It's Only One Rescue
Johnny welcomed the drive from the city up to the farm of some friends. He had been through a particularly long shift that had left him exhausted and ready for good nights sleep in the quiet solitude of the country. All he could think of was turning in early without the constant barrage of city noises to keep him awake. Johnny had come up that day to stay at the farm to house sit for his friends. They had a chance to go on vacation in Hawaii and when they asked, Johnny was more than willing to stay. He cherished the opportunity to get out of the city and since it was only an hour drive into town, work was not a problem.
The Land Roverís tires screeched to a stop as Johnny pulled up in front of the house. He opened the door and stepped out onto the gravel. Pausing slightly to enjoy the warm sunshine of the afternoon, Johnny sucked in a deep satisfying breath. Quickly grabbing his bag from the back, he walked to the front door. The key slid in easily and Johnny opened the heavy wooden door and was met by the smell of homemade bread.
"Oh Vanessa, you didnít," Johnny said as he entered the foyer. He made his way to the kitchen and found, sitting on the counter, a fresh baked loaf of bread and a note. Johnny picked up the note, his smile growing into lopsided grin as he read.
Eric and I are so glad you decided to stay. Make yourself at home; you are part
of the family ya know. We will be home on the night of the 15th but will stay in
the city since it will be so late. Find whatever you can to eat, you are welcome
to anything. I thought I would make a loaf of bread for you. I did however
refrain from making pancakes.
Love and Hugs,
Johnny laughed at the last comment. He was well aware that Vanessa and the expression "flaming pancakes" seemed to go together. After putting his bag in the guest bedroom, taking a shower and eating Chef Boyardee straight from the can, Johnny found himself yawning from the exhaustion of the day. Finding nothing to watch on TV he decided to head for bed.
Johnnyís slumber was interrupted by the sound of knocking at the door. Rolling out of bed and stumbling to the front hall, he was met by a blast of cold air with a hint of dampness that forecasted rain soon. Two young boys stood on the porch looking very cold and forlorn. Johnny recognized the boys as belonging to the Anderson family that lived about two and half miles from the farmhouse. He always took note that the members of the family didnít seem terribly friendly towards him, but then again he wasnít at his friend's ranch very often.
Johnny wiped the back of his hand across his face to try to get rid of the cobwebs in his mind. His voice was thick with sleep as he stepped aside. "Hi,
come on in and get out of the cold."
The boys looked at each other anxiously. The older boy stepped towards Johnny with panic and fear dominating his voice. "No, please! You need to come with us now! Our little sister was out exploring and now we canít find her. We've looked everywhere but we ran out of places to look." The boy's voice had reached a high-pitched whine bordering on hysterics by the time he reached the last word.
Johnny could see that this was no joke to the boys. But he had to wonder if this wasnít a case of little sister getting the best of her big brothers.
Thatís what my sister used to do to meÖIíd get so scared that she was in trouble only to find her sitting in the house playiní with her dolls.
"Okay, just try to relax. I need to get some clothes on and then we will go find your sister." This seemed to settle the boys somewhat Johnny noticed, as he headed for the bedroom. "Hey guys, where are your parents? Itís a little late for exploring out of doors."
A simple "Sheís out." was the only reply Johnny got. He couldnít help but notice the bitterness in the tone of the young childís voice.
The night air drove itself through Johnnyís jacket and he tried to pull it tighter around him. The boys seemed oblivious to the cold and they silently got
into the Land Rover patiently waiting as Johnny started the motor. "I donít know this area very well so your gonna have to give me directions."
Both boys nodded but didnít speak.
He knew most of the people in the area but he had no idea what the names of the young passengers were or the sister that they were going to look for. Johnny glanced at the boys. Not sure what to say he decided to break the silence. "Hey my nameís Johnny. Itíd sure be easier to talk to you both if I knew your names."
He was beginning to think that he was not going to get a response when the older boy finally responded. "My nameís Cody and this here is my little brother Alec."
Johnny continued to draw the boys out. "So can ya tell me what exactly happened?"
Cody responded quietly, "Well, we was out playiní cops and robbers. We didnít notice that sis had left but we tried to find her as soon as we saw something might be wrong."
Alec added, "We looked for a long time but we couldnít find nothiní so we came to the closest house to get some help."
