Playing With Fire
By Audrey W.
It was April 1st and the crew of Station 51’s A-Shift was bracing for the worst. Chet had made the promise to pull off the ultimate prank on Gage, and the paramedic vowed to do the same to Kelly. By luck, the morning kept the two men busy, although no one was sure the trade off was any better. The engine had gone out to two trash dumpster fires, apparently the work of a couple of pranksters thinking the idea was funny. And the paramedics were occupied with their own prank related calls, one being a victim passing out from being drugged with tainted coffee and the other a person who fell down a few steps when he was falsely told there was an emergency in the building.
Now at Rampart, Johnny headed for the base station to wait for Roy to come out of the treatment room after getting the patient settled in with a doctor. As he came around the corner just inside the emergency entrance, a young nurse Gage had asked out the week before stepped up beside him.
“Hi, Johnny! Hey, I’m glad I ran into you today.”
“Yeah?” the paramedic couldn’t hide the surprise in his voice.
“Yes. I’ve decided I’d like to go out with you after all.”
“April fools!” the nurse said, giggling. As she walked off she glanced over her shoulder. “Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.”
Johnny’s look of happy surprise turned to one of hurt, then anger. “Yeah, well if you change your mind, don’t come asking me!” he called out, hoping she heard. The wounded paramedic stepped up to the desk near the base station as he watched the rude nurse disappear around a corner.
“Well, hey yourself, Johnny.” Although she had heard Johnny’s final words to the other nurse, she wasn’t sure what had taken place. But he definitely seemed unusually down. “You don’t look very happy.”
The paramedic leaned with his elbows on the counter, his chin resting on his right palm. “It’s just the way this shift’s starting out. It’s crazy, ya know?”
“You mean with the April Fool pranks?”
“Yeah. . .yeah,” he stood up straight, glad to see he was about to get a sympathetic ear. “Some of the jokes aren’t even April Fools Day types. They’re just mean jokes, period,” he explained, once again looking in the direction the other nurse had gone.
Dixie nodded. “Well, if you don’t like pranks, don’t hang around here very long.”
Johnny gave a wan smile. “Too late.”
“Don’t feel bad. Not even the doctors have been exempt.”
The nurse shook her head.
Just then, the door to Treatment Room Four opened and Roy started down the corridor to meet up with his partner. Johnny quickly walked over to greet him.
“Whataya’ say we get out if here?”
“Already?” DeSoto asked, surprised.
“Yeah. Don’t ask. Just trust me on this, Roy.”
Gage started nudging the older man towards the exit. Dixie smiled and shook her head.
She was certain she would see them again soon. It was just that kind of a day.
Roy glanced at his partner as they headed back to the station. “So what have you got planned for Chet?”
Lost in thought about the young nurse at Rampart, Johnny barely heard. “Huh?”
“The prank you’ve been boasting about since the shift started. The one for Chet.”
“Oh that. . .” He pursed his lips in thought. “You know, I don’t think I’ll do anything.”
“You mean you’re actually gonna drop it?”
Gage shrugged. “Sure. Just him waiting for something to happen is prank enough. I guess that’ll be my April Fools joke.”
Roy gave his partner a bizarre look. He’d had to listen to the man go on and on about how he was going to get Chet. And now he was going to do. . .
Nothing? Maybe that’s his prank on me and he really is still gonna get Chet. Roy looked at the road ahead, then glanced back at his partner. Good Lord, he’s got me thinking like him.
The paramedics were just backing into the station when the engine was dispatched out to another fire. When the truck pulled up to the scene, the men saw dark smoke rising from behind a house. Climbing down quickly, Kelly and Lopez grabbed a hose as directed by Captain Stanley. Chet hooked it up to a nearby fire hydrant, then the two firemen hurried towards the source of the smoke. Hank followed behind, leaving Mike with his duty at the engine.
When they got into the backyard, the firemen saw a group of four children gathered near the main house. A young man stood in the open with a garden hose aimed on a burning shed. Another youth had a hose trained on the flaming structure from the yard next door as well. Captain Stanley had the boys stop with their efforts as Chet and Marco took over. He then cleared the area, sending everyone across the street from the front yard, where more neighbors were gathered to see what was going on.
