This story follows 'BEFORE YOU COULD SAY "VAVOOM!" in the Johnny/Darlene/Lorraine series. It's not necessary to read any of the stories before this one, but it might help. :o)
By Audrey W.
John Gage’s eyes shot open when he felt his wife nudge him in the left side. He immediately sat up, turned on the bedside lamp and already had one leg out from under the covers, over the side of the bed as he asked anxiously, “Is it time?”
Johnny was on his feet by the time Lorraine had a chance to respond.
“No, I was just trying to snuggle up to you and the bay kicked.”
So it was the baby who’d nudged him. Johnny had to smile.
He climbed back into bed and lay down beside his very pregnant wife.
“That’s one heck of a kick its got.”
“Maybe he’s going to be a punter on a football team someday,” she said.
“Or maybe she’s gonna be a Rockette when she grows up.”
“Johnny, do you want another girl already?”
Johnny gave the question thought. The right answer would be to say it really didn’t matter, as long as the baby was healthy. That was the truth, too. But if he really had to be honest. . .totally honest. . .considering both their girls would be going through puberty at the same time, and his wife would be having the same monthly mood swings as them. . .another male around the house might be the preferred choice. However, considering Lorraine’s tendency to be overly sensitive at the moment, he stuck to the first right answer.
“It doesn’t matter to me, just as long as the baby’s healthy.”
Lorraine smiled and after having Johnny help readjust the pillow between her knees, snuggled up to him again after he turned out the light. She was happily asleep in no time. He on the other hand wasn’t.
Johnny couldn’t get his checklist of things out of his head.
Let’s see, Roy an’ I already got the crib set up. . .
He had to snicker to himself at that one. For some crazy reason, Roy had thought Mike Stoker was going to help put together the new crib. But Johnny couldn’t see asking him. After all, he was going to have his own fun when it came time for his baby’s room to be prepared.
Roy an’ I can help him with *that*. . .
After assembling two cribs, they were nearly pros at it. Surely, Roy wouldn’t object.
Lorraine’s mom’ll pick Emily up at Rampart. . .
That was if their baby daughter wasn’t already at her grandparents’ home when labor started. They were still trying to decide.
Lorraine’s suitcase is packed. . .
We’ve got our baby names picked out. . .
There really wasn’t anything left to arrange. He only had to make it through one more twenty-four hour shift on duty, which started in the morning. Lorraine’s due date wasn’t for another four days, but the couple had decided they wouldn’t take any chances. Johnny would be on vacation and readily available when the time came for baby number two.
He just had to hope he’d come off duty unscathed, and not as a patient at Rampart.
If the first rescue Station 51 was sent out on was any indication, the shift was going to be interesting, to say the least.
A robber attempting to break into a business overnight had been discovered trapped in the duct work of the venting system. Though that in itself wasn’t unusual, and the men had been involved on a rescue like it before, it was the circumstances surrounding the situation that made it more ‘interesting’.
The robber was a very mousey-voiced female who gotten wedged in tight when she tried to go through a narrower joint in the system. The firemen worked to carefully cut the metal contraption to free the woman. It was only when they had the section with her still inside cut free that they realized she was a mere five feet one inches tall and average in size, except for her breasts. They were enormous, even in the tight spandex suit she wore, and had been her undoing when they proved to be too large for duct she’d squeezed into.
But the bizarreness didn’t end there. When they gently tried to pull her free, her over-sized chest suddenly went flat with a ‘woosh’ sound.
The rescuers slid the no-longer-wedged petite woman out. She was soaked down the front of her suit, both from the burst of water and the liquid her clothes had sopped up on the way out.
“Ma’am,” Captain Stanley began, “What--”
But he didn’t have to ask, The woman was already reaching down inside her neckline and pulling out the soaked pieces of rubber from popped balloons.
It was Johnny’s turn to wonder, his eyes narrowed in curiosity, “Uh. . .why would you--?”
“It was my disguise. I’m the Buxom Bandit,” she proudly announced.
When she drew blank stares, she continued, “I pulled off eight other robberies. I even made it in the paper one day after someone saw my silhouette leaving a place in the night! Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of me,” she whined when she got the same looks.
“I have,” one of the police officers on the scene offered as he pulled out a set of handcuffs. “Why don’t you tell me more about those other jobs.”
The woman turned in surprise, then frowned when she realized what she’d just done. “It was the perfect disguise,” she pouted. “No one would’ve ever figured out it was me if I hadn’t gotten stuck.”
Being she was more like a 32 triple A size without the balloons, she was probably right.
Once the police had the uninjured, but crying, thief on her way out of the room, Johnny turned to face Chet.
The mustached fireman put up a hand to silence him before he even said a word.
“If it’s in reference to Vanessa or the Phantom’s water balloons, don’t say it.”
Gage just snickered, the others following suite.
“Too bad she didn’t stuff her bra with tissues instead,” Johnny commented to his partner as they drove away from the nearly burglarized building.
“You mean so she would’ve been able to flatten out more to get free on her own?”
He shook his head. “Uh uh. She’s gonna need some ta dry those tears.”
Roy knowingly nodded. That she would.
The paramedics had no sooner left the scene of their first rescue when they were dispatched out to another. It was for a man trapped.
Johnny couldn’t believe it when Roy pulled the squad up to the dead end of a street.
The man wasn’t exactly ‘trapped’. More like tied. . .to the dead end sign of all things! His hands were behind him, his ankles bound to the bottom of the post. Two ladies in jogging suits stood about five feet away from the man, one with a small spray can in her hand pointed in his direction.
“I can’t wait to hear this one,” Roy commented as they climbed out.
“I’m not sure I want to.”
