Stewart Franklin shifted his cramped body without moving it from the small, plastic chair. He'd just spent the last couple of hours with his head glued to the small, editing machine in his tiny office. But it was worth it. The footage from this fire was tremendous and was going to go over great on the news tonight. What had been going out all afternoon was raw film that the camera men just shot and showed for on the spot coverage. It was up to guys like Stewart to cut down on the crap and create a fine tuned, finished product for the more discerning viewer of the six o'clock and eleven o'clock news.
He'd done a great job. And he'd worked in several of those close ups on the firemen as they arrived in their engines with just the right touch to inspire awe and respect for the men who did a job most people would never even consider. In the back of his mind he was even thinking this could translate into a special report on firefighters. There was that one shot of Engine 8 as it pulled up to the fire. The camera man had managed to capture just enough of the men inside to give the viewer a glimpse into the mindset of a fireman.
He finally sat back and rubbed at his tired eyes. This was going to be good.
The door to his office burst open and Stewart turned to see a tall, imposing black man, dressed in a long, black overcoat, standing in the open doorway. His intense gaze took in the office, the editing machine, and finally Stewart himself. The editor cringed under the man's scrutiny. The dark eyes went right through him, as if he didn't even really exist.
And then the man stepped inside and made a slight gesture with his head. Two other men in black coats and dark glasses entered the already crowded office. They paid no attention to Stewart, but walked over to his editing machine. When it became obvious they meant to take it, and the film inside, Stewart finally found his voice.
"H - H - Hey..." he stammered in protest. "You... you can't..."
He heard the small sound an instant before he felt the pain in the side of his neck. The world suddenly slowed down and he felt terribly sleepy. He slid bonelessly out of his chair, aware enough to hear the words the tall man spoke before he closed the door.
"Get a clean up crew in here. And leave enough footage to make it credible."
* * *
John Gage sighed heavily and winced as he shifted his casted leg. It was hard just waiting and not being able to do anything about the problem. But he had no choice.
He'd been too slow the other night. If only he'd anticipated their next move. But who would ever have expected something as obvious as a hit and run? He'd been warned that the movement to get stunt doubles the recognition they deserved had increased its visibility. But Johnny had thought he was safe. He was a lowly paramedic, after all. He thought they'd go after the big fish, like secret agents and adventuring archeologists.
But when he saw his double as clear as day riding on Engine 8 as they pulled up to the fire, he couldn't deny that he'd been taken out on purpose. So he'd done the only thing he could and now all he could do was wait, and put up with the most obnoxious nurse who worked at Rampart.
The phone rang, bringing him out of his musings. He picked it up, wondering who might be calling him in the middle of the day. The guys had been busy fighting the fire. He knew Roy and Marco had been hurt and were here at Rampart as well, both of them too doped up with pain meds to be much company.
"Hello?" he answered.
There was a long pause before anyone said anything. Then it was that deep, dark voice he knew too well.
"We've taken care of that matter. Just watch yourself a little more carefully."
That was it. Johnny let out a sigh of relief. He didn't even have to watch the evening news to know no one would see his stunt double. His reputation was safe for now.
With a great deal of grimacing due to his still tender incision, and his fractured leg, Johnny maneuvered himself into his wheel chair. Once there, he paused a moment to catch his breath, then wheeled himself over to the window.
He lifted the blinds, and with a grin on his face, removed the masking tape that formed a large letter "X" on the window.