"Okay guys, look Iím sure that you sister is just tryiní to pull a fast one over on her big brothers. Weíll find her."
Pulling into the driveway Johnny was struck by the appearance of the house. If one had seen it during the day they would be quick to assume that it was abandoned. Even in the dark of night Johnny could clearly see that the house was in disrepair. His headlights cast an eerie glow on the aging structure.
The older boy pointed off to the side of the house. "The place that we seen her at last is that way."
Johnny followed the well-worn path thankful that his Land Rover was built for this sort of road. An area with a broken down chain link fence came into view and both boys said in unison "Thatís it."
Johnny brought the vehicle to a stop and turned the engine off. He jumped out and walked to the back. Opening the door he reached in and removed the flashlight, first aid kit, and emergency blanket he always kept with him. Johnny turned the flashlight on as the three walked to the small building. The beam of light bounced in rhythm with their steps, dancing from one side of the path to the other.
The storage area was run down and it was obvious that the system hadnít been used for quite some time. A crude shelter had been constructed over the top of the pit but the poles were rusted and layers of dirt and sediment had covered the cement foundation that encircled the hole. Johnny could see the freshly made footsteps of a child in the dirt around the pit.
On one side of the pit was a small metal plate that had been opened ages before. The rusted hinges hadnít been touched in years. Johnny knew the tank wasnít operational since the houses in this area had been converted to the rural water supply lines that were put in several years back.
His mind was running wild with all the possibilities as Johnny slowly walked to the edge. He hesitated, trying to steel himself for what he might find. His mind flashed the image of a tiny, still, child at the bottom and he closed his eyes trying to erase the picture. Taking a deep breath he muttered to himself, Man let it be okay.
He shined the light in but saw nothing. It was about 15 feet to the bottom. Quite a drop for anyone, especially a child. He started to retreat when something in one of the corners caught his eye. Looking closer he realized that he could see a small tennis shoe. Johnny could feel the sense of dread building within him as the gravity of the situation hit home. His shoulders slumped slightly and he bowed his head as he spoke.
"Hey, what was your sister wearing for shoes tonight?" Johnnyís voice sounded weak and tinny as it bounced off the walls of the pit.
The older boy said, "I think she was wearing her red sneakers."
Johnny looked at them both and said, "I saw a shoe down there but Iím gonna have to go down to look cause thatís all I can see."
John returned to the Land Rover and grabbed the rock climbing rope that he thankfully hadnít taken out from the last time he went climbing. Returning to the storage tank, Johnny tied one end of the rope to the pole and tossed the other end over the side of the hole. The two boys stood and watched. Johnny paused, looking at the older boy, "Iím gonna need some help. But let me guess, the reason you didnít call your mom is there is no phone. Am I right?"
The older boy nodded his head in confirmation. "The phone company turned it off Ďcause mom didnít pay the bill, mister."
The young paramedic looked at the boys has he tried to find a solution for the dilemma he was now faced with. "Man," Johnny uttered through clenched teeth. "Alright guys, both of you stay here and try to talk to talk to your sister. Iím gonna go back to my house and call the fire department. I will be back real soon."
The oldest boy stepped forward blocking the path in front of John. "No, let me go. I can get there really quick and call then come back."
"Son I know you want to help but I donít want you out this late."
Mister, Iíll be okay. I know my way around. We do this all the time when Mom has to work late. She doesnít know but we do."
"Okay," Johnny sighed in utter frustration, "Let me write down the number for you."
Johnny wrote down the number of the emergency dispatch along with the address of the farm and handed it to the boy. "Now go as fast as you can."
With that the boy was off into the night.
Johnny looked to Alec giving him a small smile. "Listen, I'm really gonna need your help. Ďkay?"
The youngster shook his head yes but Johnny could see the boyís bottom lip start to tremble as the moisture of tears started to form in the corners of his eyes. The young paramedic stepped closer to the boy and gently placed his hand on the youngsters shoulder. "We can do this, Iíll show you what to do."
The boy looked at Johnny, his eyes soft and pleading. "I really like sis, I try to make her think I don't, but I do." Tears filled his eyes and his voice shook. "I'd really miss her."The boy took a deep breath. "I donít know if I can help, Iím not really good at much of anything but I'll try my best."
Johnny smiled slightly trying to reassure the youngster. "Good letís get to it then."
