,” Joanne said as she took Johnny’s jacket from him and hung it in the coat closet.
“Sounds good to me,” Johnny answered. He looked over at Chris and grinned. “I’m kind of hungry, myself.”
The group sat down for a holiday dinner. Chris and Jennifer opted to just concentrate on eating while the adults talked between bites.
After dinner was over, Johnny and Roy helped Joanne clear the table and clean up the kitchen before the other guests were due to arrive. Chris and Jennifer picked up stray toys near the tree and piled them neatly underneath.
Once the chores were done, the two kids went upstairs to play and the three adults relaxed in the livingroom, Joanne with a glass of wine, Johnny and Roy each with a beer.
“Now, this is nice,” Johnny said, looking around at the room. “Everything a holiday should be.”
“Thank you. We’ve enjoyed it,” Joanne said, a smile on her face. She gently rubbed Roy’s back with one free hand. “He did everything but put the ornaments on the tree.”
“Nice work, Roy.”
The sound of the doorbell and guests arriving had Roy and Joanne on their feet and ready to greet the visitors.
Johnny knew most of the same people Roy did, but Joanne’s friends weren’t all familiar. One in particular had caught his eye as she came in the door. He had seen her before, but where?
Johnny stared at the young lady, as he tried to place her face.
“She lives next door,” Roy said, noticing his partner’s gaze.
“Huh? Oh. . .I couldn’t remember where I’d seen her before. Or have I?”
Roy nodded. “You’ve been over when she was out washing her car, but it’s been awhile.”
“That’s that chick?”
“Yep. Her name’s Tanya.”
“You know her very well?”
“Joanne talks to her sometimes,” Roy answered. “But she goes to college, so she only comes home to visit her parents when she’s on a long break. Like now.”
“She looks fantastic all dressed up!” Johnny’s eyes followed the young woman as she walked by, talking to Joanne. She was dressed in a short red velvet dress, black high-healed shoes and her hair gathered up on top of her head in a big black colored clip.
“Do you know what kind of work she does?” Johnny asked in a hushed tone. “I mean, is she a nurse?”
Roy shook his head. “She’s a dancer, I believe.”
“You mean like ballet?”
“Boy, you sure are full of questions. Why don’t you just go ask her?”
“Roy, I can’t just walk up to a beautiful girl like that and say, ‘Hi, I’m John Gage. What do you do for a living?’” Johnny looked at Roy like he was nuts.
“She’s a dancer in a club. According to her parents, it’s a very reputable one. I think she wants to be on Broadway someday. She’s majoring in Theater Arts.”
Johnny was once again gazing at the woman. “Theater Arts.” He gave it some thought. “And a dancer. . .”
Roy shook his head. Johnny was smitten . . .again.
The men from Station 51 and various others were mingling in the livingroom area and diningroom, some making their way out onto the patio. Captain Stanley had brought his wife, as had Mike Stoker. Chet had a date with him, and Marco came alone. His date hadn’t felt well enough to go to a party.
Everyone was into his or her own thing as they enjoyed the last evening in 1973 together.
Johnny had been talking to Chet and his girlfriend, Marco and a few others, but kept glancing at the newest interest on his mind. Funny thing was, she seemed to be doing the same.
Suddenly Tanya was approaching Johnny. He swallowed hard as he tried to calm his nerves.
She grinned at the paramedic. “Hi, I’m Tanya,” she said, reaching out with her right hand.
Johnny held out his left in return. “John Gage.” He didn’t take his eyes off of her pretty face.
“You want to have a drink with me?”
“I. . .uh. . .sure,” Johnny nodded.
Beautiful . . . and brazen, too.
“Beer or wine?”
“Beer,” the paramedic quickly answered.
Tanya smiled. “Beer it is . . .I’ll be right back.”
Johnny nodded, quiet in shock at the forwardness of the girl. He wasn’t used to being hit on . . . or waited on for that matter. Usually it was him doing the work.
Roy wandered over to his friend when he saw Tanya speak with Johnny, then go to the bar they had set up near the kitchen.
“How’s it going?”
Johnny grinned. “Good! Who knows . . .maybe she’s the one.”
Roy rolled his eyes. His partner was always quick to see a potential relationship with women. He patted Johnny on the back.
“ Joanne thinks you make a cute couple.”
“Is she. . .” Johnny wagged his finger back and forth, as if Tanya were beside him. “Is Joanne playing matchmaker here?”
“You know how wives are. . .they can’t help it.”
Johnny stared at the floor in thought, slowly nodding his head. Shrugging, he looked up at Roy. “Tell her she did great this time.”
“Well, you know . . . other than her cousin who didn’t like me, the others were . . .uh. . .”
“Not your type?”
Johnny grinned since Roy spared him having to come right out and say what he was thinking. “Exactly! Not my type.” He glanced over to Tanya who was on her way back. “Yep, Roy, I think this may be the best New Years ever.”
Drinking his second beer with Tanya, Johnny was relaxed and enjoying the evening. He and his newfound date mingled with the others at the party until Tanya pulled Johnny aside by the arm. Glancing over at Chet and Marco, she smiled, as she turned her attention back to her interest.
Johnny shook his head. “Nah. I’m drivin’ home after this. I’d better not.”
“How about some fruit punch then?” Tanya motioned at the plastic glass in Johnny’s hand. “Your glass is almost empty…you’ll need something to make a toast with.”
“Okay,” Johnny grinned. “But I can get it.”
“No, I’ll get it . . .you go talk to your friends some more.”
Johnny watched as she skirted her way across the room, to the make shift bar near the kitchen. He drank the remainder of his beer, then stepped back over to where Chet and Marco were talking about the Rose Bowl game between Ohio State and USC that was going to be on television New Year’s Day.
Tanya thought about Johnny as she made her way to the bar. He was so cute. She could really get used to seeing someone like him when she was home on breaks. But for now she just wanted to have a fun evening with the man. And the best way to have fun and ring in the New Year seemed to be to make it a night he’d never forget. She knew just what Johnny needed.
