By Peggy J. Bedingfield
**STATION 51......CAR OVER CLIFF.......2123 OLD FIRE ROAD.........2-1-2-3 OLD FIRE ROAD.....TIME OUT.....2119**
“Station 51, ten-four, KMG365,” Captain Hank Stanley quickly scribbled the address on a sheet of paper and handed the copy to the paramedic waiting in the squad. “Take it easy once we get to the sight, it’s rained recently and the road is likely to be slick.”
“Right, Cap,” Roy Desoto, senior paramedic of A Shift, replied as he gave the slip to his partner.
Johnny placed the slip in his pocket until he had his helmet on, then pulled it out and glanced at the scrawled writing.
“Take a right at the second light. The road has a warning sign about fifty feet from the turn off.”
Roy grunted in acknowledgement then swerved to miss a car that pulled in front of them from the parking lot of an all night convenience store. Johnny turned to yell at the driver, but quickly returned to his original position. His face had gone deathly pale.
“You okay, Johnny?” Roy asked when he noticed his partner’s pale face.
“What? Oh, yeah, I’m fine, just a little shook up.”
Roy nodded, but cast a worried glance at his partner.
Two hours later the men of Station 51 returned to their quarters, tired, dirty and ready to fall in to bed.
“Man! What a stupid rescue!” Chet complained. “Why in the world did that woman drive over the cliff?”
“Well, you heard her,” Johnny answered, “she was trying to dump the car so her husband couldn’t wreck it while drunk.”
“Yeah, but she wrecked it
herself! Why didn’t she just hide it at a friend’s house instead?”
Captain Stanley shook his head at the two men. “Maybe it wasn’t in the script,” he said and vanished into his office.
“Huh?” Chet said to his Captain’s back.
“Come on, Chet, let’s hit the showers then get to bed,” Marco Lopez, Chet’s hose partner, said and did his own vanishing act to the locker rooms.
As the men settled for the night Johnny quietly lay on his bunk staring at the ceiling.
“You okay?” Roy asked.
“Yeah. Just trying to relax a bit before turning in. Why?”
“I dunno; you just looked a little shook up on the way to the last run. What’d you see that scared you?”
“Nothing scared me. I just.... oh, nothing.”
“Come on, what was it? You turned white as a sheet.”
“Ah, it was nothing. My eyes just playing tricks on me.” Johnny rolled to his side and pulled the covers up to his neck. “Night.”
The next morning was cold and wet, an unusual north wind had blown in and with it came more work for the crew of Station 51. After five calls Captain Stanley called in the station as unavailable for an hour to give himself and his men a short break.
The trucks rolled in to the bay and all six men tumbled wearily from the vehicles.
“Man, it’s not even noon and I feel as if a truck had run me over!” Marco said.
“Yeah, and I’m starved, we never got breakfast!” Chet moaned to those who would listen.
“Well, whose turn to cook?” Mike asked and stopped when he reached the door to the day room. “What happened here?” He glanced over his shoulder and motioned to the room before him.
The men joined their crewman at the door and gaped at the chaos inside. A single piece of paper slowly floated to the floor. Henry, the station’s mascot, lay on the couch and gave the men a sorrowful look. He slipped from the couch and lumbered to his friends.
“Henry, did you do this?” Captain Stanley asked.
Henry wagged his tail and gave a soft “Woof!”
“I don’t think Henry did this, Cap,” Roy spoke into the silence. “It’s too orderly for him.”
“Orderly!” Stanley croaked. “Where’s the order to this?” he waved his hand at the room.
“Look at the room again. This time, look for a pattern. The destruction starts in the center of the room and spirals outwards. It ends here at the door.” Roy accompanied his words with hand motions. “What’s that paper say that dropped in front of you, Mike?”
“Uh,” Mike started to say then bent down and picked it up. “November 24, 1969.”
“What!” Captain Stanley yelped. “1969? You sure about that, Mike?”
“Yes, Sir. Look.” He handed the paper to his boss.
“Well, I’ll be! It does say ‘69” Hank peered into the room then whistled softly. “Look, over there,” he pointed to the couch. What’s that hanging off the sofa?”
“Looks like a piece of material,” Marco said. “I’ll go check it out.”