Johnny proceeded to construct a harness out of the rope so he could lower himself down into the pit. The boy turned out to be an able assistant as he
carefully helped Johnny with the knots to make the makeshift repelling gear. He knew that the little girl needed attention fast or the cold and the fall would be too much for her to overcome. As he worked, Johnnyís thoughts turned to the little girl. A quick glance at his watch brought a shudder of concern through his body. An hour and a half, thatís so long for such a young child. He stepped to the edge of the hole steadying himself for the first step. The rope bit into his bare hands as he leaned back and started his descent into the darkness.
About half way down he heard a strange noise from up top. He suddenly felt the rope give and he started to fall back as a zinging sound and the young boys screams filled his ears. Johnny felt the air explode from his lungs as he tumbled into the darkness of the hole. His mind only registered a bright flash of light as he landed in a heap at the bottom. He tried to take in a breath but his lungs refused to work. He fought against the panic as his mind tried to will his body calm. He waited, eyes closed in the darkness for his breathing to return. Johnny was finally able to take a shaky but welcome breath. The fall Johnny had, jarred the flashlight loose and it had gone out. He searched the darkness and finally located the light source. Flicking it on he quickly found the first aid kit then moved to examine the girl.
From up top came the sobs of the young boy. Johnny looked up, his eyes following the sounds of the scared boy that were drifting down to him. "Itís okay Alec, Iím okay."
The boy stopped crying, but Johnny could hear the panic in his voice. "The little metal thing that holds the poles up busted and came loose."
Great! That blows the idea of lifting her out myself. Johnny shook his head disgustingly.
Johnny scooted toward the little girl. As he assessed the situation he was thankful for one thing. The layers of dirt in the bottom of the hole caused by
disuse made the landing softer for him and the child. Johnny yelled up to the boy, "Hey, whatís your sisterís name?"
"Angie. Her name is Angie."
"íkay." Johnny said, "Thanks."
"Has your brother gotten back yet?"
The young boy simply said "No."
Johnny yelled up, "Where do you think he could be?"
"I donít know; I thought he would have gotten back by now."
Johnny realized that young boy must be terribly cold and uncomfortable. "Why donít you go wait for help to arrive at the house so they know where to go."
"Are you gonna be OK if I leave? I mean what if you need something and Iím not here?" the boy said.
Johnny shook his head. "It would be a big help if you showed them where to go. I have things handled here so go ahead and go to the house."
He was relieved to here the youngster answer him. "Okay, if thatís what you want me to do."
John looked down at the still form. "All right Angie, letís see what we got here." He placed his hand on her abdomen and felt it gently rise and fall. "Well little one, thatís a good sign."
Her pulse was strong but fast, at 140 and her respirations were 40 and shallow. Johnny had no idea what her B.P. was since he was without any equipment.
John gently felt each arm and leg checking for broken bones. "Great sweetie, nothiní seems to be broken."
Johnny looked down at her pale face. "Angie? Angie can you hear me?" He sighed, shaking his head at her lack of response. "Angie!" Johnny said, louder this time. "Come on honey, open your eyes." Johnny cracked a smile as her beautiful blue eyes slowly fluttered open. "Hi Sweetie. My name is Johnny and Iím gonna help you." he said, flashing his famous Gage smile at her.
"Iím c_cold," Angie whimpered.
"I know you are honey and I have a blanket right here. Can you tell me where you hurt?"
"MmmÖ" The little girl mumbled softly. "I guess just kinda all over."
Angie tried her best to scoot herself closer to Johnny.
Johnny quickly reached out, stopping her movement. "No, honey, donít move, okay? Honey, does your back or tummy hurt any?"
He was somewhat relieved when she responded with "No."
A check of his watch showed it to be 11:50. Almost an hour had gone by with no help and with the rope being out of commission all Johnny could do was wait. Johnny touched Angieís skin and frowned when he found it to be cool and moist. He knew the little girl was starting to show early signs of shock because of the cold and the fall. And big things I canít see yet.
"Hey Angie, guess what? You and I are gonna play the question game. Okay?" Even with only the dim light from the flashlight, Johnny could clearly see the look of curiosity on the childís face. He had her attention.
" Ďkay, but thereís somethiní I need to tell ya, Mr. Johnny." Angieís face suddenly looked very serious.
Johnny matched her serious expression. "Okay, Angie, what do you want to tell me?"