Mike had his eyes on the pressure gauges when he was tapped on the elbow. Turning and looking down, he saw a six-year-old blond boy staring up at him.
“Are you a real fireman?”
“How come you aren’t back there?” the kid asked, pointing at the source of smoke.
“I’m an engineer. My job is to monitor things here,” he explained, motioning towards the gauges.
“Oo-oh. Hey, an engineer drives a train. Do you get to drive this truck?”
“Cool!” The boy looked towards the now white smoke going up into the sky from behind the house. “That’s a lot of smoke, huh?”
Mike followed the youth’s gaze. “Well, white smoke is a good sign. It means the fire is losing the battle.”
“So it’s not gonna be a bad fire?”
Watching the kid’s reaction, Stoker noticed he seemed nervous. Was it just the thought of the fire bothering him? Or was it something more?
“Any structure fire is bad. But, no, it’s not gonna be as serious as it could’ve been.”
Relief was visible on the young boy’s face. “Good.”
Gut feeling told Mike that this child knew something more about the fire than he was letting on. Keeping his voice casual he asked, “So do you live around here?”
“Uh huh. Over there.” He pointed to a single story brick house a half block away.
“Since you live so close, did you happen to see how the fire started?”
The boy startled and glanced over at the crowd, then back to Mike. “No. I didn’t see nothin’.”
The engineer peered over at the people gathered and noticed a few male teenagers eyeing him and his little friend. He wondered if they didn’t know something and were intimidating the younger boy by keeping a look out for him. Mike looked down at his side. “That’s okay. But if anyone did see how it started, it would help the fire department out if they’d come forward and tell.”
“What would happen if someone knew and they didn’t tell?”
“Sometimes that person can be seen as an ‘accomplice’, which is like helping set it.”
The boy looked over at the group of people again and Mike decided to try another approach. “Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to do the right thing and turn somebody in, especially if it’s a person you know. But if no one does, they might be inclined to do it again.”
Mike nodded. “If a person can do it once, it won’t be hard for them to do it again.”
For yet a third time, the little boy glanced over at the others, then back at Stoker. “Would you tell on someone if they told you about a fire being started?”
“Not if the person was turning in someone else.”
The engineer sensed victory and figured he was about to get the information they needed, when a woman’s voice could be heard from down the street.
“Billy Jenkins, you get home now!”
Mike looked over and saw a woman who appeared to be in her thirties getting out of a station wagon at the house his little friend had pointed to earlier.
“I gotta go,” the boy said, frowning.
Mike wished he could have a little longer with Billy. But he couldn’t get him in trouble by keeping him from his mom. “Okay, take it easy.”
A few steps away, Billy turned around. “Hey, what’s your name, anyway?”
“Mike Stoker. I’m with Station 51,” he said, pointing to the number on the truck.
“Thanks, Mr. Stoker!”
As the boy was leaving, Captain Stanley was just coming around to the driver’s side of the truck.
“Marco and Chet are taking care of a few hot spots, but it’s out. The shed’s a total loss.”
“I’m glad it was just a shed.”
“I hear ya, pal. I hear ya.”
Billy glanced over his shoulder on the way home. He wanted to tell Mike Stoker who had set the fire. But with the other older kids watching, they would have known it was he who told on their friend and he couldn’t have that. They would harass him to no end. As he neared his house, Billy hoped that the fireman was wrong that the same person would set a fire a second time. This one was just a small fire as a joke on the fire department. Nothing more than that. The older kids had gotten their laugh, so why would any of them set another fire?
Once the remaining hot spots of the burned shed were taken care of, it was easier for the men to look over the ashes to see what may have started the fire. An obvious pile of rubbish near what was once the doorway led them to believe it was intentionally set. An officer at the scene began questioning onlookers as the men of Engine 51 headed back to the station.
Mike thought about mentioning Billy to the captain. But he didn’t know for sure the boy did have information that could help in an investigation. And sending the authorities to question him could result in the kid never opening up anyway. The engineer hoped he’d gotten his point across to the youth that it was better to come forward if he knew who had done what.
