By Jane L.






“Run Johnny!  Get out of here!”


“We can’t, Roy.  We gotta get him-”


Grabbing a handful of turnout coat, he shouted again.


“There’s no time!  Go, go, go!”


Roy pushed his partner in front of him, the heat of the fire pressing them from behind.  He knew what Johnny was feeling, how hard it was to put one foot in front of the other.  It was hard for him, too.  But there was no time to debate the subject now.  The flashover was imminent.   They had to get out of here while they still had the chance. 


Down the long hall they ran, the sound of their steps lost in the roar of the beast.  It was a race.  A race Roy had no intention of losing. 


Turning to the right, the stairwell yawned before them, but before he took that first step, John Gage hesitated.   Through the distortion of the mask, Roy could just make out the regret in his friend’s eyes.  If he could look in a mirror, it probably matched the regret in his own.  Maybe, if they got out in time, he’d look for himself.


“Johnny!  MOVE!”


Roy started to push his partner, but he didn’t need to.  The fire did that for him.  Tumbling head over heel, the two paramedics found themselves careening down the stairs to land in a heap at the bottom.   Above them, they could see the billowing cloud of flames as it filled the hallways and pushed downward toward them.  The beast was winning.


“Are you okay?”


“Yeah.  You?”


“I think everything’s moving.”


Their muffled voices mixed together, regulators sounding in a weird accompaniment.


“Come on!”


This time it was Johnny who reached out a helping hand.  Back on their feet, running, the two headed toward the front of the warehouse, even as the HT came to life.


“Gage!   DeSoto!  Where are you?”


Roy didn’t take time to respond, his only focus in getting out.  Hurrying toward safety, it was a relief when they finally felt the cooling mist of the hoses and saw the forms materializing in the curtain of spray, Chet first, followed quickly by Marco.


“You two all right?  We thought you were goners.”  Chet hollered out.


“Not this time.”  Roy quipped. 


It was a little unusual that he’d get the first word in.  That was Johnny’s department.  But the younger man was silent, as he kept moving toward the doorway.  


Stepping into the sunshine right behind his partner, Roy immediately noticed how things looked almost murky with the smoke swirling around them.  Still, it was clear enough to see their captain heading toward them.  He didn’t waste any time questioning them.


“You didn’t answer.  Everything okay?” 


“Yeah, Cap.   Didn’t have time to respond.”  Roy answered, as he slipped off his air tank.


“Did you find the victim?”


“Yeah.  We found him.”


Johnny’s muttered response was answer enough for Captain Stanley.  He knew what they’d found, and what they’d been forced to leave behind.  It happened like that sometimes, and it was always a hard pill to swallow.  Didn’t matter how many times a fireman was forced into that situation, it never got any easier.




“North corner office on the second level.  Part of the roof came down on him.”


“All right, we’ll send someone back in after this thing’s knocked down.”


Roy met his captain’s questioning glance with a shake of his head.  That was probably unnecessary too.  Stanley seemed fully aware of his youngest charge’s frame of mind.


“Look, we’ve got the fire covered.   You two head back to the station.   I’ll stand you down for an hour, give you a chance to clean up.”


Roy nodded his appreciation to their captain, while Johnny merely walked off toward the squad.  His partner found him there a few minutes later.  Sitting on the back bumper, coat in hand, the young paramedic was staring at his feet as if he’d never seen them before.


Silently settling next to his friend, Roy took his time undoing his own coat.


“Probably didn’t suffer.”  He finally tried.


There was a long pause before Johnny finally answered.


“Hope not.”


“You know we didn’t have any choice but to leave him. . .”

”I know.”


Roy slipped his hat off, dangling it between his knees as he fiddled with the strap.

He wasn’t sure why his partner was taking this one so hard.  Maybe it was the long shifts they’d been dealing with.  Maybe there’d finally been one too many deaths to face.  The barest hint of a shiver traveled down his spine, as he wondered if this would be the last straw for his young partner.




“Huh?”   Dark eyes finally met blue.


“You okay?”


Finally, a crooked smile.  Faint, no where near its normal intensity, but there.


“Yeah, Roy.  I’m okay.  Just hate when we have to leave ‘em like that.  I always think of the family.  There’s nothing . . . well, you know.”


“Yeah, I know.”


The two shared another moment of silence, comforted by the realization that their feelings about the situation were the same.  It was Johnny’s soft voice that finally broke that silence.


“I’m sorry.” 


The two words threw him, and Roy sat up straighter.


“Sorry for what?”


“Hesitating.  Shouldn’t have put you in danger ‘cause of my . . . hang-ups.”


Roy grinned in relief.  Now this was the Johnny he was familiar with.  Already obsessing about the little things.  That he could handle.


“Hang-ups?  You?” 


A chuckle escaped, and then another.   Roy knew it was his own tension finding a way out.  But better a little laughter than the tears they wouldn’t let escape.


“What are you laughing at?”  Johnny demanded, his misery giving way to nervous energy.


“You, Junior.”


“Me?  What’d I do?”


“Hang-ups.  That’s a good one.”


Roy had the sudden urge to embark on a Johnny-style rant.   In fact, maybe that’s just what was needed.


“Let’s see.  Which hang-up would that be?   The one where you get-”


“Come on, Roy.  Let’s go home.”


Roy grinned behind his partner’s back as he followed him to the squad’s side compartments.  Yep, this was exactly what his partner needed.


“Maybe it’s the hang-up you have with women . . . I mean, that can really affect you sometimes, partner.”


“If you don’t hurry up and get in, Roy.  I’m going to drive.”


The passenger door slammed, but Roy was still talking, and smiling.  He opened up the driver’s door, never taking a break from his list of observations on his partner’s hang-ups.  Outside, he was putting up a great front, inside he was full of relief at the sight of his partner’s grin.   They’d made it through another hard one.  Together, Roy hoped they’d make it through many more.



The End!




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February 2008 Picture                     Stories by Jane L.