By Audrey W.
February 14, 1975
Johnny walked into the dayroom after he and Roy returned from a rescue and noticed smirks on his shiftmates’ faces. Positive that the expressions meant the station Phantom was up to no good once again, Gage confronted the engine crew.
“Okay, spill. . .what’s booby trapped this time?”
Roy stepped in behind his partner and watched as the others feigned innocence.
“What’re ya talking about, John?” Chet asked, leaning back in his chair at the table. “It’s a holiday. . .the Phantom never hits on a holiday.”
“Yeah, Johnny. There’s no set up,” Marco assured.
The dark-haired paramedic looked to Mike Stoker, who was sitting on the couch. Out of the three, he trusted the engineer the most when it came to these kinds of things.
“Mike. . .?”
Stoker shrugged. “There’s no set up.”
Roy stepped around his still doubting partner. “Now that that’s settled. . .” He walked over to the cupboards and began to open one to get a cup for coffee.
Johnny watched, half expecting DeSoto to get wet from a water bomb or turned white from an open sack of flour falling. When nothing unusual happened, he went over to the cupboard and followed suit, still eyeing the others somewhat suspiciously.
“Somethin’s gotta be up. You three still look like cats that ate canaries.”
Chet got up form his seat as Johnny poured coffee into his cup.
“John, I swear. . .there’re no pranks planted anywhere in the station. We just got a phone call that none of us can believe.”
“Yeah? Who called?”
Roy looked on with interest at the mention of the nurse’s name.
Johnny’s expression turned sour. “Dixie did not call you guys. Why would she?”
“No one said she called for us. I just said she called. . .do you want to know why or not?”
Gage exchanged a glance with Roy, then brought his attention back to the others. “Okay, we wanna know. Why did she call?”
“Well,” Chet began, “she said--”
“Hold it,” the younger paramedic interrupted, putting up a hand. “Let Mike or Marco tell us. No offense, but you know how it is. . .”
“Oh, no offense taken.” The Irishman rolled his eyes. “Okay. Marco, you answered the phone. You want to break the news to Johnny?”
Marco nodded. “She said to tell you that an admirer left a valentine gift for you at her desk not long after you guys left.”
“An admirer. . . ? Ah c’mon. You guys think I’m buyin’ that?”
“He’s right,” Roy offered. “He’s been striking out with nurses left and right.”
“I didn’t really need that part let out, Roy.”
DeSoto gave an apologetic shrug. In the meantime, he was wondering if the whole thing was a set up too.
Mike Stoker saw the doubt on both paramedics’ faces. “I believe him, Johnny. I agree it would be hard to swallow if it were Chet telling it, but not with Marco.”
Both Gage and Kelly looked at Stoker and replied in unison, “Thanks a lot.”
“What’d I do? I was just trying to help.”
“You insinuated it’d be hard to believe I’d have an admirer for one thing,” Johnny explained.
“And you implied I’m hard to believe,” added Chet. When he noticed everyone looking at him, he shrugged. “Okay, so I like to pull off jokes. But this isn’t a joke. If I were you, Johnny, I’d get right back over there and see what this is about. Before your admirer realizes she’s made a mistake and changes her mind.”
“Nice. . .”
“Well, there’s only one way to solve this,” Roy said.
“Oh, what the hell. Okay. But this better not be a trick.”
The three men from the engine crew watched as Johnny and Roy headed for the squad.
“Gage sure has dumb luck sometimes,” Chet commented.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Mike disagreed.
The other two looked at him in question.
Stoker shrugged. “He hasn’t seen his this admirer yet. . .there’s no guarantee it’s one of the nurses he was chasing after. It could be one he’ll be running from.”
“You’re right.” Chet grinned. “I’d love to be a fly on the wall there now, wouldn’t you?”
Marco shook his head. “We’d get squashed.”
Mike and Chet stared at him with blank expressions.
Roy listened to his partner as they headed to Rampart. The idea of an unknown admirer had the younger man guessing.
“You know, it could be Trish up in Pediatrics. She kind of seemed interested the other day.”
“You said she turned you down for a date right away.”
“I didn’t say right away. It. . .it took her a few minutes. She gave it a little thought.”
“If that’s what you call being interested--”
“Wait! I know!” Johnny interrupted, sitting straighter as he held his right index finger up. “Mindy!”
“Yeah. . .Mindy in X-ray. Mindy. . .yeah,” he said nodding. “Now, she showed some interest when I asked her out last week.”
“But she didn’t say yes.”
“No, but. . .Roy, would you stop shooting my ideas down? You’re supposed to be helping.”
“I am. I’m keeping your reality intact.”
Johnny shot him a sour expression. “Ha ha. Work with me here, would ya? There’s gotta be a nurse I’m not thinkin’ about.”
“Somehow I doubt it,” Roy mumbled.