As she got to the bar, Tanya looked across the crowded room and saw that Johnny was once again with his buddies. Everyone at the party seemed busy enough that no one would notice what she was doing. She filled two plastic glasses with fruit punch, then grabbed her purse she had set behind the bar earlier. Picking up the three items, Tanya slipped into the kitchen. There she set hers and Johnny’s drinks down on the counter. Tanya pulled a small bottle out of her purse and opened it, pouring a small amount of the contents into each drink. She smiled as she slowly stirred the LSD laced liquid with a spoon.
You’re in for a special surprise, Johnny, Tanya thought as she licked the spoon, then set it in the sink. You’re gonna have the time of your life.
Johnny smiled as Tanya stepped up beside him, and handed him the fruit punch. He took a sip, then held the glass in his right hand as he continued to talk with Chet and Marco about the game.
Tanya looked at her watch. It was 45 minutes before midnight. If Johnny was going to be tripping with her by midnight, she needed him to drink more of the punch soon. It would need time to get in his system. She thought furiously, as the men’s voices blended in with the other buzz of conversations going on. Suddenly, she got an idea.
“How about we all make an early toast to the year that’s gone by,” Tanya suggested.
“Not a bad idea,” Johnny agreed. “It’s been a good year.”
“I know I can’t complain,” Chet added, as he put his left arm around his date.
“To 1973,” Marco said, raising his glass of wine.
The others echoed his words and took a swig from their glasses.
Tanya watched as Johnny took an extra drink from his. She then offered another toast.
“To good friends and newfound . . .interests.”
Johnny saw the gleam in her eyes. He knew what her newfound interest was. And he felt lucky to be it. Once again the others echoed the sentiments and drank. Afterwards, Johnny looked in his glass and frowned.
“Uh oh. Guess I’d better get a refill for later. I drank it all.”
“Me, too,” Tanya said. “Can you get mine?”
“Sure!” He took the glass from her and headed for the bar, stopping to talk to Roy and Captain Stanley along the way.
Joanne came down from checking on her children upstairs. They had wanted to stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year with the adults, but both Chris and Jennifer had fallen asleep in Chris’s room on the floor. Joanne carried Jenny to her bed and tucked her in, then had gone back to her son’s room to get him in bed.
As she took in the full room of guests, Joanne saw Tanya near Chet and Marco. She was staring off in the direction of Johnny.
“You really like him, huh?” Joanne asked as she approached her friend.
Tanya turned around in surprise. “Joanne! I didn’t hear you come over,” she said, laughing. “Yes, he’s a nice guy, just like you said. Kind of reserved, though.”
“Johnny? Maybe before you get to know him. But the boisterous side of him comes out at times.”
“Good. I think we could have a lot of fun together.”
Joanne smiled and nodded. She was about to say something else, when Roy motioned for her to come over near him. Joanne excused herself and headed for her husband.
Tanya saw Johnny pouring the new drinks for them. Glancing at her watch again she saw it was 11:42. There was still hope that the year would be ending with a wonderful trip shared by her and Johnny.
It was five minutes before the beginning of the New Year when Johnny began to notice his surroundings change. He looked around the decorated room. The lights in the windows seemed brighter and appeared to be picking up speed with their blinking. Voices in the room were starting to sound more like they had an echo attached to them. He shook his head in an effort to clear it.
Tanya was already enjoying the scenery with the aid of the drug. Expecting the effects, the lights and sounds in the room only heightened her senses. She marveled at the tree and how the lights seemed to be crawling around it like a snake. Leaving Johnny’s side, she made her way to the tree and slowly reached out to the strand of lights, expecting it to come alive and react to her touch. Then she saw it . . .the creature hiding in the tree, it’s beady black eyes staring back at her. Tanya jumped back and cocked her head slightly. The creature was poking its scaly head out between two branches.
Chet noticed the odd behavior of Johnny’s ‘date’. He wandered over by the Christmas tree and stood beside the woman.
“Nice tree, huh?”
Tanya looked at Chet with a wild expression on her face. “Get that beast out of there!”
Chet screwed up his face. “Beast? What are you talking about?” He leaned over closer to look at the woman’s face, when she suddenly wailed, shoving him, and ran away, towards the dining room.
Chet lost his balance from the rough shove and fell into the tree, knocking it over. Tinsel flew off, landing in piles on the floor. Ornaments shattered. All eyes were on Chet, then Tanya, as she pushed her way to the glass doors. Not slowing down, she ran through, shattered glass littering the patio. Tanya glanced at the green blood flowing from her cuts.
“Oh no! Oh . . .”
With her still trying to flee the premises, Roy and Mike grabbed the girl from behind. They tried to settle her down. Cap and another friend of Roy’s were quick to help.
Johnny watched the scene play out, but was too much in his own world of fascination for any of it to register as serious. He stood in the group of guests gathered as Mike, Roy, and others brought Tanya down on the patio flagstones. He saw the crimson streaks run in a jagged pattern on the girl’s skin. Suddenly the red fluid began to come to life and slink like a snake. Johnny quickly looked at the others to see their reaction. No one else seemed to notice. He began to back up, when a movement from the right side caught his attention. Johnny stared at the colored Christmas lights in the windows that now were pulsating in size, reaching towards the people gathered. He flinched each time they stretched out.
Why doesn’t anyone see it?
Roy and the others were too busy with Tanya to notice anything different about Johnny. The remainder of the group was inside helping Chet to his feet and putting the tree back up in a somewhat organized fashion.
Joanne had run into the kitchen to call for the fire department and an ambulance. On her way back out to the patio, she brushed by Johnny. She handed a few kitchen towels to Roy and Captain Stanley to hold on the larger open cuts.
A sudden tap on his shoulder got Johnny’s attention.
“You okay?” A woman Johnny didn’t recognize was asking.
The dark haired man shook his head, then changed it to a nod. “Yeah.” He backed away from the woman and headed for the front door.
Tanya screamed, as the people around her didn’t look familiar at all. Looking up at the night sky, she could see bright twinkling lights. If only she could get away and climb up to them.
Roy scanned the crowd of onlookers. He was sure he had seen Johnny there as Tanya was lowered to the ground. He wondered why the younger paramedic hadn’t assisted him with the girl. Roy looked over at Mike. “Get Johnny . . .he can help me with her till the paramedics arrive.”