"WellÖumÖsee I donít really know how to play that. Is that a boy game? ĎCause I donít like boy games much." Angieís face remained serious with just a hint of a frown curling the edge of her mouth downward.
Johnny pursed his lips, stopping the smile that was threatening to take over his face. "No honey itís not a boy game. Itís kinda like someone asking a whole bunch of questions so they can get to know somebody."
"Oh, so your gonna ask me questions to know what I like and what I donít like. Well I can tell ya right now I donít like lima beans and they musta had a big sale on Ďem at the store that the school shops atĎcause we have Ďem all the time." Angieís disgusted expression left no doubts what her opinion of the offending vegetable was.
"Sorta like that, Angie, but the questions are about how you feel since you fell down here. I want to make sure youíre all right."
"MmmÖokay I can do that." Angie shrugged her shoulders.
"All right, here we go. Does your neck or back hurt anywhere?"
"No but my bottom sure is cold," Angie said matter-of-factly.
Johnny chuckled lightly at the young girlís frankness. "Can you wiggle your fingers and toes?"
"Yep." Angieís fingers opened and closed and her toes wiggled, "Hey this is easy Mr. Johnny."
"Great, Angie. Now does it feel like anything is kinda asleep or like they are numb?"
"Uh, no nothing like that. But Mr. Johnny I am gettingí really cold."
He could here the voices of his instructors screaming at him from the depths of his mind as he tried to plan out what to do that would help the little girl the most. Under normal circumstances Johnny knew that moving someone was out of the question without taking full spinal precautions. He also knew that Angie needed warmth.
Finally he decided that he just had no choice but to pick her up and cradle her in his arms in hopes of providing some heat. He held her snugly and placed the blanket over her. He then said, "Does that feel better, Angie?"
The little girl looked up at him and she gave Johnny a small smile. "Yes," Angie nodded.
"Angie honey, does your head hurt?"
"Yeah, just a little." Angie spoke thoughtfully to the young paramedic.
Johnny felt all around but found no obvious lumps or bumps. "Does it hurt outside or inside?"
The little girl thought for a moment. "It kinda hurts inside where my thinker is."
Johnny smiled. "Okay, sweetheart. That's okay. Youíre doiní just fine. Do you feel like you might get sick?"
"Sick? You mean like puking Mr. Johnny?"
"Yep Angie, just like that.?" Johnny grinned at the girl.
"Oh yuck, I donít want to do that. I was standiní right next to Jim Beamgard in school one day when he did that. Some got on my new shoes. It was so gross." Angieís face crinkled up as she recounted the incident.
"Okay Angie do you feel dizzy?
"Mmm, no Mr. Johnny. I donít have that."
"Great Sweetie, youíre doiní fine."
With that reassurance, she settled closer into his warm body.
Johnny mouth curved slightly into a small grin. "Angie, were you playing with your brothers when you fell?"
Angie shrugged her shoulders slightly. "Nah, Alec and Cody play too rough so I was just exploring."
"Hey Angie, how old are you? What grade are you in?"
"Mmm," Angie mumbled, "Iím 7 years old and in the first grade."
"Do you like going to school?"
"Yep, Mr. Johnny, I really like school. I like to paint pictures the best. I also like to play on the swings at recess but I donít like the monkey bars
Ďcause I donít know how to go across 'em." She looked up at him. "What do you like to do Mr. Johnny?"
"Well," he said, "I like to go hiking and fishing. And I like to ride my horse andÖ"
Angie didnít let him finish. "You have a horse? Wow I wish I had a horse, they are so pretty. Whatís his name Mr. Johnny? What color is he? Is he really big? Does he like to have you ride him? Could I see him sometime?"
Angie stopped asking questions long enough for Johnny to respond. "His name is Sam and he is gray. Yes he is very big and he likes me to ride him. Angie, I would love for you to come and see him. I even think he would like you to go for a ride."
"Wow!" she said, "That would be really great!"
Angie fell silent and Johnny started to become worried. He looked down and saw that she was awake but there was sadness in her eyes. He reached out and gently stroked the little girlís long blonde hair. Finally he said, "Angie, is anything wrong, honey?"