“Oh, thank God you’re here!” one woman and the man both exclaimed as soon as the paramedics were outside their truck.
Both women appeared to be in their forties, one with gray sprinkled throughout her brown hair. She had the can and wore a lime green jogging suit, the other a pale blue one. The man was just dressed in white boxer shorts and a white v-neck t-shirt, a red bandana loosely around his neck. Johnny guessed him to be in his mid-twenties.
But Roy no sooner started to question when the lady with the spray supplied part of an answer, her gaze never leaving the potential target of her ‘weapon’.
“We were out for a morning run and we heard this man calling for help. He claims he was kidnapped and left here to die, but it sounds awfully fishy to us. We think he’s trying to trick us!”
“Just getter to drop the can!” the man begged. “It’s pepper spray! Tell her to put it down!”
The woman turned to face Johnny and Roy, her finger still poised on the can, ready to fire at any moment.
Both men instinctively raised their hands in the air, then as he lowered his, Gage asked, “Do you. . .uh. . . mind. . .” He waved a hand toward the can.
“Oh, sorry,” she said with a slight grin and blush. She did as requested. “Look, Betty and I were just trying to protect ourselves while we waited for you.”
“Judy’s right,” Betty said. “That’s all we were doing.”
“Lady, what could I possibly do to either of you tied to a sign post?”
“He’s got a point,” Roy agreed.
“Look, can you guys just untie me?”
As Gage stepped forward, Judy warned, “It might be a trick. . .”
He really wasn’t suspicious, but the words did give the dark-haired paramedic pause. “Did you call the cops?”
Judy looked to Betty.
“I thought you guys would arrest him after you got him freed!”
“Oh, Betty! I told you to call the police, too!”
“I know, but I thought--”
Roy shook his head.
“Then what do you do?”
Johnny glanced back at their squad with the word ‘Rescue’ in large letters on the door. He rolled his eyes, then faced the women again.
“Ma’am, we aren’t cops. We’re paramedics.” He glanced at the waiting victim, who appeared more miserable than before with the conversation still going on while he remained stuck in one place.
Roy went to the squad to request for police assistance. After all, if the man really was kidnapped, he’d need to give a report. It was certainly possible he was telling the truth. With no homes within a couple of blocks of the sign, someone could have left him there thinking he’d go unnoticed for awhile.
Johnny stepped up to the sign and saw that the man’s wrists were bound together, as well as to the post. He glanced at the words on the sign and wondered, if the man was telling the truth, that it hadn’t been twisted humor on the part of the kidnappers to leave him to ‘die’ at a ‘dead end’.
The paramedic scanned the victim with his eyes to make sure there wasn’t an obvious weapon. He didn’t notice any bulges in the pockets that would indicate a concealed one.
Gage did notice motion out of the corner of his right eye as he stooped down to untie the man’s feet. When he looked to see what that motion had been, he saw that Judy had the can of pepper spray aimed in the men’s direction again. He’d dealt with the public in crisis situations enough to know that even a flinch from the victim once untied could cause Judy to instinctively push down on the button of the can.
“Can you put that stuff away?”
“I’m just trying to help.”
“Well, you can do that by putting that in your pocket or somethin’. Don’t worry, we’ve got this under control.”
She hesitantly followed his suggestion.
Roy made his way back over to the victim and began to untie his bound wrists.
“Do you know who your kidnappers were?” Johnny asked.
“I sure do. My ex-wife for one. And being she couldn’t do this alone, she had to have the help of a couple of her friends, too.”
Both paramedics paused and stared at the man before Roy questioned, “Your ex-wife?”
“That’s right. Said she wanted to get back together, played it real smooth for about three weeks. Then she has me over for dinner and drinks last night, all of a sudden I start to feel real woozy, the room faded to a pin point. Next thing I know, I wake up here, stripped down to my underwear and gagged and tied to this sign!”
He looked down at Johnny, who just about had his ankles freed.
“You don’t honestly think I’d be wearin’ a red bandana around my neck by choice, do you? I was lucky I could spit it out and work it down off my chin.”
By the time the ‘rescue’ was complete, and a policeman was ready to take the newly released and uninjured man to his home, Judy and Betty had become very sympathetic. They both promised to bake him casseroles and cakes for as long as he’d allow them to.
As Johnny and Roy headed back to their squad, the younger paramedic commented, “Well, it looks like he’ll be eating good for awhile. Maybe his ex-wife actually did him a favor.”
“Let’s just hope she doesn’t find out. Or we may really be rescuing him later.”
They both hoped that wouldn’t be the case.
Roy was about to turn onto Station 51’s street, when yet another call came over the radio from Dispatch. This time it was for a ‘man stuck’.
Gage jotted down the information in a tablet from his pocket, using the dashboard as a ‘desk’. He then acknowledged the call with the mic.
“Squad 51, 10-4.”
As he replaced the mic in its mount, he glanced at Roy.
“You don’t suppose Gary’s wife already found out about Betty and Judy, do ya?”
Roy smiled at the remark, but the smile soon turned to a frown. In their line of work, nothing would surprise him.
The rescue turned out to be in a men’s bathroom in a shopping center. A janitor had taken a minute to relieve his full bladder in a urinal before grabbing the mop and bucket he’d left near the doorway.
Unfortunately, while he was busy, someone had decided to put glue on the mop handle and now both his hands were stuck firmly around it, one above the other. The man had been too embarrassed to come out of the room.
The paramedics tried to dissolve the glue with soapy water. It didn’t work. Having had experience with other victims glued to various items, they decided to just take the man in by ambulance and have a doctor ‘handle’ the situation, as Johnny put it.
“No pun intended,” Gage had assured the poor man, who’d introduced himself as Jerry Dodd.