“Marco!” Chet cried. “Don’t go in there! You don’t know what’ll happen! What if the ghost girl is back?”
“Chet, she didn’t hurt us when she was here. If anything she helped us.”
“Yeah, helped us right into the hospital.”
Marco rolled his eyes and stepped into the room. “Look, nothing happened, okay?” He shuffled through the paper to the couch. He picked up the object in question and laughed. “It’s Chet’s shirt! Look, it’s been tied in a knot.”
“My shirt! Why me? How come I always get picked on?” Chet charged over to Marco and grabbed his shirt. “Maaaan! What’d I do to piss off a ghost?”
“What makes you think it was a ghost?” Johnny asked, trying to hide the smile that was creasing his face.
A loud banging noise interrupted the men’s conversation. They looked at each other then headed for the locker room. The banging grew louder then stopped. A soft mewing could be heard from one of the lockers.
“Somebody leave a cat in the locker when we left?” Captain Stanley asked.
All the men shook their heads. Roy walked to the locker from where the sounds were coming. He carefully opened the door and looked inside. With a smile and a soft chuckle he swung open the door.
A small tortoise shell cat jumped to the floor and started to purr as she rubbed against Roy’s leg.
“Murrrrow! she said then calmly walked to Marco and began the rubbing and purring again.
“Hello, kitty,” Marco said as he bent down to pet the loudly purring cat. “How’d you get in there, hmmm?”
The cat looked up and blinked golden eyes at him. She stood on her hind legs and reached up to gently grasp his hand and pull it back down to her head. Marco laughed at her antics, then gently picked her up and scratched her behind the ears.
“Tell you what, Marco. I’ll call animal control to come pick her up; you can keep her company until they get here.”
“Sure, Cap. I like cats, but what if they don‘t come for a while and we get a call?” Marco rubbed the cat gently on the head and was rewarded with a loud purr.
“Put her back in the locker, I guess.”
“But, Cap, how’d the cat get in here in the first place?” Johnny asked. “She couldn’t have gotten in while we were gone. The door was closed.”
“One thing I know about cats, John, is they can get anywhere they want. Closed doors are just a challenge.” Cap reached out and gently rubbed the cat along the back then left to make the call.
“I'm telling you guys, our spook is back! I just know it!” Chet called to his shift mates as they left the locker room. Marco turned and grinned at Chet then motioned with his shoulder for his friend to follow.
The rest of the day was busy for the whole station. That night the men fell into their bunks tired and weary.
The morning dawned too soon for the men of Station 51, but with the promise of two days to themselves and their families, they quickly rose and prepared for the next shift.
A shrill whistle split the air causing the men to cover their ears and search for the source of the sound. As quickly as it started, the sound stopped. B Shift's Captain and Hank had run from the office when the whistle sounded and looked at the men who were now standing in a tight group. Worried looks and whispered comments floated to the two Captains.
"Did anyone find the source of the whistle?" Captain Hoosier asked.
"No, sir." "No." "It was all around us." came the replies.
A soft thumping was heard as if it were muffled tom-toms in the distance. Slowly the sound grew until the truck bay echoed with the sound and vibrations. The bay doors rattled in their frames. Dust motes fell from the ceiling and floated in a dance that would have been pretty had the circumstances been different. The sound faded, as if passing and crossing a hidden horizon.
"What the heck is going on?" Hank asked. No one had an answer.
"I'm telling ya, she's back!" Chet said to the silent men.
"What's he talking about, Hank?" Hoosier asked the A Shift commander. He was new to the station and had not heard about the events three years ago.
Hank sighed and motioned to the men to go about their business. He turned to the B Shift commander and motioned for them to go back to the office.
"About three years ago this station had a run in with a ghost." Hank stated and saw the new Captain raise an eyebrow in skepticism. "No, really. Ask any of the men." He quickly told the story of the ghostly presence and how it came about that she finally left.
"Well, Hank, I can't say if I believe you or not. I've never had a run-in with a spirit before, but I'm not going to say it isn't possible. Do you think it could be her return? How do you know it's a her?"
Hank pulled a large bound volume from the shelves behind the desk and opened the book to a page. He pushed the book over the desk for Hoosier to see.
"Well, I'll be." He shook
his head. "Well, how do we go about finding out what this spirit wants?"