The little girl looked up at him, tears starting to form in the corner of her eyes. "Mama was gonna get me a pony for my birthday but then daddy left and she said it cost too much money so I couldnít get one. I was really mad at momma at first but one night I heard her talking on the phone to aunt Jo. Mamma told aunt Jo that Daddy left cause he met another lady and he didnít want to be married to momma any more. Because of that momma didnít know how she was gonna take care of all of us kids and pay the bills for the farm."
Johnny now understood why the house and farm looked so run-down. It probably explained why the kids had been left alone. He looked at Angie. "Sweetheart, where is your mommy tonight?"
Angie simply said, "Sheís at work." The little girl remained quiet for a few moments then asked, "Do you have to go to work Mr. Johnny?"
He smiled and said, "Yeah, I go to work but I really like to be there."
Angie said in amazement, "What do you do? I never heard Momma say that she liked to go to work. Do you get to do something really neat?"
Johnny smiled at the girl. "Well, what do you think would be really neat?"
"Well," Angie said, "I think it would be neat to be someone that makes cookies for people to buy."
Johnny said, "Why would you want to make cookies for other people?"
"I suppose cause I could put different colors of frosting on like red and green and yellow and even purple," the little girl said thoughtfully. "And I could funny pictures on them like Wonder Woman or Aqua Man. I could even put a picture of Sam on one just for you Mr. Johnny. That would be real neat. ĎCourse I donít know how to make gray frosting so heíd have to be a different color." Angie continued out loud. Angie looked at Johnny. "What color would you want Samís cookie to be?"
Johnny thought briefly and said, "Well, I guess I would like red the best." Johnny smiled at Angieís curious face. "Iím a fireman and all of the trucks we have are red so that is kinda my favorite color. I guess I would want Sam to be red cause he is so special to me."
Angieís eyes opened wide. "Wow, you mean you get to ride on those big trucks with the ladders and hoses that spray water all over? That is so neat. Is it hard to do that stuff with the fire and all?"
It was Johnnyís turn to perk up. "Sometimes itís really hard work but I like it a lot."
"Gee!" Angie said, "I have never seen a really big fire before, but one time I got to close to the stove when Momma was cookiní supper and I got my arm burned. Boy, that really hurt and I cried till Cody and Alec told me to shut up and stop being such a cry-baby." Angie moved her arm out from under the blanket and pointed to a spot on her arm and said, "See itís right there. Thatís where I got burned."
Johnny shined the flashlight on the spot and he could see the faint scarring of the burn. He stroked the little girlís hair as she put her arm back under the blanket and said, "Well I think if your brothers had been the ones to have that happen to them they would have probably cried too."
She looked at Johnny and asked, "Mr. Johnny, have you ever been hurt when you went to a fire?"
Not being able to help himself Johnny chuckled as he thought about all his owies. "Yeah. Angie Iíve been hurt a few times but nothing that was all that
Johnny looked down at the little girl when she didnít respond. He could almost feel the turmoil that had come over her small face and he wondered what could cause someone so young to concentrate so deeply on her own thoughts.
Angie looked up, breaking the silence between them. "Mr. Johnny, does God make some daddies good and some bad for a reason? ĎCause if that is so I what to know why God gave me a bad daddy."
Johnny could almost feel the hurt and sadness emanating from Angie as she talked about her father. Her bottom lip quivered and he could tell she was on the verge of tears. Angieís small body shuddered and she took a deep quivering breath then let it out in a rush. Her voice became hushed and Johnny had to strain to hear what she said next.
"Mr. Johnny, Momma would be real mad at me for telling you Ďbout this so you have to promise to keep this a secret, Okay?" Angie pleaded with her eyes and voice.
Those words caused a lump to get stuck in Johnnyís throat and he truly hoped that his voice would work so he would be able to reassure Angie that she could trust him with her secret. Johnny looked down, stroking Angieís hair gently. "Iím really good at keeping secrets so if you donít want me to tell your mother I will do that." He was relieved that his voice held.
Angie looked away and Johnny thought she had changed her mind about talking. A few seconds went by before Angie spoke; her voice barely a whisper but her words cut through the air like a knife and sliced into Johnnyís soul.
"Mr. Johnny," she said, "I was really bad. When daddy left, Momma and Cody and Alec were so sad and they cried a lot and said how much they were gonna miss him. Momma said she didnít know how she would go on without him."