Roy removed the mop head so that Jerry’s pant legs wouldn’t get soaked from it lying up against them. When the ambulance arrived, they helped him to lie down on the stretcher, secured him with the straps and soon were on their way. Roy rode in the ambulance and Johnny followed behind in the squad.
“Well, it looks like you’ve gotten yourself into a sticky situation here,” Doctor Morton remarked when he saw Jerry and the mop handle.
Johnny cringed. He was sure the stuck man had heard enough after his remark about the doctor handling it.
“Uh, Doc. . .”
Morton glanced over his shoulder at Johnny, eyebrows raised. Gage in turn looked to his partner beside him. Jerry eyed the ceiling, waiting for Roy to deliver a pun, intended or not, as well.
However no one said a word. The doctor then directed his attention to the patient again.
“You’re very lucky. These two have brought in glue victims to me before. I’ve had plenty of experience freeing stuck hands.” He then turned to the medics again. “You sure you don’t know what kind of glue it is?”
“We’re sure,” Roy confirmed. “Whoever put it on the handle took the container, what ever it was, with them. Another worker had to call for help, but he said he didn’t see anything or anyone either.”
“Is it possible that man did this to you?”
Jerry shrugged, the handle moving slightly with his hands. “It’s possible. We play jokes on each other all the time. But he’d never admit it. Especially now.”
The doctor nodded. “Well, I’ll see what I can do. If I can’t get the glue dissolved, your co-worker’s not going to have a choice.”
As much as he still got annoyed with Morton, Johnny did have to admit he respected this side of the doctor.
“Boy, I’ll bet Jerry’s glad Morton found the right solution for dissolving that glue,” Johnny said as he and Roy headed back to the station . . . again.
“Yeah, I’m sure he wasn’t too keen on his co-worker being hauled to Rampart and interrogated by him.”
Gage nodded, then watched out the passenger window. After a couple of blocks, he turned in his seat to face DeSoto.
“You know, I don’t think I needed to be worried about somethin’ happenin’ to me on this shift after all.”
Roy glanced at him, a puzzled expression on his face.
“You know,” the younger man clarified. “This morning when I told ya I just had a feelin’ that I was pushing my luck pulling another duty before vacation.”
“Oh, right. So what changed things?”
“The way our shift’s started out. Three people who’ve had a real rotten morning. I just don’t think I’m gonna be the one with a bad day after all, that’s all.”
“Maybe not__until now. You probably just jinxed yourself by bringing it up.”
“Or maybe you unjinxed me with that,” Johnny stated, his eyes narrowed.
Roy thought about mentioning how Gage could’ve jinxed himself again just then by mentioning that he may have been unjinxed, but the senior paramedic figured they could go on forever and really never settle a darn thing. Not only that, but the soon-to-be-father-of-two was obviously still unsettled about his last day of duty for awhile and what he needed more than anything was reassurance; something Roy figured he should have given more consideration before his ‘jinxed yourself’ remark.
“I have a feeling you’re going to be just fine,” Roy stated after his inner debate.
Johnny glanced at him with a smile.
As soon as the paramedics arrived back at the station, they were greeted by Marco at Roy’s driver side window.
“Johnny, Lorraine called. She wants you to call her back.”
“Oh man, I hope everything’s okay,” the dark-haired man said as he quickly scrambled from the squad. He hurried off toward the dorm room, where he could make a call from the phone on the desk across from the captain’s bed.
“He’s a little on edge,” Roy explained. So much for reassurance being of help.
“When is the baby due again?”
“Well, officially in a few days. But you know how babies are. They come when ever they want.”
With a large family of younger brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, Marco knew exactly what he meant.
Johnny replaced the phone receiver back in its cradle and sat back. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
The call had been a jolt to him, he’d immediately figured the new baby could very well be on the way. However, much to his relief, Lorraine just wanted to let him know her mother had come to spend the day and night with her and Emily, until Johnny came home the next morning.
Mother-in-laws could be annoying at times, but they also were often invaluable.
Except not Roy’s.
Joanne DeSoto’s mother was quite unfair to her son-in-law.
When Johnny joined the others in the dayroom, they were gathered around the table for lunch. A plate of three half tuna sandwiches remained in the center of the table, a bag of Ruffles potato chips opened nearby.
Johnny grabbed the empty glass at his spot at the table and walked over to the refrigerator to fill it with milk.
“So is everything okay?” Roy asked when Gage didn’t offer any news.
“Uh huh. Lorraine just wanted to let me know her mom was stayin’ at our place till I get off.”
“Well, that’s got to take a little worry off your mind,” Hank commented.
“It sure does.”
Gage took a seat at the table and reached for two sandwich halves, both with the same hand. Once they were on his plate, he grabbed the bag of chips and dumped a small pile on one side of his plate.
“Just think,” Chet said. “Three or four days from now you could be the lone guy in a house full of chics.”
“Apartment,” Johnny corrected, his first bite of sandwich shoved to the inside of his right cheek.
“You know what I mean.”
“I wouldn’t mind being the only guy,” Mike put in. “I’ll be happy to have a little girl.”
“Are you going to try to find out what she’s having before the birth?” The captain asked his engineer.
Mike shook his head. “We wanna be surprised.”
“Well, I’m the only man in a house of ‘chics’,” Hank then said to Chet. “And other than some squabbles between the girls some days. . .” The doubtful looks he got had him change his story. “Okay, almost every day, at least once. But really, it’s not that bad.”
No one wanted to disagree with their superior. Besides, he was the only one of the six who would know.
Roy was glad to have an equal balance of ‘chics’ and ‘dudes’ in his family.
Johnny wondered once again if he was going to end up the only guy in his home; if the two little ones in their family, along with Lorraine, were going to equal three votes against him on issues some day.