Once at Rampart, Johnny casually got out of the squad and started for the entrance to the ER. Roy came around the back from the driver’s side.
“For a guy who’s got a special valentine gift waiting, you sure don’t seem too anxious.”
“I’ve gotta play it cool. She might be watching.”
“Right.” Roy shook his head. “What are you gonna do if it’s someone you don’t like?”
“Enough with the negative inputs, Roy. Ya gotta think positive.”
“Okay, I’m positive--”
“Don’t say it.”
The two paramedics entered the emergency area and headed for Dixie McCall’s desk, Johnny trying hard not to look around for any nurses who might be eyeing them.
Chet looked at the clock and rubbed his chin. “Roy and John should be at Rampart . . .”
“At least now he’ll see it wasn’t a joke. I think he owes us all an apology,” Marco added.
Mike got up from his seat on the couch and walked over to the table where the other two still sat. “You guys want to make a bet?”
“On. . .?” Chet looked at Marco, who was equally baffled.
Mike sighed. “On who it is, of course.”
“We don’t know all the names, Mike.”
“That doesn’t matter, Marco. We can each pick a section in the hospital that a nurse is from.”
“I’ll go,” Chet shrugged. “Orthopedics.”
Mike grinned at Marco’s answer, then gave his own. “Supply.”
“What’s with the smile? You know something we don’t?” Chet wondered.
“No. But I think a nurse working in X-ray could see right through Johnny’s pickup lines.”
Marco and Chet groaned.
“How much are we betting for anyway?” Lopez asked. “What’s at stake here?”
“Two bucks a piece?”
Marco and Chet agreed. The three men shook hands, each certain he would be four dollars richer by the end of the day.
When Roy and Johnny got to Dixie’s desk near the base station, there was no sign of the head nurse anywhere.
“I knew this was a set up. Man, I let those guys pull one over on me.”
“Not necessarily,” Roy corrected. “Dixie probably had to go help in one of the treatment rooms. Plus she didn’t know we were on our way here.”
“Let’s look around and see if we spot anything with your name on it.”
Johnny’s face brightened. “That’s a great idea!” He quickly stepped around to the other side and began peeking around the area.
“And what do you think you’re doing, John Gage?”
The younger paramedic looked up to see Dixie standing beside Roy on the other side of the desk. His partner shrugged when he got a questioning look from Johnny.
“I didn’t think we both needed to be over there searching.”
“Thanks a lot.” Johnny turned his attention to the nurse who was coming around to join him. “Dix, I was just lookin’ for something that you’re supposed to be holdin’ for me.”
Dixie smiled, then opened a cupboard door under one of the counters. She pulled out a big red balloon that hadn’t been blown up yet, a little envelope taped to it; and a foot long piece of still-wrapped bubble gum, also with a small envelope taped to it. She handed them to a baffled Gage.
“When I called the station there was only one. Then your other admirer came by and left the gum for you.”
“A balloon? And bubble gum?” Johnny stood with his mouth open, his brows furrowed in puzzlement.
“And envelopes,” Roy reached across and pointed at the two small white paper items taped to each thing. “Don’t forget the envelopes, which means there’s probably cards inside.”
“Yeah. . . cards.” Still not sure what kind of chicks would give him a balloon or bubble gum, Johnny set the gifts on Dixie’s desk and took the envelopes off, opening one up. Inside was a card with a cartoon drawing of a lion, red hearts around its mane. Johnny read the words printed on it out loud. “I’m not lion. I like you, Valentine! From Susie. Susie? Who’s Susie?” The name was written in neat cursive penmanship. When Dixie just nodded to the other envelope, Johnny set the valentine down and opened the next one. The card inside was a cartoon drawing of a bunny sitting up with one big pink heart on its belly. Once again, Johnny read the sentiment so the others could hear. “Have a hoppy day, Valentine. From Margaret. Margaret ? Do I know a Margaret?”
“You did at one point,” Dixie explained. “You remember the tour you gave here? With the kids who were so excited to meet Maxwell Hart?”
“Seems you left quite an impression on two of them after all. Susie said you not only helped her meet her favorite author, but you also told her where the bathroom was.” Dixie smiled as Johnny stared in disbelief. “That means a lot to a kid sometimes. And Margaret apparently found out later from an uncle that you were one of the paramedics who saved Mr. Hart’s life. So both girls wanted to let you know they haven’t forgotten you. Oh, and Susie mentioned something about you having a cute smile,” she added, making him blush slightly.
“They brought this stuff down here?”
“They sure did.”
“And it was okay with their parents?”
She nodded. “Valentine’s Day isn’t about romance in children’s eyes. To them it’s a day to give their favorite cards to friends and their not so favorite to the acquaintances they don’t particularly like, but are obligated to do something for. I'd say you rate a favorite.”
Johnny smiled. “I guess you’ve got a point.”
“The Gage charm strikes again,” Roy said, grinning.