"Um, I don't really know. I can call the university and see if the same gal is there that helped us out before. Maybe she'll have an idea."
"Sounds like a plan of
action to me. You want to call this in to HQ, or should I?"
"Why not let's wait and see what happens the next few shifts? Just warn C Shift before you leave."
"Okay, but if anything happens, I'm calling it in."
"I can tell you what those at HQ will say, but it's your call." Hank shook the B Shift Commander's hand and left the office. He was ready for two days of R & R.
Captain Stanley drove toward Station 51 at a leisurely pace. He was early and wanted to enjoy the last vestiges of freedom before taking on the duty of a station of men who were bound and determined to drive him crazy. Hank smiled at that last thought then gasped in surprise at the sight that met his eyes as he drew closer to the station.
In a tree beside the parking lot was what appeared to be a collection of clothing. Each piece was hanging neatly on a branch. A garish looking piece turned out to be a tie that Dwyer had bought at a rummage sale. Two T-Shirts were tie-dyed and hanging side by side. A pair of black pants and a dress shirt were together, as if waiting on a date.
Hank parked his car and stood staring at the tree with the other men. No one spoke or moved. A breeze made the clothes dance and sway. The tie fell from its branch then snagged on another briefly before floating lazily to the ground and landing in a bright heap of color at the captain’s feet.
"I've heard of 'papering' a place, but not 'clothing'. Any idea who might have done this marvelous feat of wonder?" Hank asked the still quiet men. He bent down and picked up the bright piece of material.
The men shook their heads then turned at the sound of a yelp coming from inside the building behind them. Several smiled in a knowing way before all of them headed inside.
"Dwyer, you and Coker get the tree cleaned up, will ya?" C-Shift's Captain told his men. "Hank, let's go see what happened inside."
With a sigh Hank followed the C-Shift man inside and on to the locker room. Marco was standing in front of his locker looking sheepish. Chet was just standing still and glaring at his friend.
"I'm telling you, I didn't do it!" Marco protested. "Look at my locker if you don't believe me!"
Chet glanced in to Marco's locker and laughed. He quickly stifled the sound when they noticed the two shift captains in the doorway.
What's the problem here?" Hank asked.
"Well," Chet started to say.
"Our lockers are a mess, Captain. Looks like Chet might be right about her being back. Everything in my locker is hung upside down and Chet's locker is neat and orderly."
"Hey! You saying I'm not neat?" Chet snorted at this friend then hastily covered with a cough.
Hank looked in to both lockers then turned to the C-Shift Captain, "You remember our ghost, Larry? Well, looks like she's returned."
"I don't know, Hank. She wasn't destructive like this. Come on back to the office and I'll fill you in on the happenings the last two shifts." The men walked away leaving the two hose jockeys to finish dressing.
"What'd ya think?" Chet asked as he buttoned his shirt.
"About what?" Marco replied.
"This!" Chet waved his arm and pointed his finger at the lockers. "You think it could be her or something else?"
"You mean like a bad joke
someone's trying to pull?
"Man, I hope not! If it is, I'd hate to be in their shoes when they get caught."
"Yeah, me too. Come on, I need some coffee." Marco finished straightening his locker and slammed the door closed.
Roy, Johnny and Mike wandered in a few minutes later and stood talking as they changed into their uniforms. Mike reached in his locker and nearly fell when the door swung shut on him.
"What the..!" he exclaimed and glared at the two paramedics.
"We didn't do anything!" Johnny spoke up.
"Who pushed the door, then?" Mike pulled the door towards him and looked behind the offending object. "No wind, no string, no spring. What gives?"
"Good question," Roy spoke softly as he reached into his locker. When he pulled out his hand a small mouse was sitting in his palm. It twitched its nose then hopped off and waddled back into the locker. Roy went after it, but the mouse had vanished.
"It wasn't even afraid of you!" Johnny broke the silence. "Where'd it go?"
"I don't know, it's gone."
"It can't be gone! Where would it go? There isn't any holes he could get through, is there?"
"No, I saw him disappear. One minute he was there, then I blink and he was gone."
" I'll see you guys in the day room. I need some coffee." Mike left in a hurry, the door swinging behind him shooshing its sad song.