Mike nodded and stood up. He panned the room inside, looking for the Johnny. Not seeing him anywhere, he stepped inside and searched visually through the group of people.
Where is he?
Mike made his way back to Roy and squatted down. “I can’t find him.”
“He was just here a minute a . ..” Roy trailed off when Tanya started a renewed fight, screaming about the worms crawling out of her cuts. “She’s tripping! Tanya, what did you take?”
Johnny pulled out his keys as he made his way to the Land Rover. One thing he had decided, was that if everyone was going to ignore what was going on in the house, he was leaving. He wanted no part of it. He stopped at the edge of the driveway, staring at the assortment of vehicles parked nearby. They all looked like they were inside of a fishbowl, with their rounded appearance. Where was his truck? Johnny scanned the various ones there. He knew he was looking for a white one. But his should be more squared. As he took another step, he noticed the cars suddenly all had ‘faces’ on the front ends, the darkened headlights becoming eyes. The vehicles smiled broadly at him as he carefully stepped onto the driveway.
Johnny moved in slow motion, warily looking at the grinning automobiles. If he could just find his and get out of there, he would be okay. He edged his way past one of the cars and spotted his Land Rover. It, too, had a large grin on its ‘face’ and it’s left headlight ‘eye’ winked at him. Johnny closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look at the ‘faces’ anymore while he made his way to the driver’s side of his truck.
As he put his keys in the door, Johnny dropped them and jumped back. They weren’t keys at all. They were a bug of some kind and had bit him. He backed away into the yard next door when the keys started to crawl under the Land Rover. He sucked the spot on his hand where he had felt the pinch.
Suddenly the smiling cars began to laugh out loud. The noise became deafening. Johnny turned and ran into the night, with no destination in mind. He just knew he had to get away from where ever he was.
What in the hell is going on?
His surroundings resembling a tilt-a-whirl ride as they shifted around him, Johnny stumbled over an uneven break in the sidewalk. Quickly getting to his feet, he heard a yell from across a yard.
“Hey, you drunk or somethin’?”
The disoriented paramedic glanced over, only to see a strange, shadowy figure coming towards him. The streetlights above were casting an eerie glow and only added to Johnny’s nightmare of images. An uneasiness enveloping him, he ran down the street, searching for anywhere to duck out of sight.
The fire department and ambulance had arrived and taken care of Tanya. A search of her belongings at Roy’s house brought the discovery of a drug in her purse. It would have to be tested to be determined what it was. But LSD was suspected.
While Tanya was being worked on, Roy, Joanne and a few others had searched the house looking for Johnny. Joanne and Roy even looked in the kids’ rooms, leaving no place unchecked.
Hank Stanley and Chet came in the front door, worried expressions on their faces. Roy and the others walked over to meet them.
“His Land Rover is still in your driveway,” Stanley explained. “And his keys were on the ground by the driver’s side.”
“Cap, you don’t suppose . . .?” Roy paused. “Oh my God.”
“What?” Joanne looked at her husband curiously. “What is it, Roy?”
“What if she slipped some of the drug to Johnny?”
The looks on the men’s faces told Roy he wasn’t the only one on that train of thought.
“Oh, Roy,” Joanne shook her head, hoping her husband was wrong. “You really think she would do that?”
“I don’t know. When you think about it, we don’t know her that well. . .and she was hanging out with Johnny. . .” The more thought he gave it, the more possible it seemed. Though it was hard to imagine his partner tripping on LSD. The thought made Roy ill.
“If that’s the case, we’d better find him as soon as possible,” the captain said. “No telling what he’ll do if he’s hallucinating.”
Johnny ducked behind a trash dumpster in an alley. As he tried to slow his breathing down, he thought back to what he had seen.
Cars can’t laugh . . .can they?
As he went to wipe the sweat off his forehead, the paramedic stared at his right hand. It was pulsating to a larger size, just like the lights had been. He quickly held up his left one, which was doing the same thing. He shook them in an attempt to get them to stop. But his hands continued to grow large, then shrink to normal again. Completely baffled, he made fists with both hands and hit them against the dumpster beside him as hard as he could. If they wouldn’t quit changing in size, he’d break them. Then they couldn’t do it any longer. After numerous punches, pain radiated in his right hand. Johnny pulled it away from the dumpster and waited to see if it would still grow larger. The pain of opening his hand was overwhelming. It wouldn’t move. Johnny used his bruised left hand to open the right. Just as he’d hoped, it was too wounded to play any more tricks on him. Sensing victory, the young paramedic smiled and leaned back against a cement wall. It hurt like hell, but he had won.
Johnny sighed and looked up at the sky. The stars were dancing . . .were they sharing in his celebration? He got to his feet and continued to watch in fascination as the stars danced in a circle overhead. Shifting his gaze he saw a lighted angel on the roof edge of a building nearby. She, too, had been watching the stars’ performance. Now she looked down at Johnny. Reaching out her right hand, she beckoned him up with her.
The paramedic was in awe. This was a nice change from the strange things he had seen. Not wanting to disappoint the angel, he headed for the fire escape on the side of the building to make his way up to her welcoming arms.
The party at the DeSoto’s house had broken up soon after the ambulance had taken Tanya to Rampart. Roy and Joanne apologized to the many friends who had missed the arrival of the New Year due to Tanya’s run through the glass doors.
The ones remaining were the men from A-shift and a few firemen that worked at other stations. It was decided that everyone would split up and drive around the neighborhood looking for Gage.
As Roy headed for the front door with Chet, Joanne grabbed his arm, stopping him. Roy turned around to see the pained look on his wife’s face.
“Roy, I . . .”
“I know what you’re gonna say, and don’t. You’ve been apologizing since Cap and Chet found Johnny’s keys.”
“But, if I hadn’t--”
“You didn’t do anything, Jo. Tanya did. And we don’t even know that for sure. Not until we find Johnny.” He glanced at Chet’s date standing nearby. “Thanks for offering to stay with Joanne.”
“Sure. I don’t mind at all,” the woman smiled. “Just go find Johnny. We’ll be fine here.”