Early in the evening, Chet was stewing in the locker room trying to think of what he could do to Gage before the day was over. There were still hours left in the day, but time was passing him by. Although the curly-haired fireman started the shift acting like he had the trick-of-all-tricks to play on his favorite pigeon, truth was, he didn’t have a plan at all. Now he was wondering what Johnny could have thought of to get him so bad.
Johnny peered through the door window at Kelly. A smile spread across his face as he realized his new plan was going perfectly. Chet was expecting an obvious prank, even trying to casually peek into the paramedic’s locker, looking for a clue.
Just wait till midnight, Chester B. You’ll get a surprise, all right. When you find out you worried for nothin’. . .
Only problem was, he couldn’t be sure what Chet had in store for him. Or was he playing the same trick on Johnny?
Nah, Chet would never think of nothin’ being more effective than an actual prank.
As Gage was heading back to the dayroom, the klaxons went off, sending the station to a house fire. The men hurried to their trucks and pulled out into the street, lights and sirens on.
The address was all too familiar to the engine crew. It was just down the street from where the shed fire had taken place earlier. Mike was relieved that at least it was in the opposite direction of Billy Jenkins' house.
As Station 51 arrived on the scene, they saw the black smoke billowing up from a house four doors down from where the the shed fire had been. As they got closer, they could see that for now, the worst of the fire was on the lower floor of a two story house.
Once stopped at the scene, Captain Stanley gave orders for Marco and Chet to take an inch and a half to the structure in an attempt to bring the fire under control. He also radioed for another engine to be sent in to help.
Hank quickly approached the crowd that was gathered once again across the street.
“Does anyone know if there could still be someone inside that house?”
A woman who had been searching through the people for her son stepped forward. “My older boy is! He has to be! He was with his little brother until the fire started and he isn’t anywhere out here with the rest of us now!”
“Are you sure about that, ma’am?”
“Yes, yes, I’m sure! It’s our house and he’s got to be in there! Oh please get him out!”
With that information, Hank motioned for the paramedics to come over. As they approached, he gave them the orders.
“John, Roy. . .we’ve got a boy still in that house! Do a quick sweep of all the rooms and see if you can find him.”
“Right, Cap,” they both answered.
Putting on their air masks, SCBA already in place, the men trotted to the front doorway and entered inside.
The two paramedics rushed into the house and Johnny hurried over to their shiftmates manning the hose.
“Chet! There’s a kid in here somewhere. You and Marco keep yours eyes open for ‘im, Roy and I are gonna do a quick sweep of the house.” His voice was muffled from the mask.
The firemen nodded, and Johnny and Roy began their urgent search through the structure.
After covering the lower floor with no results, Gage and DeSoto trotted up the steps to the second level. The hallway was filled with smoke.
“If anyone is in here, they’re gonna be in bad shape,” Johnny commented.
“Yeah, unless he’s lucky. Look, you take the two rooms on the left, I’ll take the ones on the right.”
The two split up, carrying out the task at hand.
As Roy entered into his second room, he saw that the fire had already reached this part of the upper floor. The flames licked at the ceiling of one part of the room, another section was well burned and the fire was already within the area between the flat ceiling and the pitched roof. If a victim was in the parts of the room on fire, then it was too late to do anything for them. Roy took a quick look around from where he stood. Not seeing anyone, the paramedic turned to leave. As he started towards the doorway, part of the ceiling came down, knocking the man unconscious before he hit the floor. Charred debris from above continued to rain down on him.
Johnny heard the noise and ran out of his second room to be searched. He could see debris through the smoke, just inside the room across the hall.
“Roy? Roy!” Hoping his partner wasn’t in the damaged room, the younger man stepped across the hallway and peered inside. DeSoto was partially buried under debris from above, and not showing any sign of consciousness. Gage began freeing the senior paramedic, all the while talking to him in hopes of getting a response.
“Roy? You okay? Can you hear me?” As he got the last of the wood pieces off, he continued to talk. “C’mon, man! Roy!”
Once Roy was clear, Johnny made a quick assessment of his condition. His mask had been knocked askew, meaning he’d breathed in some of the smoke. Turning him onto his back, Johnny did a sternal rub, eliciting a barely audible groan.