A couple of hours and one run later, the men of Station 51 were once again on their way to a rescue. This time it involved ‘children trapped’ with possible injuries.
As soon as the crew arrived at the scene, a very frantic woman about in her mid twenties ran from around one end of the house to meet them.
“Oh, please hurry! Please!”
While his paramedics grabbed the biophone, drug box and oxygen, Captain Stanley tried to get information from the distraught woman.
“We’re here to help in anyway we can, but you’re going to have to calm down and tell us where the children are.”
She anxiously nodded. “Okay. . . okay,” she said breathlessly, still nodding. She then glanced back toward the house. “I think they’re both in the trunk. . .we’ve got an old. . .junk car in back. . .I know it’s not good to have, we were going to get. . .rid of it. . .oh, and now. . .now it might be. . .too late!” her eyes welled up with tears. “I couldn’t get it open!”
“Chet, grab the forcible entry tool!” The captain directed.
The fireman did as requested, meanwhile the mother and four crew members rushed off in the direction she’d just come from.
“It’s over there,” she pointed to a beat up blue Cougar that had obviously been in a couple of fender-bender accidents, not to mention side-swiped once. The driver’s side door was off and lying on the ground.
Along the way, she’d breathlessly explained that she couldn’t get her two young boys, ages four and six, to respond to her calls.
“They’ve gotta be alive. . .” she cried. “They just have to!”
“What’re your boys’ names?” Roy asked.
“Redmond and Seymour.”
Chet arrived at the vehicle right after the rest of the crew. He and Marco immediately set to work to pry the trunk open with the crow bar while Johnny and Roy stood close by, ready to jump into action as soon as the lid was up.
The mother looked on, her hands over her mouth as she anxiously watched.
“Got it,” Chet finally called out as the trunk flew open. He, Marco and the paramedics anxiously peered inside.
“It’s empty,” Roy announced, a stunned but relieved look on his face.
“Oh. . ..” The mother nearly dropped to the ground when her knees buckled. Captain Stanley caught her just in time. “Oh. . .thank God,” she cried in a whisper.
“Ma’am, are you okay?”
She nodded and took a deep breath. The captain cautiously stepped away, his hands no longer supporting her.
“It’s just. . .I was so sure. . .I mean, the trunk was open. . .they were playing out in the yard. . .maybe it fell down. . .and scared them. . . I’m sorry. . .”
“No, it’s okay, better to be safe,” Hank assured. “Any idea where else they’d be?”
She shook her head. “They weren’t in their rooms.”
“If I was a kid and played with something I shouldn’t have, what would I do?”
The men gave the captain’s question thought. It didn’t take long for them all to come to the same conclusion.
“Hide,” they said in unison.
“The light!” she suddenly exclaimed.
“Ma’am?” Johnny questioned.
“There’s a closet in the hallway. I just remembered light was shining through from underneath. They’re both afraid of the dark.”
“Let’s go,” the captain told his men.
She led them inside to the linen closet. Johnny opened the door and sighed, a crooked grin on his face. Sure enough, there huddled in the corner underneath a shelf with bedding on it, were two small boys.
“Man, those boys really gave their mom a scare, huh?” Johnny commented to his partner.
Roy glanced at him from the driver’s side of the squad. “It’s a wonder we didn’t end up needing to treat her.”
“Yeah, if it’d taken any longer to get the trunk open, we might’ve. I sure hope they learn a lesson from this.”
“They probably won’t.”
Johnny looked at Roy.
“You know what they say,” DeSoto clarified. “Boys will be boys. And part of being a boy is to be daring.”
Gage nodded. He recalled a few stunts of his own he’d pulled as a kid. Ones his parents sure didn’t appreciate. He wondered if two sisters could get in as much trouble as two brothers could.
“I’m just sayin’ I can’t believe parents would saddle their kids with names like that,” Chet said after he’d climbed down from the engine.
Both trucks were back in the apparatus bay of Station 51, all six crew members having just returned.
“He’s been going on about strange names for kids since we left that house,” Marco explained to the paramedics.
“Yeah, and we thought John could get on a rant.”
Gage looked at the captain, a shocked expression on his face. But it soon faded when he admitted to himself, he sometimes could get going on a subject.
But I wouldn’t necessarily call it a *rant*, he thought to himself.
“I’ll tell ya what,” Chet then commented as he leaned against the engine. When he noticed Mike Stoker give him a glare, he quickly stood up straight. “With a name like Redmond or Seymour, I’d be hiding in a closet too!” He then eyed Gage. “If Lorraine has a boy, don’t give him one of those names that makes the other kids wanna beat the guy up.”
“Like Roderick?” Roy wondered.
For the second time in as many minutes, Johnny looked shocked. How could his partner toss his middle name into this? Roy patted him on the shoulder. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”
An hour later, Johnny and Roy were on their way to another rescue. It was another private residence, this call being for an unknown rescue.
Once there, the paramedics climbed out of their squad and grabbed the basic equipment from the compartments on the right side. They then trotted up the sidewalk.
Johnny stopped when he heard barking from not far away. He figured it had to be a large dog. Roy had stopped in mid stride as well. The two glanced around in search of the source.
Gage’s first thought was that this could be the threat he’d been worried about during their shift; the one thing that might have him on his way to Rampart.
Roy figured they may both need to make a run for it.
But when they saw the dog about a minute later, it appeared they had nothing to be concerned about.
It was a large dog just like Johnny had thought. But it would only peek its orangish furry head around the corner of the house. It wouldn’t come all the way out in the open.
“I guess his bark is worse than his bite,” Johnny said with a shrug.
“Let’s hope it stays that way.”
They continued up the walk, with an occasional glance at the still mostly hidden canine.