Chet gave a wan smile to his date as he followed Roy out the door.
Marco and a guy from Station 36 had already started searching, as had the Stanleys and the Stokers. Two other men from Station 110 were just heading out as Roy and Chet got into Roy’s car.
“Where do we start looking?”
“That’s a good question, Chet,” Roy answered. “Where would Johnny go?”
The fireman glanced at Roy. Neither man had a clue what their friend could be doing.
As he reached the top of the fire escape, Johnny pulled himself up on the roof of the building with his left hand. He stood and stared at the massive angel before him. She was still looking down.
Doesn’t she know I’m up here now?
He began to walk towards the figure. As he got closer, the angel’s head turned and her eyes were like Christmas lights with the familiar pulsating motion. With each move, they reached closer and closer to the paramedic. A serpents tongue lashed out of her mouth at Johnny.
Not expecting the sight before him, Johnny stumbled back in surprise. What had happened to the beautiful angel he had seen? He backed up, trying to make his way to the fire escape. When he reached it, Johnny saw that the steps were warped and rubbery.
How do I get down?
He looked at the stars again, his mouth open in awe. It was incredible. They had linked as a chain and were doing a swirling motion in the sky. The angel was forgotten, as Johnny’s mind became enthralled with this latest spectacle.
Each time by, the line of stars would get a little closer to where he was. Johnny thought that if he could grab a hold of them, they would pull him away from the roof . . . he’d be free. As they made a pass in front of him, Johnny reached out to grab on to the end star.
Flashing red and blue lights bouncing off the sides of an alley way caught Captain Stanley’s attention. He pulled his car over to the side of the street near the entrance of the alley.
“Wait here,” he told his wife, Sandra. “I have a gut feeling.”
“Okay. But Hank . . .” Sandra paused, knowing full well what her husband was fearing. “If you need me, come get me.”
Hank Stanley nodded as he got out of the car. He took a deep breath before heading down the alley to where the emergency vehicles were parked.
Roy drove down the street near the business district on the outskirts of the subdivision he lived in. Chet scanned both sides of the street as they went along.
“You really think Gage would’ve made it this far, Roy?”
“It’s possible. If he kept moving since he left the house, he could be past here.” The blonde paramedic sighed. “Then again, he might’ve gone in another direction or he might be holed up somewhere, not sure what’s going on.” Roy hit the steering wheel with his left fist. “Damn it! We shouldn’t have let that woman in our house!”
“Hey, I heard what you said to Joanne . . .and it goes both ways, Roy. It’s not your fault. You didn’t know what would happen.”
“Yeah? Well, right now, I’m having a hard time buying my own words.”
Stanley slowly approached the police officer near an ambulance. As the officer turned to see who was there, Hank asked the dreaded question.
“What’ve you got?”
“Captain Stanley? What brings you out here this time of night?”
“We were at a party at a friend’s house,” he answered as he motioned towards his car parked nearby. “My wife’s in the car. One of the guests may have run into trouble and we’re looking for him.”
The officer then realized why the captain had stopped at the scene. “We’ve just got a drunk beat up in the alley here. He’s a vagrant we’ve seen on the streets quite a bit.”
Hank chanced a glance around the officer. When he saw the face of the man the policeman had been referring to, he felt relieved. It certainly wasn’t his paramedic like he had feared. But that left two big questions unanswered.
Where is John? Is he okay?
A few blocks over and south of the alley with the drunken vagrant, Roy and Chet continued their search. As he drove down the street, Roy looked up at a decoration on one of the buildings. “There’s Jennifer’s angel.”
“Jennifer’s angel?” Chet ducked down to look up at the top of the building through the windshield.
“Yeah, every year this place puts up the same angel decoration and Jennifer likes me to drive by it whenever we go anywhere. It’s a life-sized display.”
Chet nodded in understanding. “I hope Johnny’s angel is looking out for him right now.”
Roy glanced over at Chet. “If you break out in a song right now, I’m throwing you out.”
“Huh? Oh!” Chet couldn’t help but grin when he figured that Roy was referring to the song Johnny Angel. “Nah.”
A rescue squad and engine passed by them and caught the men’s attention. Roy watched in the rearview mirror as the two vehicles turned into the alley near the angel decoration. Chet had seen them also.
“Wonder what’s up?” Chet thought aloud.
“I don’t know, but we’re gonna find out.”
Roy found a place to turn around and headed back towards the alley.
Johnny had tried three times to grab a hold of the chain of stars. But on the third try, when they were finally close enough, they had split apart and sped away before he could do anything.
Frustrated, Johnny watched as they danced in the distance. Finally turning into a chain again, the stars had rapidly approached him. He knew if he was going to get them, he had to jump to them.
Just as Johnny’s feet left the building, he felt himself yanked over and into a hard metal surface. A bar slammed into his ribs, knocking the wind out of the man. Flipping over the bar, he fought to get away. An echoing voice yelled to him.
“Hey, it’s okay! I’ve got you!”
The words sounded threatening. No one should have him. What did the person mean, ‘I’ve got you’? Johnny struggled to get away. As he looked up towards the sky, he saw the stars were gone. Whoever had him, had kept him from getting to the dark sky where he wanted to be. The angel was now laughing as she saw he was being taken prisoner. Johnny did what ever he could to get away. Being that he was basically one handed now, it meant using his body weight to help him escape. As he broke free, both he and the passerby who had a hold of him went tumbling down the fire escape. The other person managed to grab on to a railing to stop his descent. Johnny wasn’t so fortunate. He fell down the flight of steps to the platform. Dazed, he got to his feet and started to climb back up the steps. No one was going to stop him from playing with the stars. The man on the fire escape with Johnny saw the paramedic coming up. Determined to keep him from hurting himself, he rushed down to Johnny and forced him onto the platform again.
“Look, I’m here to help you!”
Disoriented, Johnny didn’t understand what the man was saying. How could someone who was stopping him be helping him?
Johnny once again struggled to get free. He finally shoved the man away with both hands. The pain from his injured right hand made him close his eyes in an effort to shut it out. When Johnny opened his eyes, the man was standing in front of him with his arms raised, as if to surrender.