They still had one more room at the end of the hall to search for a victim, but the dark-haired paramedic knew he had to get his partner help. Remembering Roy had the HT on him, Johnny searched for it around where DeSoto had fallen. He didn’t see a sign of it anywhere. There was no more time to waste. He had to get Roy to help quickly. Lifting his friend up, Gage managed to get him in a fireman’s carry and hurried towards the steps. The fire had spread to the lower portion of the staircase. With no other way out, Johnny turned and quickly headed for one of the rooms on the left that was in the front part of the house and had a window. With the HT no longer in their possession, he didn’t hear Captain Stanley’s voice calling his men out of the structure.
Johnny set Roy down momentarily as he opened a window and waved for help.
Mike Stoker looked down the street at the sound of a siren as Engine 18 approached. He glanced back at the house and saw one of the crew waving from an upstairs window. Hank Stanley was already just inside the front entrance of the house, in search of his men that hadn’t answered on the HT.
Sensing there wasn’t time to spare for the men upstairs, Mike gave the gauges a once over. . .the pressure on Marco’s and Chet’s line was holding fine. He then took off towards the house in a sprint. Once he got below the window, Stoker looked up and saw Johnny pulling off his mask with one hand. The paramedic had someone draped over his shoulder and began pointing to the ground.
“Grab the ladder!”
Mike noticed a standard metal ladder not far from the house, left there by chance by the home owners. He quickly set it up, then climbed to help Johnny and his charge out.
“Take Roy. A part of the ceiling came down on ‘im,” Johnny explained as he transferred DeSoto to Mike’s shoulder.
“What about you? You hurt?”
“I’m okay. I’ve got one more room to check.”
“But Cap’s been trying to call you ou--”
Mike’s words were cut off by an explosion that shook the house.
Hank Stanley had just gotten his two fire fighters out of the doomed structure, and watched in horror as he saw his engineer and one of the paramedics take a hard hit to the ground when the ladder they were on fell away from the house. Neither man moved from his position in the grassy yard.
The crew of Engine 18 and Captain Stanley trotted towards the fallen men. When he saw it was Roy who’d gone down with Mike, Hank looked up at the house. Where was John?
Marco and Chet kept their hose trained on the house, as two men from Engine 18 joined them. Hank radioed for yet another unit to be dispatched, along with a paramedic crew to replace his at the scene. Once that was taken care of, he switched back to the other frequency and once again made a futile attempt to reach Gage on the HT.
“HT 51, Engine 51. John, do you copy?”
“Okay, get a ladder up to that window! I’ve got a man and a victim still inside!”
The unexpected explosion knocked Johnny off balance. He whacked the side of his head on a cedar chest on the way down to the floor, knocking his helmet off. Dazed, he lay on the carpeted surface, trying to gather his senses. The paramedic coughed as he breathed in the smoke that still filled the room. Slowly getting to his feet, Johnny took two steps before collapsing on the floor in a heap.
The crowd of onlookers grew as the fire intensified. Several neighbors comforted the distressed woman who owned the ruined house and still had one son missing.
Billy Jenkins had been playing with the boys in the home before it caught fire and now squeezed his way to the front of the group, looking wide-eyed at the disaster across the street. His focus shifted to the fire engine with the big 51 on it. Where was his friend Mike?
One of the men from Engine 18 climbed into the burning structure. As he stepped slowly through the smoke filled room, he could see the fallen paramedic just ahead on the floor. Once he reached Gage, he grabbed him under the arms and dragged him the short distance to the window. He quickly handed the injured man out to another fireman waiting on the ladder. Johnny remained limp as he was carried down to the ground.
Much to everyone’s disappointment, the final room to be searched for a victim was no longer accessible.
The home owner gasped as she recalled what was in one of the spare rooms downstairs and why the explosion occurred.
Oh my God, the gas cans!
Since the gas shortage in the earlier 1970s, they had kept several cans of gas handy in the house near the back entrance. She also recalled her husband getting on their son about using only part of a can and leaving a small amount of fuel in the bottom. He was concerned about fumes. But it was a hard habit for their son Paul to break.