“Yeah. . . if I could just get it to work on nurses. Or someone that’s not fourteen years younger than me,” Johnny snorted.
“Look at the bright side, partner. Chet and the others didn’t pull one over on you, like you suspected.”
“Oh man!” Johnny looked at the juvenile valentines, balloon and bubblegum. “How am I gonna live this down? Man, if they find out it was little girls. . .”
“Don’t you feel one bit embarrassed,” Dixie lectured. “Why, I’ll bet they’d be pretty flattered with the thought if they were in your shoes.”
“I don’ know, Dix. I mean, I’m flattered. But it’s kinda different with guys, ya know? Were not as sentimental about this stuff when we’re around other guys. It’s a side no one wants his buddies to see.”
Dixie smiled. “Oh, I know. Believe me, I’ve had plenty of chances to observe that over the years. But anytime a person stands out to others in a good light. . .despite the admirer’s age. . .it means a lot. Not everyone’ll admit it. But it’s only human nature.”
“She’s right,” DeSoto added. “Speaking as a dad, it means just as much to me to have the kids look up to me on certain things as it does to have Joanne say something.”
“Okay, you both made your points,” Johnny admitted, looking from Dixie to Roy. “But let me handle this back at the station.”
“Sure.” Roy motioned toward the gifts on the desk. “You want help carrying your loot?”
Gage quickly picked up the balloon, gum and other valentine card, and gave the senior paramedic an irritated glance. “I’ve got ‘em.” He stepped away from the desk. “Thanks, Dix.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” she replied.
“Take it easy,” Roy said as he followed his partner’s lead.
Dixie smiled and nodded.
Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay as Johnny carried on about the valentine gifts.
“Now, remember . . .I’m handling this. Not a word about it till I give you a signal.”
“Yeah, you know. . .a sign. . .a cue that you can get in on the conversation. Like a wink or a nod.”
“And what’s the sign gonna be?”
“I’m gettin’ to that. How about when I say something like, ‘Roy understands’.”
“Works for me.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
The two paramedics got out of the truck and headed for the dayroom, Johnny holding his gifts down to the side.
When Gage and DeSoto entered the room, Chet, Marco and Mike looked up from some papers they’d been given by the captain to sort through and organize.
“Hey, you’re back,” Chet said. He looked at the items in Johnny’s hands. “Beware of paramedics bearing gifts.” He stood up and scrutinized the presents. “What in the world have you got?”
“These were what Dixie had for me.”
The fireman was unsure what to think. “Well, I guess this proves we didn’t make it up.”
“Nope, Chet, you guys sure didn’t. I don’t think you could’ve made this up if you tried.”
“Who was it?” Mike asked. “Who was the admirer?”
“Yeah, Johnny,” Marco prodded. “Fill us in.”
Gage exchanged a quick glance with his partner, who just indicated with a nod, ‘tell them’.
“Remember when I did the tour at Rampart with those kids?”
“You mean the little brainiacs who knew more than you?”
“Nice, Chet. Yeah, them.”
The three men nodded.
“Well, it seems as though I left a good impression on a couple of the little girls. Thanks partly to Maxwell Hart, of course. But they each left me these.” He held up the balloon, bubblegum and valentines.
The others looked at Roy, who smiled and nodded slightly. The firemen didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t what they had expected to hear and it seemed inappropriate to make fun of a sweet gesture done by children.
One by one Mike, Marco and Chet stood up, each one opening his own wallet and pulling out two dollars. Chet walked over to the dark-haired paramedic and placed his two dollars in the palm of Johnny’s free hand. The others followed suit.
“We had a bet going,” Mike explained.
“Yeah, on which nurse your admirer was,” Marco added.
“You guys made a bet? How would you even know who to bet on?”
“We picked hospital sections, not names.”
Johnny looked at Mike and the others after hearing the answer from the engineer and shook his head. “But why did you guys give me the money?”
Chet sat down at the table and started back to work. “Because, anyone that can charm the ladies in the wide age range you can, deserves to take home the jackpot.”
Gage’s face showed confusion, then realization, then pride. He grinned ear to ear and tucked the money into his shirt pocket.
Roy patted his partner on the right shoulder. “Happy Valentine’s Day. Just don’t let it go to your head.”
Johnny shot a quick glare then lightened his mood. “But what am I gonna do with a red balloon and a foot of bubblegum?”
“Save ‘em,” Chet offered. “You can use them for the next tour you give. . .you know, since they went over so well the first time,” he said sarcastically. He went back to work, satisfied he’d gotten the last word in. The fireman startled and jumped back from the table, his chair toppling over, when the red balloon suddenly whizzed by his head as it rapidly deflated, the bottom of it purposely left open. “Gage!”
*Author's note: The little girls in the episode *Kidding* didn't have names mentioned, so I made them up. Maxwell Hart was the name of the character who was an aging author.
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