I’m not gonna hurt you. I think you’re on something, man. I just want to help you get down safely.”
Johnny gave the man a wary look. Could he trust him? After all, this person had yanked him away from the stars. No, he wasn’t here to help. Johnny backed up to get away. Losing his balance on the edge of the platform, he fell down the other flight of steps, landing on the other platform below. The paramedic was knocked unconscious as he hit his head on the steps during the second fall.
The man looked down at the crumpled man below and shook his head. Damn dopers.
Roy and Chet jumped out of the car and raced over near the fire escape where the paramedics were already working on a victim. Roy’s face paled when he looked up to the platform and saw it was his partner.
“Oh God . . .Chet . . .”
Chet was staring in disbelief at what he saw. Johnny was unconscious and bloodied. They watched in shock as their friend was placed on a backboard and lowered down to the ground in a stokes. Once he was on the ground, the men got a better look at his battered body. His right hand looked dark purple and swollen in the dim lighting. Another man who had been sitting on the steps above was now down and being treated for minor injuries. The two firemen caught his words as he talked about Johnny.
“I saw he was up on the roof ledge and he was watching something in the sky. I couldn’t see anything. Then I saw him reach out at something and I still didn’t see a thing. It was then I realized the guy had to be on dope.” The man stopped and looked over at Johnny. “I just got close enough to yank him over when he tried to jump off the roof.”
“He. . .jumped . . .off. . . .the roof?” Roy asked quietly. He looked up at the top of the building, three stories high.
Johnny . . .what did you see?
“He tried, yeah,” the man waved over towards Johnny. “If my friend and I hadn’t seen him, he’d be dead right now. Stupid dopers.”
Roy felt anger towards the man’s calling his partner a doper, but the man had saved Johnny’s life. . .and he didn’t know anything about the younger paramedic.
Chet was the one coming to Gage’s defense.
“Look, man, he’s not a doper. Some chick slipped him a drug at a party.”
“How’d he get here?”
“He left my house on foot,” Roy rubbed his chin nervously. “We.. uh. . .we were distracted when the girl took a run through my glass sliding doors.”
The man shook his head. The whole scene sounded bad to him. Their conversation ended for now, the three men watched as the paramedics took care of Johnny.
Roy couldn’t believe this had happened. How would he tell Joanne? He knew she would feel even worse now, because he sure did. To think Johnny nearly jumped off of a building. But he looked bad enough as it was.
“How did he get hurt so bad if you got here in time?”
“He was tripping. He fought me.” The man showed Roy the bruises already forming on his arms. “I’m lucky I didn’t fall more than I did. He was really determined.”
“How far did he fall?” Roy asked again.
“Two flights of steps.”
The man’s friend stepped over to the group. “Joe’s right. He’s lucky he didn’t go down with the guy. I was just getting back from calling the police and fire department when your friend fell the second time.”
Roy looked at his partner again as Johnny was loaded onto a stretcher and wheeled towards the ambulance that had arrived at the scene. He would give anything to have Gage open his eyes and assure him he was okay.
A police officer was now taking statements from the two witnesses. Roy started for his car.
“I need to talk to you, too,” the policeman said, stopping Roy.
“You can find me at Rampart. I’m going behind the ambulance.” He looked over at Chet. “C’mon, let’s go. We’ll call the others from there.”
“Hey, you can’t just leave if you have information,” the officer called out.
Roy glanced over his shoulder. “I already gave the information to a policeman at my house. I’m going with my partner.”
The police officer had a surprised expression on his face.
Roy nodded. “That’s right. We’re paramedics at Station 51. I’m sure you’ll understand the need to stay with a partner when he’s down.”
The officer nodded and waved for Roy to go on. “We can catch up with you later.”
Roy and Chet got into the car and followed at a distance behind the ambulance.
When Roy pulled into Rampart he could see the ambulance and squad at the emergency room doors. He and Chet hurried into the corridor, hoping to find out what treatment room Johnny was in.
Dixie came out of room one, a worried expression on her face. When she saw Roy and Chet, she forced a smile.
“I should’ve known you’d be right behind him.”
“How is he?” Roy asked.
“Not good. He’s really done a number on himself.”
“Who’s in there with him?”
“Kel and Joe both are for now.”
“Did the paramedics tell Brackett Johnny was probably on LSD?”
Dixie nodded. “They said a drug, but the tests on the girl that was brought in from your party are back and it was LSD in her system. So for now, we’re going with that. We’ll run tests to be sure.” Dixie studied Roy’s concerned face. “I heard what you think she did. This is some New Years we’re having, huh?”
“You can say that again,” Roy said, nodding. “If someone had told me the year was going to end--” He stopped and looked at his watch. “I guess it’s more like start like this, I’d have never believed it.”
“How is that . . .” remembering a lady was present, Chet stopped himself. “How’s that woman doing?”
“She’s going to be okay. Probably will have quite a few scars from deep cuts, but overall, she’ll be fine. She’s on Librium now, to help alleviate some of the effects from the LSD. So she should sleep the rest of the night.”
“Figures,” Chet mumbled.
Roy shifted on his feet and glanced at the door leading to treatment room one. “Just what all is wrong with Johnny?”
Dixie took a deep breath. “We’re still waiting on X-ray, but Kel suspects at least a linear skull fracture, and he has a laceration to the scalp. Johnny’s right hand is broken, his left hand is sprained, he probably has a few broken ribs. His left fibula and tibia are both likely fractured. The bruises on his body from falling down the steps are starting to show.” She looked at the floor and shook her head. “He’s certainly got more than his fair share.”
Roy nodded. If he could just change how he did things this New Years, he’d do it in a heartbeat. Suddenly he remembered what he had to do next.
Joanne and the others need to know what happened.
If he could protect his wife from knowing, he would. But there was no way around it. She had to be told now.
Joanne got up from the kitchen table and picked up the telephone receiver on the third ring. Everyone who had been searching for Gage made it back to the DeSoto house except for Roy, Chet and the Stanleys. The room became silent, as the guests waited to hear if it was news on Johnny.
“Jo. . .it’s me.”