When they got to the porch, the front door opened and a middle aged woman with her hair in rollers hollered at the dog to be quiet, then greeted the two uniformed men.
“Don’t mind him, Benjamin’s as friendly as they come.”
Both men glanced in the dog’s direction. He’d already stopped barking and disappeared from sight. They returned their attention to the woman when she stated, “Bob is certainly going to be glad to see you!”
She motioned for them to come in.
“What happened?” Johnny wondered.
“Well, Bob__he’s my husband,” she said over her left shoulder as she led the way. “You see, he’s been wanting to try that new fad, you know where a person has special boots and hangs upside down__”
“Oh, you mean gravity boots?”
“Yes,” she nodded in answer to Gage’s question.
He looked at Roy beside him. “I’ve been thinkin’ about gettin’ one of those things. They’re s’posed to be really good for the back.”
Roy could only imagine how much he’d have to hear about it while on duty if his partner did take on the new trend. He hoped the idea would wear thin before Johnny ever got into it.
“It wasn’t so good for Bob’s back,” the woman explained. “That’s why I had to call for you.”
“He hurt his back?”
She nodded yes in answer to Roy’s question. She then led them through a doorway where a metal bar was still mounted within it. The bar had two foam padded sections for the purpose of hand grips. Bob was lying on the floor just inside the room, the boots that were designed to cover from the ankle to midway below the knee still on each of his legs.
“I hope you. . . brought help, Mary,” he panted out when he sensed someone in the room just behind him. He couldn’t turn his head to look and the way he was laid out on the floor, he faced away from the doorway.
“The paramedics are here.” She again addressed them. “I would’ve just taken him to our family doctor, except he can’t move. I couldn’t even get him to sit up. He called me in here after he tried to get down by himself and hurt his neck and back trying to reach up. I was going to help him down from the bar after I got his second boot loose, but he dropped to the floor on his back and landed right where you see him.”
“Good thing. . .I had my hands. . .on the floor. . .for support. . .I would’ve broke. . .my neck.”
“I couldn’t help it,” Mary reminded him. “Once the other boot was free, you went down before I could do anything else.”
Roy looked up at the metal bar. He’d seen demonstrations of the various contraptions for inversion therapy on the television. The doorway hanging seemed to be the most strenuous on the body, as the person had to use the muscles in their body to pull themselves up far enough to grab onto the bar with their hands. If he had to guess Bob was about forty years old, and he certainly wasn’t in top shape.
After a close examination, they determined he’d likely pulled a couple of muscles in his back, as well as pinched a nerve near his neck.
Before long Roy was on his way with the victim in an ambulance while Johnny would drive in the squad behind it.
As he headed for the rescue truck, Johnny took another glance at Benjamin, who was back to hiding behind the corner of the house while he barked. Mary followed Gage’s gaze.
“Benjamin’s kinda shy, huh?” The paramedic observed.
“Only when he gets a haircut.”
He looked at her, eyebrows raised. “A haircut?”
“Yes, every year when it gets warmer, we have him shaved. Well, his body. We leave his head and tail alone. It seems to keep him cooler. He gets embarrassed, but it’s for his own good.”
He once again looked toward the dog as she called out its name. Benjamin only came out far enough for Johnny to see half his body before he once again retreated.
Poor Benjamin. . .
The dark-haired man smirked. Even the dog was having a bad day. . .maybe a bad month if anyone could ask him.
I just might be the best off out of *everyone*, Gage thought.
He continued on to the squad while the woman went to her car, curlers still in her hair. Johnny wasn’t sure if she just didn’t care or if perhaps she’d forgotten about them.
“Well, we haven’t seen much of you and your partner today.”
Johnny smiled at head nurse Dixie McCall’s observation. This day he was glad of the fact.
“So are you ready for your vacation?”
“You bet. Tomorrow can’t get here soon enough,” he answered.
Roy came out of one of the treatment rooms and joined them.
“Your partner’s looking pretty happy,” Dixie remarked to the new arrival.
“He says he’s anxious to get off while he’s still in one healthy piece for the baby’s birth. I think he’s just enjoying the thought of me working with Craig Brice while he’s gone,” he added with a slight grin.
“That, too,” Gage said with a nod, still smiling himself.
Craig Brice was a very by-the-book paramedic, to the point of being annoying. Roy had been stuck working with him before and had to restrain himself from punching the guy.
“How’s Lorraine feeling?” Dixie wondered.
“Big. I think it’s all baby weight, but she keeps saying she’s gained too much. Other than that, she’s feelin’ pretty good.”
“I’ll bet she’s ready to have the little one.”
“More than ready,” Gage assured.
He was too, even if it did mean being outnumbered by girls, three to one.
As they headed for the exit, the two paramedics stopped to talk to Mary near the waiting area.
“How is he? Did they say how long he’d have to stay?” She wondered.
“No, ma’am. But Doctor Brackett should be out before long to fill you in on all the details,” Roy assured.
The two started to walk away when Mary called out, “Wait!”
Both men turned around.
“Would either of you be interested in the gravity stuff? I mean, maybe for your station?”
Roy got out an answer before Johnny even had a chance to say a word.
“No, we’ll have to pass on the offer. But thank you.”
“Alright,” she said with a sigh. “Maybe I can talk Bob into giving it to his brother for his birthday.”
Roy agreed that sounded like a good idea while Johnny still stared disbelievingly at the older man.
As the paramedics continued on their way, Gage asked his partner, “What’s wrong with you, man? We coulda’ used a thing like that at the station. Just imagine how many guys could benefit from hangin’ upside down, stretching their back for awhile after a tough run or somethin’.”
“All I can imagine is how many Code I reports would come from the station.”