Angie stopped. Johnny continued to stroke her soft hair but didnít speak, giving her an opportunity to tell the story in her own time.
"But," she started again, "I wasnít sad cause I guess I was sorta glad that he wasnít gonna be there anymore. You see daddy always told me that he wouldnít have to work so hard if I wasnít around. He told me that he and momma could have lots of nice things but I cost them a lot of money. I tried real hard to be good and not cause trouble so daddy would like me but I was always doing bad things that I got in trouble for. Boy, daddy could sure give a whoopiní. It hurt real bad and sometimes the next day I got in trouble for not doiní my work at school. But I couldnít think bout what the teacher was saying cause I still hurt from daddy gettiní so mad. Then daddy got mad all over again when I got in trouble at school."
Angie stopped but didnít look at Johnny. He took the opportunity to try to comfort the child but he was very aware that his words would be hollow
consolation at best to her. Johnny felt his face become hot with an overwhelming feeling of anger. He had seen and experienced a fair amount of prejudice and mistreatment growing up. Being half white and half Indian was the only reason that some people needed to be abusive. But through it all he always knew that home and his family was safe. He had a place to go to escape the teasing and taunts, the fights and bruises that were caused by ignorance. But this child didnít. She had to endure a pain that Johnny couldnít even imagine on her own.
Johnny could hear the tremor in his voice as he spoke. "Iím so sorry that your daddy was that way to you. I donít think he should have said those things or hurt you like he did. I donít think anybody should do that no matter what someone else does. You didnít do any thing so bad that he needed to get so mad and hurt you."
Johnny didnít think the anger he felt could get any stronger for the father of this girl. He had no idea how to comfort Angie and for a few minutes he was just speechless trying to get control of the rage that was boiling inside him. What amazed Johnny the most was despite every thing that this girl had been through she still had the faith to trust him fully and completely.
Angie looked up at Johnny breaking the silence and jarring Johnny out of his own thoughts. "Mr. Johnny Iím really getting cold. When are we gonna get out of here?" She seemed so calm despite what she had just spoke of and Johnny shuddered as much from her words as from the cold.
He looked down at the little girl who had the softest blue eyes he had ever seen. He said, "Itíll be soon honey, it will be very soon." His voice cracked on the sadness he felt. Johnny scanned the walls of the pit. The smooth dirt gave no possibility of climbing to the top. This is just great.
With an air of total trust in her voice she said, "Good Ďcause I donít like it here." With that she snuggled even closer to Johnny.
He smiled at her trying to believe his own words. Johnny noticed that he himself was becoming cold in the damp air of night and fatigue was making it difficult at times to concentrate. His watch read 1:15 am. Damn, where is that help?
Johnny heard a pinging sound above his head. At first he was at a loss to figure it out but at once it hit him. Rain. It had started to rain and it was falling on the tin that covered the hole.
"Man," Johnny mumbled, "That is just what I need." He hadnít heard Angie make a sound for several minutes and he said "Angie, honey, how are ya doiní?"
The little girl didnít respond and he shook her shoulders gently. "Hey, babe, please answer me. I need you to answer me, Angie."
Slowly her eyes flickered open. "What Mr. Johnny?" Angie said quietly.
He looked at her and reached out to touch her forehead. It was cold, so cold. Johnny reached under the blanket and found the girls wrist. Her pulse was very weak and fast. Too fast. How ya feeliní, Angie?"
"Really tired and I wish I had my blanket from my bed Ďcause Iím cold. Uh, Mr. Johnny, I think my tummy is startiní to hurt a little bit."
Johnny could hear the clicking sound of her teeth as Angie struggled to push her words past her chattering teeth. A dark look of concern crossed Johnís face. "Angie honey, listen to me real close. I need you to show me exactly where it hurts. Okay?"
"All right, I can do that."
Johnny quickly removed the blanket and could feel a shudder course through Angieís body as the cold air rushed across her skin.
Angie looked down. "Right here Mr. Johnny." She pointed to a spot in the middle of her abdomen.
"Is that the only place that it hurts, Angie?"
"Well, it kinda starts there, but then it goes around me."
"What do you mean it goes around you?" Johnny was trying hard to picture what the girl was saying.
"Mmm, it starts here but then it goes around to here." Angie pointed first to her belly then ran her finger around so it disappeared behind her back.