Joanne swallowed hard. Since Roy was calling, something was probably wrong. She tried to tell herself that maybe he just wanted to see if there had been any news from the others.
“Roy, where are you?”
There was a long pause.
“I’m here. Sorry.” There was another brief pause. “I’m. . .we’re at Rampart. . .Chet and I are.”
“Rampart?” Joanne glanced around at the others still sitting around the table, half full coffee cups in front of them. “Is Johnny okay?”
Roy sighed. The time had come. He tried to think of a way to sugar coat the news, without telling any lies.
“He’s. . .uh. . .he’s still being examined, but Dixie said he’s pretty bruised up. I haven’t been able to talk to Brackett yet.”
“What happened to him? Do you know?”
She’s not making this easy.
“Yes.” Roy glanced at Chet who was getting them each a soda out of the machine in the lounge. He wished he could trade places with the fireman right now. “He tried to jump off the building where Jennifer’s Christmas angel is. But don’t worry, two guys saw him and prevented it,” he quickly added.
“Jump off a building? Oh my God, Roy. . .Tanya did slip him something!”
The few friends who were with Joanne waited with concerned expressions, anxious to hear what was going on.
“Now, Joanne, first I need you to promise you won’t blame yourself. People pull this kind of a prank fairly often these days. Johnny and I see it on the job . . .the doctors here encounter this kind of thing often enough.”
“But, Roy, I talked you into letting me set him up on a blind date. What if he had jumped?”
“But he didn’t. Remember that. He didn’t.”
“It’ll be okay . . .Tanya is the one who did this. Not you.”
“Roy. . .”
“Is Captain Stanley there?” Roy asked.
“No,” Joanne looked at the friends who were with her. “Everyone else came back to see if there was news on Johnny, but the Stanleys are still out somewhere.”
“Okay. When he does show up, I need you to tell him to meet me here.”
“It’s bad, isn’t it?”
As Roy opened his mouth to answer, the door to the lounge opened, revealing Kel Brackett.
“Joanne, I have to go. I’ll call back when I have more news.”
“Okay. Love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Roy hung up the receiver and waited for news on his partner.
“”What did he say about Johnny?” Mike Stoker asked.
Joanne wiped a tear from her left eye. “He tried to jump off of a building. Two guys stopped him in time.” She sniffled as she walked away from the telephone.
“He’s okay then?” Marco asked.
“He’s still in a room with Doctor Brackett. Roy didn’t know yet.”
Chet’s girlfriend stood up and put her right arm around Joanne’s shoulders. “It’ll be okay, Joanne.”
Roy’s wife smiled wanly and nodded. “Is it 1975 yet? I wish this year was already over.”
Chet handed Roy a can of soda, while they waited for Brackett to fill them in.
“You finally get New Year’s Eve off and look where you end up,” Kel said, trying to sound upbeat.
“How did you and Dixie get so lucky?”
“Dix decided to schedule herself since she didn’t have plans and it just happened to be my night. Joe should be getting off now, but he’s gonna stay awhile longer.”
“He’s on his way up to surgery now. We found an indication of internal bleeding, so Joe is going to go in and take a look. Then Johnny’ll be sent to Orthopedics to get his right hand and his left leg taken care of. He had a clean break in both his tibia and fibula. The hand might be a bit trickier. He does have a linear skull fracture like I thought and his scalp had a laceration. We’ll watch him closely.” The doctor paused giving the information time to sink in. “Three of his ribs on the right side are fractured. Probably what caused the bleeding.”
“He’s gonna get through this okay then?” Chet asked.
“Barring no complications, it’s a good chance. But let’s see how he does in surgery first.”
Chet and Roy both nodded.
“Did he regain consciousness at all?” Roy asked, as he played with the tab on his soda can.
“No,” Doctor Brackett shook his head. “But the Echoencephalogram looked good, considering. I think he’ll be okay.”
Both firemen said a silent prayer that Brackett was right. They watched as the doctor excused himself to go up to the OR and left.
“What a way to start the year,” Chet groaned.
Roy looked at his watch. It was almost 2:00 in the morning. Two hours into the New Year and he was already wishing 1974 would end.
When the door to the lounge opened again, Roy looked up from his seat on the couch, expecting Dixie or Brackett to be there. Instead there was Hank Stanley and Marco. Roy glanced over at Chet, who had been sitting at the table. His head still down, he apparently had fallen asleep.
“Any more news on John yet?” Hank asked.
“I forgot to call Joanne and let her know Johnny was in surgery.”
“I thought so. She said you had called an hour ago and John was still being examined . . .that you didn’t know the extent of his injuries.”
Roy tiredly got to his feet. “I’d better call her. Who’s with her . . . Stoker?”
The captain shook his head. “No, Chet’s girlfriend, Julie, and Sandra are. Mike and his wife had to get home. They had a teenage girl baby sitting the kids and Mike knew her parents would be worried if she wasn’t in soon.”
Marco looked at Chet, who was just lifting his head from the table.
“Hey, you guys made it,” Chet yawned. He looked over to Roy. “Any news on Gage?”
“No, but there should be soon. I think I’ll call Jo after we know how the surgery went. No sense worrying her more now.”
“I don’t think you can, Roy,” Stanley offered. “But I agree. You’ll have more helpful news then.”
Roy walked over to the coffee pot and lined up four cups. “You guys want some coffee?”
Getting all positive replies, he filled the cups and handed them to each of the guys.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do if Joanne blames herself for this,” Roy thought aloud. “It’s not her fault that Tanya got some wild idea to give Johnny LSD.”
“Have the police been in to talk to you more?” Hank asked.
“Yeah. There was an officer here just a while ago. The cops know everything now that all the blood tests are back, they have the drug from her purse, and tested the cups they think were hers and Johnny’s,” Roy explained. “She’ll be facing the legalities once she gets released. Her parents were by here earlier, too, and apologized.” He sighed. “They had no idea their daughter was involved in drugs.”
“How is she?” Marco asked.
“Better than Johnny is,” Chet answered.
No comment to that was needed, as the four men waited for more news.