Roy and Johnny watched the swinging door, but said nothing. They quickly finished changing and headed for the day room when they heard their Captain call, "Roll call in five!"
Johnny hurried into the day room and poured himself and his partner some coffee. They watched the others in silence. Finally the tension grew to be too much and Chet jumped up from his chair. The scraping sound grated on ears now sensitive by the silence.
"Come on, guys. You all look like a bunch of old men standing around. What are you waiting for, the other shoe to drop? Okay, so we have a ghost. Big deal, we've had one before. Nothing really bad happened."
"Oh yeah?" Marco asked sarcastically.
"Come on, you know what I mean."
Captain Stanley poked his head into the room, "Are we going to be all day, gentlemen?"
The five men scrambled to get through the door and in line for the morning roll call.
Later that day the men were sitting around the table discussing the strange events from the days before and comparing them to the visit of the ghost from three years previous.
"She wasn't mean like this one," Chet stated then looked over his shoulder. "When did she ever tear anything up and leave it to be found?"
"Chet's right," Mike said. "All she did was play around with the equipment."
"Oh yeah, what about when she pushed a couple of guys down in the latrine and hiding my badge and..."
"Yeah, Chet, we get the picture, but none of it was done in a mean spirited way; no pun intended." Marco grinned at his joke.
Henry lay on the couch listening to the humans as they spoke in hushed tones. A sudden movement caught his eye and he sat up to see more clearly. A low woof escaped him, then a growl. His hackles raised and his eyes dilated slightly. He scrambled from the couch and trotted tot he truck bay where he barked and howled until the men followed him out.
"What is it, Henry?" Chet asked. He knelt beside the agitated hound and rubbed his long floppy ears. "I don't see anything, boy." About that time a puddle of oil formed under the engine, then slowly spread across the floor.
Henry backed away from the steadily growing puddle, growling all the while. The men stared in amazement, unsure of what to do.
Captain Stanley broke the silence with a strong outburst. "Mike, check the engine, see if the oil plug came out. Roy, Johnny, get the squad out of here, now! Go get supplies if you have too, just get out until I call you back."
"Right, Cap!" Both men climbed into the squad and Roy fairly flew from the truck bay.
"Man, what is going on?" Johnny exclaimed as he and Roy headed for Rampart.
"I don't know, Partner, but I sure got a bad feeling back there."
"Do you think we should
have left them?"
"You heard Cap. I know what he's trying to do."
"Yeah? Well, can you fill me in?"
"If the squad isn't there, maybe nothing will happen to it, or us."
"Oh." Johnny stared out the window at the passing scenery. "Think it'll work?"
"I don't know. I sure hope so."
The sun had set long ago. The darkness rolled and boiled. How sweet was the taste of darkness and night. It waited and listened for the next victim.
Fingers of dark mist snaked from the growing blackness, searching; ever searching. It brushed a tree and drained its life, and felt itself grow a little stronger, but it needed more. The search grew until it came upon a house where bright light spilled from the windows. It decided to wait.
After a great while the lights went out, all but one. A tiny flicker came from one room. The darkness boiled and flinched when the light touched IT.
Pass the room, quickly. More and better lay beyond.
Flowing like a black river, IT followed the path of the hallway until IT came to a closed door. No sounds came from the room beyond.
The darkness rippled and slid under the door, through the tiny slit where floor and door failed to meet. A deep cold heralded ITs arrival. They felt a deep cold and snuggled further under the blankets.
IT grew stronger as those in the bed lay sleeping their life away, but suddenly there was an interruption. Light poured in to the room and the cry of a tiny voice pierced the cold and chased the darkness away.
Frustrated, IT boiled in anger and fled from the house, away from the light and toward the buildings behind the home. Life of a sort was there and IT would gain sustenance from there...
**Engine 51, Squad 110 in place of Squad 51.....Structure Fire 2314 Old Oak Rd....2-3-1-4 Old Oak Rd......time out....20:48”
Chet dropped the book he had been reading and made a mad dash for the engine, hot on the heels of his partner. He glanced around to see if anyone had seen how far he had jumped when the tones sounded and was relieved when no one appeared to have noticed.