Gage shook his head. Sometimes Roy was still too conservative for him, even as much as he’d calmed down since getting married and becoming a father.
Johnny told the guys at the station about the gravity boots and bar. Though Chet and Marco seemed disappointed Roy turned Mary’s offer down, Captain Stanley was more than grateful.
“You probably saved me hours of paper work down the road, pal,” he said with a pat on Roy’s left shoulder, “and the hassle of finding fill-ins, no doubt.”
Johnny frowned at the comment. But his expression quickly changed when the phone rang and the call was for him.
“This could be it, guys,” he said with a smile before taking the receiver from Mike Stoker.
Everyone waited, Marco and Chet seated at the table in the dayroom; Roy, the captain and Mike standing nearby.
When Johnny finished, he replaced the receiver on its cradle and looked at his anxious audience.
“Lorraine just wanted me to know everything’s okay, except her mom’s drivin’ her crazy. Wouldn’t leave her alone for a second till she finally convinced her ta give Emily a bath.”
“That sounds about right for a concerned mother,” Hank said.
Johnny was just glad he would be the one with his wife and daughter in the morning and beyond.
It was just before dinner when the station was sent out with two other units for a brush fire. The location was outside of town, in a hilly area with a lot of growth on it from a stretch of wet weather. Unfortunately, it had been a dry since, and all that growth had become fuel for the flames.
If the large plumes of smoke were any indication, it was going to be a long night.
The gut feeling they were in for a long haul came to be true. It was well into the early morning hours and the men from Station 51 were still at the brush fire. Breezy conditions were making it tough to contain.
The engine crew was on one of the frontlines battling flames with other engine crews who’d been called in afterward as the fire grew.
Johnny and Roy had just completed treating the sixth injured victim sent to them at the base camp since they’d been on scene.
“Just take it easy, Doug,” Johnny said to the latest patient as he gave him a quick pat on the blanket covering his legs. The fire fighter had been brought in with minor smoke inhalation and was expected to return to the lines after awhile.
Gage stood and walked over to his partner, who was checking over the supplies they had on hand.
Roy glanced up. “Many more responses, and we’re gonna need to make a run to Rampart.”
“Well, we’ve only got a few more hours before relief comes.”
“Yeah, I wonder what squad they’ll send.”
“Being that there’s only us and Squad 8 here, they’ve got plenty ta choose from.”
Johnny then glanced at his watch.
“You thinking about Lorraine?” Roy wondered.
The younger man grinned. “Ya caught me.” He gave a sigh and sat down beside Roy. “It’s not that I’m really worried about ‘er. It’s not that. I mean, I know her mom’s there an’ all. I’m sure someone would contact me up here if she went into labor.” He then looked at the doorway to the large tent they were in. “But it sure will be nice when we see our replacements walk in.”
He noticed Roy give him a curious glance.
“I know,” Johnny conceded. “Doesn’t sound like me at all, does it? Wanting to leave a fire?” The dark-haired paramedic gave brief laugh. “I guess being an expectant dad. . .again. . .kinda changes things. I mean. . .Roy, it happened so fast with Emily. What if this baby comes even sooner?”
“I understand. I’d be the same way.”
The two tired men were quiet a moment, until the handie talkie on the table in front of them squawked. They were being sent out to a remote location for an injured fireman.
As soon as they made the captain in charge aware that Doug would need to be checked on again by someone, the paramedics rushed to their squad, their blue jackets and helmets on, boxes with medical supplies and the biophone with them. Gage’s focus was once again entirely on his job.
“We should be there soon,” Johnny stated. He turned off the dome light in the squad that he’d used to view the map they’d been issued, then looked out through the windshield as Roy continued on the dirt road in the canyon.
It was a couple more miles before they arrived not far from where two crews were working to dig a fire line. A smoky haze was visible in the headlight beams.
Roy brought the rescue truck to a stop directly behind two engines parked in the road, one behind the other. He and Johnny climbed out and grabbed some of the supplies from the squad compartments. They then headed up the embankment across the road from the vehicles, goggles hanging around their necks in case they’d need them to protect their eyes.
Once at the top of the high bank, they could see the flames glowing bright orange in the night way off in the distance. The firemen digging were working hard about 300 yards away from where the downed fireman was being tended to by another. The latter two men were visible by a large flashlight they had, as well as those in use by the paramedics.
“What happened?” Johnny asked as they approached.
“We were on our way with the rest of the crews to dig the fire line when he stepped in that deep hole over there.” He pointed to indicate where it was, though it wasn’t visible at the moment. “He lost his balance. We could hear a crack when he fell. He says his ankle’s fractured.”
“It’s. . .it’s gotta. . .be,” the injured fireman confirmed between breaths.
When the paramedics assessed the victim, they could easily see why the others heard the ‘crack’. When they cut off his boot, they saw that the man’s ankle had a compound fracture. He clearly was going into shock. His moist clammy skin and rapid breaths were two indications of that.
He couldn’t reach Rampart from where they were located, but Johnny did manage to contact the base camp via the HT. Thus he could relay information to the hospital and receive instructions in return.
“It’s too dangerous to send an ambulance up here,” Roy explained to the other fire fighter. “We’ll have to take him out of here in a stokes with the squad.”
“Just help me up. . .I can make it. . .to the squad with assistance,” Gerard got out between gritted teeth.
“Sorry, no deal,” Johnny informed him. “Not with that ankle like it is.”
Before long, Johnny and Roy had their patient set for transport. They and the other fire fighter managed to get the injured man up on the back of the squad in the stokes as planned.
It was decided Johnny would ride up there with him, while Roy drove the squad back to camp where an ambulance was waiting.
Roy carefully started forward so as not to cause Johnny to lurch as they headed back.