Forty-five minutes after the captain and Marco had arrived, the group got news on their shift mate. Johnny had made it through surgery okay, the internal bleeding stopped. Now it was a waiting game to see how badly his head injury would affect him. Although the men wanted to see him, there was still Orthopedics to get through. They waited patiently while Johnny’s other injuries were taken care of.
“I guess I can call Joanne now,” Roy said, picking up the telephone receiver. He looked at his watch for what he felt was the tenth time that morning. “3:45 . . .I wonder if she’s still awake?”
Hank Shrugged. “Only one way to find out.”
Roy knew he was right. He dialed the number and waited as the phone rang. On the fourth ring, Joanne picked it up.
“Did I wake you up?”
“Are you kidding? No. Do you have good news?”
Roy actually felt relief with this phone call, as opposed to the first one. Although Johnny wasn’t entirely out of the woods, it was better news this time.
“Yes. Johnny made it through surgery . . .he had some internal bleeding. He’s in Orthopedics now getting his left leg and right hand set.”
Joanne’s voice sounded upset. “Roy, if he didn’t jump off the roof, how did he get hurt so bad?”
“He might’ve done some of it to himself while he was tripping on the LSD. Plus he fell down two flights of steps when he got pulled off the roof.”
“When did you find all this out? Why didn’t you call me?”
“I knew it when I called the first time,” Roy explained. “I didn’t want to make it worse on you.”
Hearing those words, Joanne couldn’t get angry with her husband for holding back information. She knew he had meant well. And she was tired enough now, she didn’t want to push him to tell her more if he felt she didn’t need to hear it yet. Finishing the conversation, Joanne hung up the receiver. The other two women were stranded at her house. She fixed up a bed on the couch for one, and moved Jennifer in with her, so that the other could sleep in Jennifer’s room. Joanne then collapsed in bed herself, hoping the later morning hours would hold better news.
Johnny was now in ICU. Roy and the others were finally allowed in to see their friend. As they entered the darkened room, the sounds of equipment monitoring his vitals could be heard.
Chet and Marco stood back as Hank and Roy went over near the side of the bed. Roy couldn’t get over the battered appearance of his partner. Dixie was right. Just by looking at his face and arms, Roy could tell Johnny was badly bruised and scratched up. His right hand was hidden beneath the new cast, a bandage covered he tip so not even his fingers were visible.
“You suppose he still might be seeing hallucinations while he’s out?” Roy asked the captain.
“I’ve never used drugs, Roy, so I don’t know. My guess would be yes, but he’ll never remember them, I’m sure.”
Roy nodded. “I hope he forgets this New Year’s Eve entirely. I know I’d like to.”
“C’mon. Let’s go.” Hank gently patted Johnny’s right shoulder. “See you later, pal. Hang in there.”
Roy had to force himself to step away. As he turned to leave, he glanced back at Johnny’s still form. “You’d better make a speedy recovery. You know how I hate temporary partners.”
He knew he wouldn’t get a response, but it was still hard for Roy to walk out of the room without hearing Johnny say something smart in return.
Three days had passed and Johnny was finally awake and oriented enough to talk. Roy couldn’t wait to get off duty so that he could visit his partner. He had been in to see him a few times when he got a chance, but Johnny was barely aware anyone was with him. While the younger paramedic would crack his eyes open and peer around the room, he couldn’t bring himself to a level of alertness to do anything more than mumble a few words and close his eyes again.
Once B-Shift took over, Roy headed for Rampart. He couldn’t hide the relief he was feeling after Dixie had called and told him Johnny was ready for a regular visit. Roy opened the door to room 214, where Johnny had just been moved early in the morning.
“Hey, partner! How’re you feeling?”
Johnny groaned, then answered quietly, “I hurt. . .all . . .over.”
“I imagine you will for some time.”
“Wha . . .happen’d?”
“No one’s told you yet?”
“Huh uh. . .the Doc. . .” Johnny yawned, and slowly blinked his watery eyes. “He. . .said I lids’d?”
“He said you what?”
“I . . .don’ know.”
Roy sighed. It was clear Johnny wasn’t ready for a sensible conversation.
“Hey, I’d better let you get some rest.”
“You’ll. . .be back?”
“Yeah,” Roy assured. “Yeah I will. Real soon.”
Johnny closed his eyes and drifted off again.
It was early morning and Kelly Brackett had just come on duty. He no sooner got his jacket off, when he was paged up to room 214, STAT.
When he arrived upstairs, he heard the commotion coming from within Johnny’s room. One of the nurses nearly ran into the doctor when she was about to go page him again.
“He’s hallucinating,” she explained as Brackett looked at the scene in front of him.
Johnny had ripped out the IV in his left arm and was trying to get out of the bed.
“Lemme go! I gotta . . . get . . . out!”
“It’s okay, John,” one of the nurses said, trying to sound soothing. “You’re at Rampart General Hospital. There’s nothing in here to be afraid of.”
Johnny’s eyes were wide as he looked at the ceiling tiles above. Hands were extending down at him from within the tiles, and he was afraid they were going to pull him up into the ceiling. He couldn’t understand why the nurses didn’t see it.
“They’re . . .up. . .” Johnny tried to explain.
The nurses and Brackett looked up, seeing nothing but a regular ceiling. The doctor helped to prevent Johnny from getting off the bed, but the patient was determined. Kel knew what he had to do for Johnny’s safety, although he hated the thought. He quietly told one of the nurses to get a sedative and restraining straps.
Once the items were brought in, Brackett helped to hold Johnny down while two of the nurses secured his arms to the bed. Next, the doctor administered the sedative.
Johnny yelled as much as he could, exhausting himself. How could they tie him down when the hands were reaching for him? Unless, they were in on it. Suddenly, he felt himself drifting away. As the sedative took hold, Johnny’s last waking moment was a vision of being outside of his body. He tapped his own shoulder. . .the other him didn’t respond. Figuring he must be asleep, Gage closed his eyes and joined his other self in slumber.
Doctor Brackett stood back and shook his head. He could already tell this was going to be one lousy shift.
Later in the morning, Roy took Joanne with him to visit Johnny. If Joanne could see the dark-haired man was doing better, it might help to alleviate some of the guilt she was feeling.
