Disclaimer: The guys from Emergency don’t belong to me. They belong to Universal and Mark VII. Thanks for letting me write about them.
On the Side of the Angels
Johnny Gage, the youngest A-shift crew member at Station 51, stood leaning against the counter of the nurses’ station in Rampart Emergency. With his eyes half closed and his dark hair tousled to and fro, he looked more like a little boy playing dress-up than a true paramedic employed by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. A hand flew to his mouth as he tried unsuccessfully to stifle a huge yawn.
“Rough night, Johnny?” Dixie McCall murmured.
“Mmm Hmm. Yeah,” Johnny rubbed the palms of his hands against his gritty eyes.
“Want some coffee?”
“Nah, thanks, Dix. I’m hopin’ to slip right back to sleep when we get back to the station.”
Straightening up a little, the dark-haired man looked closer at the countertop where Dix was sitting.
“Hey, Dix, what’s with all the red pens?” he asked, quirking an eyebrow.
With a completely straight face, Dixie looked at the dozen red pens in front of her and replied, “Oh, these? These are all here in case I need to draw blood.”
It took a few seconds for Johnny’s tired mind to realize that Dixie had just made a joke. When he caught on, he chuckled softly. “That’s a good one, Dix. I should try that one on Roy. Better yet, Chet! That’s definitely a joke for Chet.”
The door to the treatment room directly across from the nurses’ station swung open, and Roy DeSoto exited the room. Despite the weariness etched on his face, he wore a small smile. He greeted Dixie before turning to his partner.
“He’s gonna make it.”
“You ready, Junior?”
“Oh, yeah. More than ready. That bunk’s callin’ my name.”
Roy absently nodded his head and waved goodbye to Dixie.
“Bye, Dix. Hey, thanks for the joke.”
“No problem, Johnny, glad you enjoyed it,” she waved goodbye as the two men started off down the hall.
The two men were silent as they walked to the squad, each lost in their own thoughts.
Johnny slipped into his seat on the passenger side of the vehicle and laid his head back, eyes closed. The slam of driver’s door urged them open again and he keyed the mic to report their status to dispatch.
“What are our chances of not getting called out again tonight?”
Roy gave in to a yawn of his own before mumbling, “The way our luck has been running this shift, I’d say our chances are about zero.”
“Yeah, I’d say you’re right.”
* * *
Janey Raymond sighed softly as she washed her hands in the sink. The small nightlight gave the shell pink bathroom a soft glow. After drying her hands on a floral hand towel, she placed them on her swollen belly and rubbed.
“C’mon, Baby, Mama’s got to get some sleep tonight,” the young blonde woman whispered. This was the third time she’d had to get up and go to the bathroom since she’d gone to bed a couple of hours ago at 11:00 p.m. Now, at a few minutes after 1:00 p.m., she was wide awake and reluctant to return to the empty bed. Her husband, Kenny, was away on a business trip, and she missed him terribly.
Padding down the hall, she decided to check in on her other two children who were fast asleep. She entered Anna’s room first. The small room was illuminated by a tiny blue nightlight and revealed the five-year-old laying on her stomach, sheets tangled all about her. Numerous stuffed animals stood guard as she slept. Janey awkwardly bent over and kissed the little girl’s forehead, straightened the sheets, and left the room.
Her next stop was Tommy’s room. Situated at the front of the house, a nearby street light provided just enough light to keep all imaginary monsters at bay, which satisfied the three-year-old to no end. The tow-headed little boy lay curled in a ball in the middle of the bed, his thumb securely in his mouth. All blankets, sheets, and pillows were scattered about on the floor. His mother chuckled at the sight. No matter how many times she covered him at night, he kicked the bedding off within minutes. Undeterred, she pulled the covers up once more and placed one of the pillows back on the bed. Janey kissed her son’s forehead and exited the room.
For a brief moment outside his door, she debated whether to go downstairs and make a cup of tea or go back to bed. Deciding a cup of herb tea might relax her, Janey walked down to the kitchen.
* * *
The silence in the cab of the squad was broken only by a sudden growling from Gage’s stomach. This elicited a chuckle from Roy as he turned right out of Rampart.
“Sounds like you have a caged tiger in there.”
“Yeah, I’m starving.”
“That’s right. You missed dinner, didn’t you?”
“Don’t remind me. That’s the last time I say I’m going to take a quick shower first. I don’t care if I am covered in puke.”