The woman was about to collapse, when Paul showed up in the crowd, unharmed.
“Mom, what happened?”
While his mother wept with relief, a friend of the family explained that for now the cause of the fire was unknown.
Billy Jenkins stared up at the teenager, Paul’s little brother beside him. Billy didn’t know where the older boy had been hiding. But he did know one thing. After getting a charge out of seeing the fire department tackle the shed fire he set, Paul wanted to play another prank and set fire to a trash can in the den, then telephoned to report it. The teen accidentally kicked the burning container over, setting the room on fire. The three boys scattered in fear.
The blond boy glanced over at the unattended engine again. If Mike Stoker was there, he’d surely tell him everything now. The engineer had been right. Paul pulled the same dangerous prank twice.
Hank helped to lay his injured men out on the ground, away from the dangers of the burning house. With the other paramedic unit and engine on the scene, things were under control. But he had to wonder what in the hell brought them to this point. All of a sudden he was without half his crew.
Johnny groaned, putting a hand to his head as he began to come around. He coughed a couple of times, and tried to lift the oxygen mask off his face.
"Take it easy, John," Captain Stanley said, removing the younger man's hand from the mask. Hank was squatting near the semi-conscious paramedic, a still dazed Mike Stoker on his other side.
"C. . .Cap?" Gage mumbled, his voice muffled by the mask.
"Yeah, pal, I'm here." He put his hand on Johnny's shoulder and gave a very gentle squeeze. "Hey, next time I give the order to evacuate a structure, listen, would ya?"
Johnny gave a puzzled look. "E. . .evac? We did. . .didn't. . ." he winced as a throbbing pain shot through his head. "Oh man." The paramedic closed his eyes as another medic on the scene leaned over to check on him. Gage was once again unconscious.
Lying on a backboard, a c-collar around his neck as a precaution, Mike watched things going on around him within his limited field of view. With the condition he was in, the engineer was only able to comprehend half of what he saw. He tried to move his hurting arm, then slowly came to the realization that something was wrong with it. He managed to lift his head just enough to catch a slight glimpse of a portion of his arm. After staring at it a few seconds, it finally registered in his foggy brain that his left arm was splinted. Mike let his head rest on the backboard again.
Stoker lay still listening to an occasional groan from Johnny while he tried to make himself remember if anyone had mentioned Roy.
Being more seriously injured, DeSoto lay a distance from Mike and Johnny. A flurry of activity surrounded the senior paramedic as he was the only victim who hadn't shown any sign of consciousness yet. Lifting him up with a backboard supporting him, the firemen placed him on a stretcher. He was quickly put into the first ambulance to arrive on the scene. Hank watched as the vehicle left, taking Roy to Rampart.
The captain looked down at Johnny again. Gage had his eyes shut tight and was grimacing.
With Mike and Johnny ready for transport, a paramedic from Station 8 and two ambulance attendants loaded them into the other ambulance and headed for the hospital. One of the engine crew from their station followed behind in their squad. The rest of the fire fighters stayed at the scene to bring the house fire under control and put it out.
Billy watched first one, then the other ambulance pull away. He didn’t know who got hurt, but he hoped it wasn’t Mike. When he looked at the Engine 51 again, a different man came around the front end to keep an eye on the gauges.
Maybe Mike just has to be checked out.
The blond boy headed for home, his eyes averted to the ground. He had to find a way to tell Mike who started the fire. Mike would keep his name secret and leave Paul guessing if his own brother or Billy was the one who turned him in. After all, Tommy could deny it all he wanted, but Paul may not believe him. Brothers seldom trusted each other when it came to that kind of stuff. The young boy never gave it thought that the brothers' parents would know someone else turned him in.
Carl Billings sat forward as Gage groaned audibly. He was glad that at least the paramedic had been in and out of consciousness since being brought out of the house, and was partially aware of what was going on.
“R. . .Roy?” Gage said, the oxygen mask still in place.
“He’s on his way to Rampart in another ambulance.”
Johnny squinted. “Bad?”