As they walked into Johnny’s room, Roy stopped before he was through the doorway. Joanne stood behind him, her right hand up to her mouth.
“Oh, Roy!” Joanne cried.
Roy stared at the restraints on Johnny’s left arm and just above the cast on his right arm. The younger man appeared to be asleep. Roy turned around and grabbed Joanne by the arm, guiding her down the hall with him. They got on an elevator and Roy pushed the button for the first floor. Once there, he had Joanne follow him as they made their way to Doctor Bracket’s office.
“What in the hell is going on with Johnny?” Roy asked as he opened the office door.
Brackett sat straight up and stared at DeSoto.
This shift just gets better and better, the doctor thought to himself, sarcastically.
“You mean the restraining straps?”
“Yeah. I bring my wife in expecting to see an improvement, and here Johnny is, tied to the bed! Why wasn’t I told?”
Brackett stood up behind his desk. “Look, I don’t have to update you every time I make a move with a patient! It was for his own good!”
“His own good? Restraining straps?” Roy ran a hand over his chin. “My God, he’s asleep! What can he possibly do?”
“He had a bad flashback. We thought he would hurt himself!” The doctor looked Roy directly in the face. “He tried to get out of bed and away from whatever it was he imagined was in the room. He was fighting us. I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice.”
Roy didn’t know what to say. He knew this wasn’t helping Joanne. He stared a moment at the doctor, before allowing his shoulders to slump and he sat in a chair near the desk.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
Brackett gave a reassuring grin. “It’s okay. You’ve been worried.”
“I think I may have a case of feeling guilty myself. Maybe this isn’t about Joanne. Maybe it was harder on me to see him tied down.”
“It’s understandable, Roy. But he’ll be okay. Johnny’s doing good.”
“Will he have more flashbacks?” Joanne asked, looking from one man to the other.
“He may. But they could happen as late as a year from now. Only time will tell,” Brackett answered. “Why don’t you two come back tomorrow and maybe the straps will be off and he won’t be sedated.”
“I work tomorrow,” Roy explained. “But I can visit him if I have any spare time when we come here. Then I can bring Joanne to see him the next day.”
“I think it’d be best if you gave him another day to recuperate, Roy. Between the concussion, the trip experience and everything else, Johnny’s been through a lot. Actually I think the wait would be better for both you and him. Then when you and Joanne do stop by, why don’t you two come find me first,” the doctor smiled. “Then you’ll know what to expect.”
“Sounds like a good idea.”
Joanne nodded in agreement and the couple headed towards the cafeteria end of the building to go to their car.
The next visit, Roy made sure to check with Brackett before taking his wife upstairs. When they entered Gage’s room, they were met by a much more pleasant sight. The dark-haired paramedic was sitting up in bed, a television remote in his left hand.
“’Bout time you visited me,” Johnny said, his voice sounding tired.
Roy’s eyes widened. “For your information, I’ve been here a few times. You were either out of it or just out. . .period,” he grinned.
“How are you doing, Johnny?” Joanne asked.
“I’m okay. I’m tired and I hurt head to toe, but I’ll be okay.” Johnny felt the awkwardness from the couple’s silence. He decided he’d better say something. “Dixie told me what happened. Don’t worry, it’s just one of those things.”
“Yeah, but if I had only known Tanya. . .”
Johnny held up his left hand in an effort to stop Joanne.
“I don’t even remember Tanya. Last thing I remember is rescuing a kid out of a drainage pipe. Now I hear it’s even a new year.”
“Tanya slipped you some LSD at our party,” Roy explained. “We’re sorry it happened.”
Johnny sighed. “Forget it, Roy. But, I would like a favor.”
“Since I never rang in the New Year,” Johnny shifted his position somewhat, wincing from the overall pain the movement caused. As the pain subsided, he continued. “How about another party . . . and no girls allowed. . .except Joanne and Jennifer.”
“Deal. Now I’ve got a favor to ask.”
“Get yourself mended so we can be partners again. I hear I’m getting a different replacement for you each shift. . .the guys have to rotate.”
“It’ll be awhile but you’ve got a deal. I survived a deadly virus and a poisonous snake. I’m sure as heck not gonna let some chick I don’t even know ruin my life.”
Roy and Joanne exchanged glances. They both wondered if Johnny was aware Tanya had put him in a situation where he very easily could’ve lost his life.
Johnny tried to shift his position again, but stopped when he remembered the pain it caused before. Roy caught his partner’s hesitation.
“You need more pain medication?”
Johnny nodded slightly. “I think it’s about that time. Feels like it.”
Roy walked over near the bed and pressed the call button. Once the nurse had given Johnny more of the medication, he became groggy again. Apologizing to Joanne and Roy, he struggled to keep his eyes open. Soon he had lost the battle and the couple left him getting some much-needed rest.
Once Tanya was discharged from Rampart General Hospital, she was released into her parent’s custody until her first appearance in front of a Judge. When her time came, the girl showed remorse for what she had done and pleaded with the court to allow her to continue on with her college education. Seeing that she accepted the responsibility for her actions, the Judge sentenced her with a monetary fine and an agreement to go to 15 months of drug rehabilitation.
It was decided the second New Year’s Eve party would be on January 31st. Roy and Joanne kept the promise of no girls except for her and Jennifer, but Johnny insisted Captain Stanley and Mike Stoker bring their wives, and Chet bring his girlfriend. It wasn’t the big gathering the DeSotos had on the real New Year’s Eve, but just A-shift and their spouses and girlfriends. When they had thought about it, none of them had been able to celebrate the New Year since everything had gone sour right before midnight on December 31st.
As the clock in the livingroom chimed twelve midnight, the friends made a toast to a new start with 1974.
Johnny knew the year held a challenge for him, but he was ready. He was grateful to have another chance and was determined to make the most of it.
Joanne and Roy eyed their friend. They still felt somewhat responsible for what happened, but Johnny was right, it was just one of those things.
One thing everyone agreed on, there was only eleven months left in the year and 1975 couldn’t come soon enough.
My thanks to Kenda for the beta read. . .you were a huge help! Also thank you, Jane and Tracy, for your preview reads and comments! :o)