Johnny clenched his jaw, his concentration completely focused on the child. Damn! He resisted the urge to curse out loud. With the threat of internal
injuries and no immediate help in sight, he knew time was running out. If help doesnít arrive soonÖ he stopped himself short of finishing the thought.
Unconsciously, Johnny pulled Angie closer, his arms tightening around her frail body.
Johnnyís head dropped forward and he opened his eyes with a start. He looked at his watch and was shocked to find that it read 2:59. The rain was coming down heavy now and Johnny could tell that the dirt in the hole was starting to dampen. The chattering of his teeth was competing with the rain over head to make the loudest sound. Johnny sighed, his wet pants clinging to his backside adding to his misery.
"Damn!" he said out loud. "When did I fall asleep?" He checked on Angie and was relieved to find her alive, but he needed to wake her up. His body was stiff and sore because of the cold and he recognized the onset of hypothermia. He remembered all the information that he had received on the
subject while he was being trained. Yea but it donít mean a thing till you live through it.
"Angie darling, please wake up. Hey, Hon, wake up. I need you to wake up now, babe." Johnny could feel a sense of dread in the pit of his stomach as he placed his hand on Angieís belly to feel her respirations. Before he could start to count the childís eyes slowly opened. Johnnyís relief was tempered by the awareness of what he saw or rather didnít see in the girlís eyes. Gone was the light and spark he had seen until now. The beautiful blue was replaced by a dull gray. He wanted to scream. Johnny couldnít remember a time when he felt as helpless as he did right at this moment.
God dammit, Gage, all that training and you canít even help this little girl.
"Where in the hell is the help!" Johnny barked through clenched teeth. Johnny was almost at the point of tears as the cold and frustration and
helplessness threatened to over take him. "Where could that kid possibly be?"
Johnnyís outburst been enough to keep Angie awake but just barely. Her pulse was becoming weaker and he could tell that her skin was getting colder despite his attempts to hold her tight into his body. He looked into her eyes. They were dull and lifeless and they didnít move as he softly stroked her head. He began to hum a song that his mother sang to him when he was scared as a child.He hadnít heard the tune for years but as he sat there with this little helpless girl on his lap the memory of the words came flooding back to him.
"Hush now child donít be afraid
The storm outside will never invade
Safe you are in your motherís arms
You will never know the feel of harm
Sleep now child sweet dreams tonight
Youíre safe and warm everythingís all right
Donít worry Iím here never to leave
The world outside will not besiege
I am your lifeline, keeping harm at bay
Until God comes to take you away
Then my child you wonít need me
For His protection will never recede
Johnny finished the song gasping out the last of the words as he started to weep softly. The tiny child in his arms was very still and he knew the horrible truth without checking the little girlís pulse. Tears rolled down Johnís face has he flung the blanket aside and moved Angie onto the ground. Johnny ignored his body as it sent messages of painful stiffness to his brain.
"Angie no, please honey, donít do this. Come on back to me, babe." Johnny began chest compressions. "1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand."
Johnny continued the count. The cycle of compressions and breaths seemed to go on without end. Tears mixed with a cold trickle of sweat that ran down his forehead and into his eyes. He kept going. His hands were soon numb and his biceps shook uncontrollably as the cold and fatigue started to take over. Each time he checked for a pulse there was none.
I gotta keep going, but I donít know how long I can last. Come on, Angie, show me a sign here.
Finally he could go no longer. His body was beyond exhaustion. Johnís quivering arms buckled and he struggled to catch himself as he fell across Angieís still form. Pulling himself upright Johnny reached one last time for Angieís neck, his trembling fingers stopping inches from her tiny body. Please, Angie, but deep down, he knew his plea was futile. Johnny gently pressed his fingers against the little girlís still carotid artery. He shifted his fingers, probing in vain to find a pulse. Slowly, Johnny pulled his hand away and stared at her pale face, his vision blurred by tears.
The child was gone.
He gently reached down and smoothed her hair away from her eyes. Slowly John scooped the girl up and placed her back on his lap.There was nothing Johnny could do but hold her body in his arms. All the years as a paramedic could not have possibly prepared him for the grief and anguish
that washed over him at that moment. How could this happen? How could he have let this sweet innocent child come to such harm? There was no comforting his aching soul as he felt the cold tears roll down his face.