With a smile still in his voice, Roy replied, “You might not care, but the rest of us would.”
“Sure you say that because YOU got to eat at least a little dinner before we toned out. I was still in my underwear and had to finish dressing in the squad. By the time we got back, I was too dang tired to eat, remember?”
“Maybe you should eat something when we get back.”
“Nah. I’d rather get some more sleep. But a glass of milk sounds good.”
* * *
Janey stood in front of the stove waiting for the water to boil. Her favorite stoneware mug, one Kenny had given her while they were dating, sat on the counter waiting. Turning from the stove, she fished a gingersnap out of the cookie jar and placed it on a napkin next the mug.
Finally, the tea kettle whistled, and she poured hot water over the waiting teabag. The blended scent of orange and cinnamon filled the air. Leaving the tea to steep, she pulled the carton of milk out of the refrigerator. Keeping the brewed tea a little on the weak side, she doctored it to her taste—slightly sweet and milky.
Janey picked up the warm mug, relishing the heat as it warmed her cold hands. She cautiously sipped the hot beverage. Leaning against the counter, she let her mind drift for a bit, thinking about all the things she had to do tomorrow.
* * *
Blinking against the grittiness in his eyes, Roy maneuvered the squad through a sharp turn in the road. The darkness was interrupted only be the flashing of passing streetlights. The hum of the engine was like a lullaby, and the senior paramedic couldn’t wait to get back to the station.
Both paramedics noticed the oncoming headlights at the same time.
“Roy, will you look at that? That guy’s all over the road!”
“I see him,” Roy muttered as he moved the squad farther to the right letting the tanker truck roll past.
“Hey, he’s not slowin’ down any. Roy, he’s not going to make that curve.”
The words were barely out of Gage’s mouth when there came the sound of squealing tires followed by a deafening crash. The screech of tortured metal seemed to last forever.
* * *
Janey was torn from her musings by a thunderous crash directly in front of the house. She gasped in shock and the mug of hot tea slid from her fingers. It shattered as it hit the floor, spraying her with hot liquid.
Oblivious to the burning sensation, the young woman blindly stepped forward intent on rushing to the window. In her haste, her foot landed on a shard of broken pottery and she stumbled, losing her balance on the wet floor. Janey went down hard; her right side taking the brunt of the fall. Stunned, she lay there gasping slightly, waiting for her breath to return.
* * *
The senior paramedic had the squad turned around before the screeching faded away. The tanker lay ahead of them, crumpled and twisted. Much of the 12,000 gallons of gasoline was now pouring forth, arcing onto houses and roofs and flooding lawns. A spark from the severed street lamp touched off a tremendous explosion, lighting up the dark sky. Everywhere the gas touched, the fire soon followed.
While Roy hit the lights and siren hoping to alert the residents in the houses, Johnny grabbed the mic and called in the incident. The squad had barely come to a stop before the two paramedics flew from the vehicle. Grabbing a blanket, Roy raced toward the truck where the driver, now on fire, was struggling to exit the cab. The younger paramedic sprinted for the closest house which was awash in flame.
Miraculously, the front door was as yet untouched by gasoline and Johnny pounded loudly with his fists, praying for a quick response.
* * *
Janey cried out in fear when the sound of the powerful explosion ripped through the air. Gathering herself together, she managed to get to her hands and knees, and then ever so slowly to her feet. Terrified, she felt tears begin to track down her cheeks. The sudden pounding at the door scared her even more, and she froze in place.
“FIRE DEPARTMENT! HELLO? FIRE DEPARTMENT! YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!”
The young woman hesitated briefly, trying to decide if she should answer the door. The smell of smoke finally penetrated, urging her to move. Hurrying was nearly impossible with the glass in her foot so she hobbled as well as she could toward the front door, trailing blood as she went.
* * *
Roy threw the yellow blanket onto the back of the truck driver. Patting several times, he was able to quickly smother the flames. The driver was in surprisingly good condition. The senior paramedic escorted him over to the squad and out of danger.
“Mister, I need you to stay right here, okay? Here, sit down on the bumper. Stay here.” Roy was on the move as he uttered the last word. He was happy to see a patrol car pull up at that moment. Changing direction, Roy ran over to speak to the young officer just emerging.
“We need to get the people out of these houses. I’m heading to this one here,” he pointed, “my partner’s at the white house over there. Why don’t you go to the one on the other side?”
The cop nodded in agreement and took off. Roy did the same.