As the engine pulled from the bay Chet glanced skyward and saw the dark clouds that had rolled in while he had been reading. His active imagination sent a cold chill of warning up his spine. With difficulty he shook off the feeling and concentrated on the upcoming fire and rescue.
Three hours later the engine was backed into the bay and four tired men spilled from the rig. No one spoke as three headed for the community room and two went for the showers.
“That was a rough one,” Cap said tiredly. “I don’t understand why people put gas next to a hot water heater then wonder why it blew up.” He shook his head and reached for the cup of steaming coffee his second in command handed him.
Mike sipped the hot
brew, a thoughtful expression crossed hid face. “Maybe because people today are
so afraid someone will steal their gas from their cars, so they siphoned it and
stored it.” Mike scratched a small scrape on his neck and winced at the small
jab of pain. He poured his coffee down the drain then looking at his captain he
“People need to be better educated about high combustibles and heat. Do you realize this is the forth time this month we’ve had this type of call?”
Captain Stanley gaped at Mike, “Um, yeah, you’re right. We’re just lucky no one’s gotten hurt or killed.” He rinsed his cup then placed it on the drain board. “Come on, Pal, let’s go get some sleep.”
Roy and Johnny had watched and listened as the conversation played out. They were surprised at Mike’s vehemence on the subject.
The two paramedics had
returned earlier to an empty station and had decided to wait up for the Engine
“That’s the most I’ve ever heard him say,” Johnny said, trying not to laugh. “I thought he had forgotten how to speak.”
“Yeah, well, Junior, shows what happens when you start to think.” Roy rubbed his face, “I’m gonna wash down then hit the sack.” He left a surprised Johnny staring with mouth agape. “You coming?” Roy asked from the truck bay.
“Hey!” Johnny said loudly as he hurried to catch up with his partner.
Thirty minutes later the firehouse was filled with only the sound of six tired men sleeping.
The light of the half moon began to fade as the deepest part of night crept across the land. In the shadows of the trees IT waited. Someone within the stone building had wakened IT from the deep slumber of a millennium years. IT stirred and shifted, waiting until the darkness became complete.
After a short wait, by ITs standards of time, IT began to move in a sinuous way. Slowly IT floated across the landscape and entered the building. Wafting across the floor IT sent tendrils of shadows ahead; searching and feeling, looking for ITs prey. From room to room IT passed, swiftly and silently. The search was tedious and slow, but thorough. Finally, the prey was found.
Captain Stanley rolled over in his sleep. A soft grunt floated across the still room.
Mike swatted at a dream fly.
Chet and Marco slept as if made of stone.
Johnny flipped his arm across his eyes. Roy, his partner, snored softly in a bunk with twisted covers.
A deep chill permeated the room causing all the sleeping occupants to draw their covers more tightly around them, but none awoke.
IT entered on cat paws of shadow. A soft light illuminated the man in the first bunk and IT quickly veered around him. Thin tendrils found another man and slowly wound itself around the reclining form even as it sent more feelers further into the room.
At last! Food to sustain IT! With a dark glee IT began to feed. The chill in the room grew more pronounced. Mike drew into a tight ball trying to get warm, yet unable to awake. The others also began to curl tighter as they sought warmth.
A bright flash and a loud scream of sound tour through the room and caused IT to leave with a loud shrill shrill of pain. The men roused as if from a drugged sleep, but quickly became more alert as movement brought warmth back into their bodies. No one thought to mention the cold, or the fact that they had lips blue as ice.
**Station 51.....MVA....405 Freeway......Exit 89 Crow Canyon Road......Time out 3100**
Stanley grabbed the mic and mumbled the acknowledgement. The doors to the bay opened sluggishly. Captain Stanley made a subliminal note to himself to get them checked.
The two vehicles were backed into the truck bay thirty minutes later and again, the men separated to the different areas of the station.
“Did you feel cold just before we were called out?” MArco asked Chet and Mike.
“Yeah, I couldn’t get warm. Even my nose was cold!” Chet answered.
Mike just nodded and emptied his coffee cup then rinsed it out. “We better try to get some more sleep before the wake up tones. There’s not much night left.” He headed for the dorms. Chet and Marco followed.
In the dorms Captain Stanley, Roy and Johnny were talking about the same subject.
“Was it my imagination, or was the room really chilly when we were toned out?” Roy asked the two men.