Gage looked down at Gene Gerard when the injured man groaned. The paramedic glanced at the inflated splint that surrounded his fractured ankle.
“Still in a lot of pain?”
“En. . .enough. . .” he mumbled from under the oxygen mask.
His skin was very moist and he appeared to still be shocky.
“I’ll get on the horn and request a little more MS. Just hang in there.”
The medic lifted the HT to his mouth and pressed the transmit button. Suddenly the squad jerked swiftly to the right.
Johnny immediately dropped the HT and grabbed for the stokes to keep it steady. He gasped when he felt a sharp pain shoot through his right index finger as it slammed against the metal basket.
The truck came to a stop and Roy was out in an instant.
“I hope that’s not what I think it is.”
A helmetless Johnny had just scrambled off the back of the squad and was looking at exactly what it was.
“If you’re thinking flat tire, you nailed it.”
Roy might’ve snickered at the possible pun if the situation weren’t so serious.
He eyed the very flat right rear tire, his partner’s flashlight beam on it. What ever they hit had put a good sized hole in the tire. The only way they were going anywhere was to put on the spare.
“He’s still hurtin’ pretty bad. I was just about to see if we could give ‘um more MS.”
Johnny had sprained, possibly fractured, his index finger when he hit it on the stokes. But that was a non-issue, considering, and he saw no reason to bring it up for now.
“Why don’t you go ahead with that,” Roy suggested, “while I get the spare out. Then we can jack up the squad and change the tire.”
“Sounds like a good deal to me.”
Johnny climbed back up, his sore finger out straight, while Roy grabbed one of the flashlights and a wrench, the latter on board for reasons such as this. He removed his helmet and put his goggles on, then wriggled on his back underneath the squad and reached upward to loosen the bolt that held a crossbar in place. Behind that crossbar was the spare tire on the belly of the truck, just slightly in from the rear bumper.
He gritted his teeth as the nut holding a bolt in place was more than stubborn. It was stuck. Roy gave it his all to break it loose.
Johnny not only relayed the current information on Gerard, but also the fact they’d be delayed and why. Once he had the permission for more MS, he acknowledged the directions. Base camp would be on the look out for them.
The dark-haired paramedic administered the additional MS through Gerard’s IV port. After a quick check on the oxygen flow to their patient and some reassurance to him that they’d be on the move soon, Gage climbed down from the squad, his injured finger still not in use.
He squatted down near the rear of the vehicle to check on his partner’s progress.
“How’s it comin’?”
“I guess no one needs the spare enough. The bolt’s been in place so long, it’s really being stubborn. Did you get permission for more MS?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I did. He’s resting a little easier now.” He leaned forward some and questioned, “You want me to give it a try?”
Well, that answered that.
He heard the crackle from a transmission over the handie talkie he’d just left up on the back of the squad. Base camp was trying to get a hold of them. Johnny stood, then reached for the radio and acknowledged the call. After a brief exchange, he squatted down again.
DeSoto was in the process of swinging the hinged crossbar down to the side of him.
“I know, I heard.”
Johnny had been told the fire jumped one of the other lines in a couple of spots. From Gage’s explanation of about how far they’d traveled from the location of their call, it was possible they could be right in the path of it, give or take a mile.
Roy shifted his position under the squad, then shoved the spare tire towards Johnny. The movement was awkward under the truck with it not being jacked up. He then slid out on his back in the gravel as Johnny pulled the tire out completely in the open.
Roy slipped off his goggles, then grabbed the jack and positioned it in the key spot to keep the vehicle steady. Johnny then pumped it up just enough so they’d be able to get the damaged tire off and the other on.
“Man, Roy, we’ve gotta get Gerard outta here.”
“If we get trapped in here by the flames, we can’t drive through ‘um at the same time as a water drop like we’ve done before. Not with him exposed on the back.”
He wasn’t telling Roy anything the older paramedic didn’t already know.
“We’re just gonna have to hope we get out of here in time,” Roy stated.
With the search light from the squad set up for lighting, Roy took the tire off the squad and replaced it with the spare. Just like with the crossbar underneath there’d been a slight problem, this time being two stubborn lug nuts. Thus it had taken longer than desired to get the job done. As Roy tightened the lug nuts back on, Johnny tossed the damaged tire off to the side. There was no need in taking it with them. He swore at the pain that shot through his finger when it pressed against the rubber.
“Just about got it,” Roy offered.
The smoky haze was slightly heavier now and the men knew the window of time was very slim. The fire crews battling the runaway blaze obviously were on the losing end for now.
Johnny’s main concerns were with Gerard. The last thing he needed with his career was permanent damage to his ankle from the delay.
Of all the times to get a flat. . .
With the tire change finally complete, the paramedics were about to find out if it would be a clear path to the staging area. Johnny climbed up on the back of the squad to be with Gerard. He put his helmet on and waited for their journey to resume.
Roy got into the driver’s seat. Once again he started off slow, so as not to cause his partner and their patient to get jerked about. He then gradually increased in speed until they were going at a good, but safe, pace.
A couple of miles later, Roy had to bring the squad to a stop. The fire had made it to their location.
The flames were blocking their way. Johnny shook his head. What else could go wrong?
“You gottum on the radio?” He called out to Roy in the cab below.
A hand wave out the partially open window told him Roy did make contact. They’d have to wait for help to arrive now. Johnny looked down at their charge.
“Hang in there, man. Just one more obstacle.”
Gerard nodded slightly. He knew as much as they did, when it came to brushfires, nothing was easy.
Roy backed the squad up several yards to wait for a water drop.
He could see more brush burning up the embankment above the squad. If they didn’t get out real soon, the situation was going to grow very grim.