“He’ll be okay, Gage. He’s got a few minor injuries and smoke inhalation, but you got him out okay.”
Johnny nodded and smiled slightly. “Thanks.” He turned his head slightly and noticed Mike Stoker was on a stretcher in the ambulance as well. The paramedic looked up at his caretaker with questioning eyes.
“He took a fall getting DeSoto down the ladder. Just take it easy. You have a bit of an injury of your own.”
The dark-haired paramedic could already tell that. His head was throbbing and he felt dizzy. The nausea was just beginning.
I guess this means I’m safe from any pranks Chet had planned.
Why he thought of that now, Johnny didn’t know. Maybe it was a needed distraction at a disastrous time.
He glanced back over at Stoker who was wincing as he tried to force a reassuring smile.
Only Mikey could grin at a time like this, Gage thought. The guy doesn’t get hurt enough to know any better.
Chet was beside himself with concern over his injured shiftmates, all thoughts about April Fools Day pranks forgotten. And when he found out there had been numerous gas cans stored inside the house, the stocky fireman was ready to go off on the residents. Fortunately, the captains on the scene beat him to it and got their point across effectively.
But that didn’t stop the fireman from keeping up a rant on the way back to the station. Marco and Hank half listened, knowing he was pretty much saying what was going through their own minds as well.
A family was without a house, and three firemen were in the hospital. All because of some sort of carelessness and a mother not knowing her son had escaped from the fire all along.
The engine crew made it back to the station by nine o'clock that night. "Might as well ruin one more person's evening." Captain Stanley mumbled, mostly to himself, as he crossed the threshold to his office. Actually, he knew he was about to ruin quite a few. He left his door open - it felt wrong to close himself off from the rest of his crew. He dropped into the chair, but shoved it back from the desk, leaned his head against the cool brick wall, and shut his eyes.
It sounded like Chet was finally running out of steam. The banging noises coming from the locker room had diminished to a less jarring level. Marco had gone to the kitchen first to start some fresh coffee. Now they waited for word on what caused the fire to begin with.
No – he would need to call in for a replacement engineer and paramedics.
"Is Mike Stoker here?"
The young voice startled Captain Stanley. He scrubbed his hands over his face before focusing on the boy standing in his doorway. It was late for a kid to be out roaming the neighborhood alone. He said the only thing he could. "He's not here right now. I'm Captain Stanley, is there something I can do for you?"
His heart was pounding all the way here just to talk to Mike. What was he going to say to the captain? "I think..." Not another sound would squeak out. Great, I'm already shaking, figures my voice would crack too. He started again. "I . . . I know who started that fire."
Hank’s interest in the child intensified and he sat forward. “Son?”
The boy wished more than ever that Mike was there instead of this man he’d never spoken to before. Would he be as understanding as his fireman friend seemed to be? He would have to be. Someone was going to have to explain to Billy’s mom why he snuck out of his room, when he should’ve been in bed. His allowance now gone on a taxi ride, he had no choice but to carry out the mission he was on.
“I. . .uh. . .” The engineer’s words echoed in the boy’s mind. ‘Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to do the right thing.’ He wasn’t kidding.
The captain was waiting patiently for the young visitor to say what evidently was a hard thing to voice. Not wanting to pressure the lad, he remained silent.
“If I tell you,” the boy asked reluctantly, “will you keep it secret I told?”
Hank nodded. “Yes,” he assured.
The youth eyed him carefully. “You swear?”
“Okay, it was Tommy Jameson’s big brother.”
“My best friend. But ya can’t tell ‘im I told or he’ll be mad at me.”
Stanley nodded again. “Of course. I understand.”
“We saw his brother Paul set the fire. But it wasn’t ‘spose to get that big. He jus wanted to play a trick and see how many fire trucks would come to a little fire in a trash can. But when he knocked over the trash by mistake, it started the room on fire and he ran.” Billy swallowed hard. “He helped set the shed fire, too.” Tears flowed as fear took over and the kid released all his emotions. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell! I tried. I really tried. I did, but I was scared.”
Hank Stanley got up from his seat and walked over to the boy. Squatting in front of him he asked, “How do you know Mike?”