* * *
After what seemed like an eternity, Janey finally reached the front door. With shaking hands, she reached out and undid the deadbolt, twisted the knob, and yanked the door open. The night sky was red with fire; black smoke eddied and blew in the breeze.
The man silhouetted in the door frame was speaking but she couldn’t, at first, comprehend what he was saying. She startled from her trance when he touched her arm.
“Ma’am?” the dark-haired man coughed, “Ma’am, we need to get you out of here. The house is on fire. Is . . . is there anyone else in the house?”
“Y-y-yes, m-m-my children. U-u-upstairs. Oh!” Janey doubled over as she was hit with a cramp.
“Ma’am? Where upstairs?”
“First door on the right. S-s-second door on the left.”
“Can you make it out to the rescue squad?”
“Y-yes. But my children!”
“I’ll get ‘em. Please get out to the squad as fast as you can, okay?” Johnny placed a hand on the small of her back and urged her through the door. He watched for just a second as she limped away before he turned and rushed up the stairs to the second floor.
The deeper he moved into the house, the darker and murkier it was. Johnny stumbled several times.
Eyes stinging, he used his hands to help him locate the desired bedroom at the front of the house. After feeling to see if the door was hot, Johnny threw it open. The room was dark except for the reddish glow emanating outside the window. Stepping toward the bed, the dark-haired paramedic felt his feet tangle in something on the floor, and he felt himself falling. Unable to avoid hitting the floor, Johnny twisted and felt his head strike the headboard as he went down. Swearing, he regained his feet and shook off the dizziness that assailed him.
* * *
Roy banged mightily on the door in front of him; all the while yelling at the top of his lungs. Within a few moments, an elderly pajama-clad man answered the door.
“Sir, you need to leave. There’s a fire.” Roy coughed as a plume of roiling black smoke drifted between them.
“Yes. Yes. I’m coming,” the man’s voice sounded hoarse from the smoke, “Please, please, help Thelma. She . . . she’s on the stairs.”
“I will. You go on out to that squad over there. You’ll be safe. Okay?”
The elderly man tipped his head in agreement and shuffled away as Roy stepped over the threshold. It took only seconds to locate the stairway. Halfway up sat a tiny elderly woman, curled against the banister. Roy ascended the steps.
“Thelma? I’m a fireman. I’m going to pick you up and carry you out.”
The old woman said nothing but looked at him with gratitude in her eyes. She feebly raised her arms toward him. Quickly, Roy reached down and picked her up. Thelma was a wisp of a woman and seemed to weigh no more than his daughter, Jennifer. With her securely in his arms, the blond-haired paramedic rushed back down the steps and out the door.
* * *
Gage leaned forward and blindly felt around on the bed, searching franticly for the form of a small child. Try as he might, the paramedic couldn’t locate anyone. The smoke and heat grew with each passing second, pressing against Johnny with marked urgency. Rough coughs erupted from his mouth with growing frequency.
The paramedic dropped closer to the floor and crawled around the bottom of the bed. His hand met with warm flesh that he was quick to determine was a foot. Pulling the child toward him, he picked him up and finally vacated the room. Turning to the right, Johnny was about to search out the second room when he spied the little girl peeking through a door. The darkness was relieved by the soft blue glow of a night light from her room.
Doing his best to stifle his coughing, Johnny called out, “Hi there, sweetie. Can you come here for me?”
The little girl shook her head no; fear etched on her face.
“It’s . . . it’s okay. I’m a fireman. I’m here to get you away from the fire.”
Another shake of her head was followed by a thumb sneaking into her mouth.
“Sweetie, it’s okay. You’re,” Johnny sneaked a peek at the child he carried, “your brother is here. I’m carrying him out.”
Suddenly the little girl came running to him, holding up her arms. With his free arm, he reached down and picked her up. He rested her on his hip.
“Here. Put your arms around my neck.”
Before complying, Anna reached up and swiped two small fingers over his forehead. They came away smeared with blood.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. I . . . just bumped . . . my head. Now you hold on, I’m gonna get you outta here.”
The little girl wrapped her arms tightly around Johnny’s neck.
* * *
DeSoto placed the wildly trembling Thelma on the ground near the squad where the small group of rescued were gathered. Much to Roy’s relief additional help had begun to arrive. He looked around for his partner, frowning when he failed to see him.
“Have you seen my partner?” he called to the young cop.
“No. I haven’t seen him.”