“It sure felt cold,” Johnny said. “I’ve only felt that kind of cold once before, and I didn’t think I’d ever get warm again.”
“Oh, yeah?” Stanley said, eyeing the paramedic. “When was this?”
“Back on the reservation when I visited as a teenager. My Grandfather was holding a Medicine Walk and called down a spirit to cleanse himself and those in the tent. It got so cold I thought we would all catch pneumonia, or at least a cold.”
Roy gazed in surprise at the revelation from his partner who usually never spoke about his background.
“What happened?” Stanley asked, intrigued.
Johnny shrugged then said, “It was so cold you could see your breath and some of us wanted to light a fire, but Grandfather refused. Then this “THING” came in the tent and covered each of us for a minute or so. It was so cold and felt wrong. I left. Grandfather was angry, said I had broken the circle.
“This felt just like that.”
“How did you get rid of it?” Roy asked, hoping his partner would continue to open up.
Johnny shrugged, “Grandfather said something to appease it and it left.” He reached up and slid the suspenders from his shoulders. “I’m bushed. I’m gonna get what little shut-eye I can before the morning tones.”
Roy and Hank watched the lanky paramedic crawl back into bed. The sound of the other three crewmen entering the room kept either of them from questioning Johnny further.
A slight chill remained in the air, so Marco and Mike pulled light blankets from the closet and distributed them around to their dorm mates.
“Lights out in two, gentlemen,” Captain Stanley said. The men crawled back in their bunks and the light was turned off. Once more silence settled on the room as they drifted off to sleep.
Chet lay in the semi-darkness and tried to analyze the cold feeling. He thought about the book he was reading and decided he would toss it first thing in the morning, just in case.
Outside the building IT waited in frustration. The one who called it was inside, sleeping. The promise had to be kept before the restlessness would ease. IT refused to enter back into the thousand-year slumber before ITs ravenous appetite was cured.
A low rumble woke the men moments before the morning wake-up tones. The building trembled and windows rattled.
“Oh man, maybe a two?” Chet grumbled sleepily. He yawned then saw his partner, Marco, still laying in bed, obviously only half alert to what was happening. Chet grabbed his pillow and smacked the drowsing hose jockey across the midsection. “Wake up, man! Can’t you feel that?”
“Yeah, feels like the rumba machine is shaking the house.” Marco yawned then sat up as yet another rumble was heard, then felt. “Yeah, I’d say a two. Nothing to worry about.”
“You two are a couple of real jokers,” Captain Stanley grumbled from where he was sitting. “Why don’t you two wise crackers go get breakfast ready.” This was not a question and both men slipped their feet into turnout trousers.
Marco hooked his suspenders over his shoulders then reached out and smacked Chet in the head with his pillow. “Come on, Partner. You heard the boss man.” Marco did not bother to look and see if Chet was following.
“Cap!” Marco’s voice was filled with ire.
The remaining members of the crew dashed to the day room and looked in astonishment at the chaos that reined.
Dishes, paper towels, dish towels, newspaper and dog food was scattered across the room. Henry was no where in sight, but a whine could be heard coming from under the sofa.
A closer inspection of the sofa showed ketchup and mustard mixed with jelly and melted ice cream smeared across the seat. Eggs had been cracked and smeared across the floor in front of the sofa.
The only neat area was on the countertops. The cutlery was neatly arranged and laying in stacks. Forks on forks, spoon with their proper sizes and knives all arranged as if waiting to be used.
“What the heck happened here?” Captain Stanley exclaimed. “Johnny, Chet, Marco, get to work cleaning this mess up. Roy, you and Mike check the trucks. I’m calling in to headquarters to report the vandalism.
“But Cap, how could this’ve happened without us hearing it?” Chet asked.
“Blamed if I know,” Hank muttered as he strode from the room. A loud shout from the office brought the men to their superior’s door.
The room was a mess. Papers, pens and pencils, paperclips and more littered the floor and desk. The wall clock was cracked and running backwards at an alarming rate. The picture of McConnike was shattered and ripped. The desk drawer had been pulled out and lay in pieces on the floor.
“Umm, Cap?” Johnny started to say, but stopped at the quelling look Hank sent him.