The help that he so desperately needed hours before finally arrived just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. The rain had stopped just before sunrise but it was barely acknowledged by the heartbroken man who had waited in vain for the assistance that never came. Fatigue and grief made Johnny numb as he was lifted from the hole.
A car pulled into the driveway as Johnny was brought the top with the lifeless body of the child in his arms. He watched as a woman got out of the car and ran toward the group of firemen that were gathered. Her screaming barely registered in the young paramedicís brain as he watched as Angieís small, still form was gently placed on the stretcher and a blanket was used to cover her beautiful face.
All Johnny wanted to do was to get in the Land Rover and drive away. His body however had a different idea. Try as he could, Johnnyís legs refused to support his weight. Too tired to struggle, he gave up and passively watched as two paramedics he didnít know gave him care. The strange men tried to talk to him and reassure him that he would be fine. Snippets of conversation registered in his brain but Johnny didnít care. Even when the needle slid under his skin and into a vein to start the I.V. Johnny gave no indication that he was concerned in the slightest about the goings on. All he wanted to do was stare at the tiny lump under the blanket on the stretcher.
Johnís eyes briefly focused on a small form that approached the stretcher. The older boy. John realized that the boy was crying and mumbling something. He tried desperately to understand what the child was saying. His brain processed only part of the words but that was enough for him to understand.
"Itís my fault, sis. I let you down but I just couldnít get across the bridge Ďcause of the rain. Honest, I tried, I really did. Iím so sorry!" The boy was
practically screaming out the words.
Johnny tried to focus his tired mind so he could offer some sort of reassurance to the boy but he just couldnít. Johnny was relieved to see one of the firemen move quickly to the boy and provide comfort and support. That was the last thing the dark haired paramedic remembered before his eyes
shut on the world around him.
Johnny was grateful for the stay in the hospital that Doctor Brackett had ordered as he couldnít bear going back to work. The events at the farmhouse had changed him forever and he knew that the little girl named Angie would always be with him. He could clearly see her crystal blue eyes looking up at him as he remembered her. The memory caused a tear to slowly creep down his face.
"Thank you Angie for letting me know you. I will never forget you." He said to himself as he watched the sun prepare to set for the day out the window of his room. The warm rays of the setting sun bathed Johnny's face as tears welled up in his eyes. He turned away from the window, trying to put the thoughts of the dead little girl out of his mind, all the while knowing that he'd never be able to forget her. A single tear slowly burned a path down Johnnyís cheek as the sun dropped below the horizon.
The manís dark coat stood in stark contrast against the gray January sky. It was one of the coldest days in the history of Los Angeles. For a place that was known for warm temperatures and sunshine its inhabitants felt the cold to a greater degree than most places and this certainly was true for John Gage. He crossed the open landscape trying to pull his coat just a little tighter with each step he took. At the top of the hill he spied his destination and headed for it almost at a trot.
Upon reaching the stone he read the name: Angela Lynn David. The cold granite bore the inscription below the name that read "Forever an Angel in the Eyes of the Lord" and the date gave testimony to how brief a life it was: March 15, 1967 to January 5, 1974.
Johnny looked at the stone and remembered the little girl that had suffered so and who had blessed him with her spirit. He was visiting her grave one-year to the day after the fateful night that brought them together. There were no words that could bring peace to his soul so he stood in silence ignoring all that was around him. He saw in his mind the blonde hair, the crystal blue eyes, as he heard the words that she had spoke to him.
In the year that followed the girlís death, Johnny had come to realize just how much that night had changed him. Calls involving children were always tough for all the paramedics and Johnny was no exception. He knew that the experience with Angie had made him a better person and a better paramedic. Angie had given him a sense of purpose that wasnít there before that helped John work with and understand children better than he had ever before. He liked to think that she was his guide helping him to find just the right words to comfort.
He reached out and touched the stone. Tears formed in the corners of Johnnyís eyes, as the cold of the stone crept up his arm.
"It was only one rescue, Angie," Johnnyís voice broke, "but Iíll never forget you."
With that he turned and walked away.
I want to thank Audrey for the kind words and support, Cheryl for the beta reading and encouragement, CeCe for the wonderful suggestions and ideas, and Becca for the medical information-any mistakes in that area are mine and mine alone. Last but certainly not least I want to thank my best friend Vanessa for being such a great inspiration-and a bad cook. LOL
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