“He told me to tell if I knew! I wanted to at. . .at the h. . .house. But he was gone!”
The captain sighed. He guided the boy to a chair, then made the necessary phone calls to authorities. When he was done, he stared at the boy.
“You out here alone?”
“Yeah. I guess I’m in trouble.”
Hank picked up the telephone receiver and handed it to Billy. “What’s your number?”
Once again, tears streamed down the child’s face. His bottom lip quivered as he asked, “Do I have to call them?”
“I think it’s better than the police showing up at their doorstep with you in tow, don’t you?”
The boy nodded.
“Don’t worry,” Stanley assured. “I’ll do everything I can to help you explain this to your folks.”
With that the boy breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe more firemen were like Mike than he realized.
After being taken care of in the emergency rooms, the three injured men were placed in a regular room together. Mike and Roy were the most seriously injured, each suffering a moderate concussion and a few broken ribs. Mike also had a broken left arm, and Roy a sprained shoulder. Johnny was lucky to escape with just a mild concussion. It wasn’t how Dixie McCall had expected to see the men again, but being the kind of day it was, she wasn’t surprised when they’d been brought in, either.
While the other two slept, Gage watched the door to the room open as a nurse came in. The expression on her face was one of embarrassment when she saw who was in the bed staring back at her.
“Oh! I didn’t. . .I mean . . .,” the nurse stammered. “No one said. . .I. . .uh. . .”
Johnny was enjoying her discomfort. After the cruel joke she’d played on him earlier, he figured she was due a little bit of awkwardness.
“I’m sorry,” was all she could say, as she checked Johnny’s vital signs. “I guess this is awkward for you, too?” she asked, as she took the the bp cuff off his arm.
The paramedic didn’t reply. Remembering his theory that sometimes doing nothing was more effective than doing something, he remained quiet and let her keep at her work. True, he’d already forgiven her for the joke. But it was still April 1st, so no need to explain anything yet. He grinned slightly as she hurried from the room when her checks on the other men were completed.
Maybe she won’t be so apt to try that joke on a guy again. Play with fire and you’re gonna get burned.
Across town, Paul Jameson was learning that lesson all too soon. Although his parents refused to press charges, he was going to be working off his debt to the family for a long time to come.
Johnny was back on duty before Roy and Mike, which gave the paramedic more of a tendancy to hang with Chet when not on a call. As the two got ready to head home after a shift, Kelly turned to Gage.
“So, you never did tell me what great trick you were gonna pull on me April 1st.”
“Huh? Oh. . . oh yeah.” Johnny buttoned up his blue plaid shirt.
“Nothin’, Chet. I wasn’t gonna do anything to you. That was the joke.”
“Uh huh.” The paramedic shut his locker and grinned. “Pretty original, huh?”
Chet just stared at him.
“What were you gonna do to me?” Gage wondered.
“Nothin’. I hadn’t thought of anything yet.” Chet paused, then grinned. “Pretty original, huh?”
Johnny grinned. Sometimes he and Chet were more alike than either wanted to admit. One thing for certain was that even when they argued, it didn’t carry over into the field. At any given moment if one needed the other’s help or care, they both knew it would be there without the other having to say a word.
Once Roy and Mike were back at work, things returned to normal. The engineer was happy to be back on duty and finally able to give Billy Jenkins and his parents a tour of the station, which he’d promised shortly after being released from Rampart.
While at the station, the little boy looked down from the engineer’s seat, where Mike had placed him. “This is so cool!” the youth exclaimed.
“You’re a natural,” Stoker said, grinning.
Billy couldn’t stop smiling. He idolized firemen and to now have a one as a sort of friend was more than he had ever dreamed of. As Mike walked the threesome out to their car, the youth smiled up at Stoker.
“You know what, Mike?”
“When I grow up, I’m gonna be an engineer just like you. And that’s no April Fools.”
Thanks go to Cheryl D. for the wonderful challenge she posted on the ALLE fanfic list and Two Chickies Site. Hope I did okay with it! :o) Also thanks Kenda and Jill H. for the beta reads! Any errors are mine and mine alone.
April Fools Day Stories