Hank sighed, “Back to clean up. I’ll straighten up in here.”
The five men left to attend to their assigned duties. By the time the next shift started to wander in most of the mess had been cleared.
“Morning, Guys,” Dwyer said as he entered the door. “Is that a new way of decorating the station outside?”
“What!” all the A-Shift members said together. The group ran outside and stood staring at the mess. The trees were decorated with toilet paper and what appeared to be articles of clothing. The ground was soaking wet from the water hose that was still running.
Marco shut off the water flow and stood looking around in dismay. From where he was standing he could see the parking lot behind the station.
“Uh, guys?” he called. “Want to come look at this?”
“Now what?” Mike asked as he and the others joined Marco.
The vehicles were turned in opposite directions and parked in such a manner as to make it difficult for any one vehicle to move without hitting another. Stunned silence reined.
“Someone want to clue me in?” the C-shift Captain said moments later as he, too stood surveying the carnage.
“We, uh, that is,” Roy stuttered. “Captain Stanley can explain.”
Captain Michaels turned to Hank and raised an eyebrow, “Well?”
Hank stuttered around then finally said, “You guys clean this mess up, I’ll have a talk with Robert and explain the situation.”
With minimal muttering the men started the clean up of the grounds. An hour later they filed into the station and heard a thunderous roar.
“Why does this always happen on your shift, Hank?”
The men glanced at each other unsure if their captain needed some assistance when a laugh bounced around the truck bay. The men relaxed and grinned at each other as the tensions of the night and morning began to dissolve.
Captain Michaels and Captain Stanley walked in to the day room and was greeted by the ten men waiting for a judgment or decision.
“Seems your shift always has the interesting things happen around here. I might have to switch a couple of times just to see some of these goings on.” Michaels smiled and turned to his crew. “Well, seems the station is once more haunted. This time it isn’t a friendly ghost. If any of you see or hear or otherwise, anything, tell me immediately.
“I’ll see you in a few days, Hank. The rest of you, have a good two days off.”
The A-shift crew smiled, relieved that they had passed on trouble yet again.
Their feelings of relief would change, however, once they came back on duty.
The A-shift crew staggered in after two days of R & R. The station was quiet. Sunlight poured into the day room making it appear light and airy.
Henry lay on the sofa, snoozing in a happy doggie daze, seemingly unaware of the humans that had just entered his domain.
Chet reached out and rubbed the prone dog’s belly and flopped down beside him. Henry immediately walked across the couch and plopped himself down in Chet’s lap. With a huge sigh he collapsed across the stocky Irishman, pinning him in place.
“Oof! Henry, you’re fat!” Chet grinned and rubbed the dog’s ears lovingly. “You need to go on a diet!”
“Only if you go on one, too,” Johnny ribbed his friend.
“I,” Chet paused dramatically, “am NOT fat. Marsha told me I am ‘pleasingly plump’. So there!”
“Well, Pal, I tend to agree with Johnny, for once.” Captain Stanley walked in to the room and grinned at the blushing fireman. “Men, seems we get a respite. C-shift is still out on the MVA from earlier. So, how about we get in some hose drilling until they get back?”
This pronouncement was met with groans and eye rolling, but each was heading out to the back of the station even as they made the obligatory response.
Twenty minutes later they heard the engine and squad returning. Six tired and dirty men headed for the locker room.
“All yours!” called Dwyer. “You’ll need to make a run to Rampart for supplies!”
Roy looked over to his Captain for permission. Hank nodded at the senior paramedic.
“Come on, Junior, let’s get there and back.”
“Why? So we can practice rolling hoses some more?” Johnny grinned and glanced back over his shoulder at Marco and Chet who were still working on rolling the hoses. “Let’s go before Cap changes his mind.”
Dixie McCall was strolling down the hall to the emergency section of the hospital when she paused and rubbed her eyes. She looked again down the hall from where she had just come and stared. With a soft laugh at herself she hurried on to report to her post. Even the head nurse had to answer to a superior if she were late.
Roy backed into the accustomed place at Emergency. After shutting off the engine he sat and stared ahead.
“What’s wrong?” Johnny asked, looking around.
Roy shook his head, “Nothing, I was just thinking about the last couple of days. Kinda nice not having to worry about work.”