Roy turned his worried gaze on the house Johnny had entered. He’d just taken a step toward it, intent on finding his partner, when a wavering voice called out.
“My . . . my kids. He . . . he went after my chil . . . children.”
The paramedic searched out the owner of the panting voice. He squatted down next to her.
“He . . . he went after my kids—upstairs,” her words ended on a small groan.
Roy looked over at the structure Johnny had entered a short while ago. His heart sank when he saw that the upper floor was now nearly fully involved. Summoning another paramedic who had just arrived, the blond-haired man left the woman in his care and rushed toward the house in question.
* * *
Johnny turned and headed for where he remembered the stairwell to be. His coughing continued to increase and unceasing tears tracked down his face from the smoke. Dizziness from his earlier fall was also making navigation difficult. Just putting one foot in front of the other was becoming challenging.
Gage had just stepped down the top step when he suddenly heard the little girl in his arms whispering something over and over in his ear. Despite their dire predicament, Johnny’s lips turned up slightly. Her words gave him the strength to forge ahead.
“I think you’re an angel,” came the soft whisper again and again.
* * *
As he approached the house, Roy noticed a flurry of movement behind what was now a river of fire. It was his partner, coming back through the front door with one child in each arm. DeSoto watched in concern as Johnny staggered down the front steps and wobbled toward him.
Gage stopped when he reached the line of fire blocking the path to safety. He contemplated staying where he was until rescued. Looking around, he realized there was no time to waste and no way out except through the flames. He turned his head and spoke softly to the little girl in his arm. She scrambled up as high as she could on his right shoulder. Johnny hoisted the little boy over his left shoulder. Taking a deep breath, Johnny leapt toward safety. Seconds of searing heat and flame later, the dark-haired paramedic landed on the other side near the feet of his partner. By some miracle, he remained on his feet long enough to hand the two kids to Roy. That done, the dizziness overwhelmed him, and he dropped to his knees. He never heard Roy’s shout for help.
* * *
Much later, as dawn was barely a glow on the horizon, Johnny heard the door to his hospital room open. He was reluctant to open his heavy-lidded eyes. Curiosity won out, however, and he forced them open.
“Hi, partner. How ya feelin’?”
“’m okay. Whopper of a headache.”
“Uh huh. And I bet those burns on your legs are stinging a good bit too.”
“Well, yeah . . . a little,” Johnny winced a little as he shifted position. The burns were only first degree but were still quite uncomfortable. “You okay?”
“I’m all right. Just ate a little smoke. I don’t even have to stay.”
“That sure was some scene, wasn’t it, Roy?”
“Yeah, not one that I want to see again anytime soon.”
“How are those kids?”
“They’re going to be fine. The little boy had some serious respiratory difficulties from the smoke inhalation, but he’s improving. The little girl is scared more than anything else.”
“Good. I’m glad they’re going . . .”
A soft knock at the door interrupted Johnny’s statement. Dixie poked her head inside the room.
“Johnny? Are you up for a little more company?”
The pounding in his head said no, but Johnny ignored it and nodded yes.
Dixie pushed the door wide and wheeled in a young woman in a wheelchair. It took a few moments for Johnny to recognize her as the mother of the children he’d brought out of the house.
Gage smiled at her a bit uncertainly, noticing that she was no longer heavily pregnant.
“Miss McCall was kind enough to let me come and say thank you.” Janey smiled. “I have a new little daughter. She’s premature, but she’s doing beautifully. And you saved my other children. I can’t thank you enough.”
Johnny's cheeks reddened at her praise. “I . . .” he glanced at his partner, “we . . . we were just doing our jobs.”
“My Anna tells me that you’re an angel. I’m inclined to agree. I think you’re both angels.”
Now Roy’s face tinged red along with his partner’s.
“Okay, gentlemen, I think it’s time we go.” Dixie maneuvered Janey’s wheelchair around to exit the room. Opening the door, she stopped for a moment and looked back at the two paramedics.
“Oh, and guys . . . I agree with her.” Dix pushed the wheelchair out into the hallway.
The door quietly clicked shut behind her.
* * * The End * * *
This story is a dramatization based on an incident that recently happened in Rochester, NY. My admiration goes out to the real life heroes, Paramedic Shannon Holley and EMT Kenneth Stavalone, who saved many a life that night.
*Click on the picture above to send Vanessa feedback
Stories By Vanessa Guest Dispatchers