The sound of a helicopter over the loud crackling of the fire caught the paramedics’ attention. Their help had arrived and not a moment too soon. Roy was going to have to move fast as soon as the drop was complete.
Johnny held onto the stokes with both hands, his feet braced hard against the surface of the squad to keep himself from moving when Roy sped out of there. He ignored any pain his grip caused his sore finger. That was just a minor annoyance compared to everything else.
Roy watched as the water soaked and knocked down the roaring flames ahead of them. In the same instant, he gunned the engine and made a hasty escape. He breathed a sigh of relief when he looked in the side mirror and saw the fire trying to regain its strength where they’d just driven through.
The senior paramedic got on the radio, and gave a ‘thanks’ to copter 14. He stopped the squad once more when they were a safe distance away to get out for a check on his partner and their injured passenger.
“You all right up there?”
“Yeah,” Johnny said with a nod.
They’d made it through the adventure okay and could now head back to base camp.
Several minutes of riding after their narrow escape, Gage wiped at the sweat on his forehead with his sleeve covered forearm, then took one more glance at his finger. It was somewhat swollen at the lower knuckle. He’d need to ice it, Rampart would probably want to x-ray it.
Rampart. . .
That thought brought him back to another.
Roy winced at the tightness between his shoulders. The struggles with the tire change, not to mention the awkwardness at getting the spare down and to his partner in a hurry, were catching up to him.
Johnny came into the nurses’ lounge where his partner was seated straight up in a chair, his chest out slightly, in what appeared to be an effort to stretch out the muscles in his upper back.
“You know, if we’d accepted the gravity stuff, you wouldn’t need ta do that.”
Roy rolled his eyes and shook his head. He was sure to hear about that subject for. . .
Wait, his vacation starts soon.
. . .Only for the rest of the shift.
Roy smiled and got to his feet. “How’s Gerard?”
“He’s on his way up to surgery now. He’s gonna need a lot of time to heal and physical therapy. But the doc figures if all goes well, he could be back with his crew in about eight months. Maybe a little longer.”
“Great. How’s your finger?”
Johnny held up the splinted digit for display. “It’ll be okay.”
“Yeah. An’ the other good news is that Lorraine hasn’t checked in,” he said as they left the room.
It didn’t surprise Roy that he’d really asked about that. Paramedic or not, an expectant dad was an expectant dad, with all the apprehensions that went with it. He didn’t dare tell the younger man that was one of the first things he looked into upon arriving as well.
Johnny and Roy were directed to head back to the Station 51 once they called in as available. They’d gotten the supplies refilled and the squad would be ready to go back to the brush fire with the next shift at the station.
Engine 51 was still at the fire. It was likely they’d be pulling some overtime. Fire crews were desperately needed in the canyon.
“Good thing Mike’s got a few more months before the baby is due,” Johnny remarked as he and Roy walked into the empty dayroom.
Roy headed for the refrigerator to get the milk. “I’m sure he’d agree.”
The younger man dialed his home phone number, wanting to find out how his wife was fairing with her mother and all. He could finally relax. He was almost ready to go on vacation leave and he wasn’t about to be admitted into Rampart. When he made the comment to Roy, he scowled at the response he got.
“You aren’t home yet.”
“Now I’m home,” Johnny said out loud to himself after getting out of his Land Rover. Only a couple of minutes and he’d be in the apartment, his mother-in-law would soon be on her way home, and the family of three would be alone. At least until the newest member arrived.
He started up the steps when he heard a door open from above. It was followed by a jangling sound. His neighbors’ yellow Labrador pup suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs. In the same instant, she barreled down to greet him.
Roy’s words “you aren’t home yet” echoed in Johnny’s mind as the young furry overly friendly canine charged toward where he stood on the limited space of the step. Apparently today was going to be his bad morning.
“Push, push,” Johnny urged. “C’mon, honey, you’re doin’ great.”
The paramedic stood beside his laboring wife, her right hand in his left, his crutches supporting him under the arms. The brace on his twisted left knee allowed him to move about without risking further injury while it healed. After four days on the crutches, he was already used to them.
Just as they’d planned, as soon as his wife felt the start of labor this time, Johnny had his mother-in-law drive them to Rampart.
“Ooooohhh,” Lorraine groaned before bearing down once again when a contraction hit. After she let up, she could hear the sound of a baby crying.
“You did it,” Johnny said with a wide crooked grin. “We did it!”
The doctor eyed the happy couple. “Congratulations, you have a son.”
“A son.” Johnny couldn’t believe it. He had a son! With a full head of dark hair already!
“Nathaniel Roderick,” Lorraine said.
They’d made a list of about twenty names for boys, and that had been the one the two liked the most. Who cared if ‘Roderick’ wasn’t such a popular choice? He’d turned out okay with the middle name. . .
Well, unless someone asks Chet. . .or Roy sometimes. . .or. . .oh what the heck!
Johnny nodded. “Nathaniel Roderick.”
So much for one plus one equals three, he thought. Until he remembered it was still going to be him and three ‘girls’. Since he was limited on what he could do around the apartment to help out Lorraine, his mother-in-law had insisted she stay longer.
At least there’ll be an ‘us guys’. Us guys. . .
It sounded good. Sure, Nathaniel wouldn’t have much of an opinion for awhile, but that didn’t matter.
He may not have made it to his time off from work unscathed as he’d hoped, but that didn’t matter now. He and Lorraine had two amazing, healthy children. Who could ask for more than that?
I’m *not* asking for more, Johnny made sure to add in his thoughts as he glanced upward. He sure wasn’t ready to plan for baby number three!
The gravity boots didn't become a fad until the 1980s, but for story purposes I changed it to the 70s. Any medical or technical mistakes are mine.
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