“Well, yeah, but we never worry about work. What brought this on?”
“I was thinking we might come back to a destroyed fire house. Considering everything that’s been going on.”
“Yeah,” Johnny rubbed his chin. “I thought that myself, but it appears that nothing happened while we were gone.”
“Let’s get the supplies and head back. Cap had some more drills for us.”
Johnny groaned, “ I’m glad we have drills, but sometimes I think Cap goes overboard.”
“You may be glad of that, one of these days. Come on, those supplies won’t load themselves.”
Johnny handed his partner the drug box then said, “I gotta go talk to Patsy. I’ll meet you at the desk.”
“You have a new love?” Roy teased.
“Not really. I’ll tell ya about it on the way back to the station.”
Roy shook his head and grinned as his partner hurried away. Whatever it was he wanted to talk about would come out eventually.
Hank Stanley sat in his office frowning at the air in front of him. The last two shifts had nothing to report, which made him think that something, or someone, on his shift was attracting spooks and spirits. Although not a religious man, he did believe in things he could not see or explain.
“Something had to have triggered this,” he muttered to himself. “I just need more pieces of the puzzle.” With a sigh he picked up his coffee cup and went to sip its contents. When he realized it was empty, he slammed the cup back on his desk. Deciding the cup would not refill itself, he rose and headed for the day room.
Marco and Mike were playing checkers at the table. Chet was on the sofa with Henry, who had his head in his favorite human’s lap. Chet had his nose buried in a beat up looking book.
“What’s the matter, Chet, can’t you find anything new to read?” Captain Stanley said irritably. He walked to the stove and lifted the pot for some coffee. “Who drank all the coffee?”
Chet glanced guiltily across his book, but did not speak. “Want me to make some more?” he asked.
“I’ll make it!” Hank said, the realized he was taking his frustrations out on the men. “Sorry, guys. Yeah, Chet, why don’t you make some more coffee. Roy and Johnny might want some when they get back.”
Hank sank down in a chair and watched the checker game in progress. Neither Mike nor Marco looked up, each studiously watching the board.
Without a word Mike took one of his checkers and did a triple jump of Marco’s pieces. Marco graoned and admitted defeat.
“Here, Cap, you play him. He’s beat me four games.”
“Yep, you owe me three times at dishes and two at dorms.”
“Gambling, are we?” Hank grinned to let them know he was not upset.
“Um, well, “Marco started to say when a loud noise from the truck bay interrupted him. No one moved for a split second, then all four rose and went to the door.
Nothing appeared to be out of place. Mike checked the engine while Chet and Marco looked around the vehicle.
A muffled meow came from inside the cabin. Marco opened the door and a gray cat jumped down and rubbed against his leg.
“Now, how did you get back here?” Marco asked in amazement.
“That can’t be the same cat, Marco! Animal control came and got her.” Chet said, reaching out to scratch her ears.
The cat hissed and swatted at Chet’s hand, barely missing him with her claws.
“Hah!” Marco exclaimed, “she doesn’t like you.” He rubbed the purring cat and looked smugly at his partner. “YOU are not a cat person!”
“I like cats!” Chet cried, pride and feelings hurt. “I just get along better with dogs.”
“Yeah, lazy ones.” Marco smirked. “Cap, the cat’s back.” He cuddled the cat to his chest as he spoke, feeling the purr rumbling harder. As he passed the spot where the squad would be parked she growled, then hissed softly. Marco felt the hair on his neck rising.
“Cap, she sees something and she doesn’t like it.” Marco stood still, feeling the cat tremble and listening to her low rumble of a growl.
“How do you know it’s a she?” Marco asked. Mike hid a smile by turning his head away from the two friends.
“No nuts,” Marco stated and grinned at Chet’s expression.
“You’re bad, Partner! Really bad!”
“Okay, you two, let’s cut the argument. Marco, are you sure it’s the same cat?”
“Yes, Sir. She has the same stripe between her eyes and the same white spot on her foot.” Marco pointed out the markings as he spoke.
“Anyone have any idea how she got in the truck?” Hank looked around at the men. All three shook their heads in a negative way. “Okay, Marco, put her outside. Give her some milk or something to keep her occupied. I’ll go call animal control again and let them know she’s back.”
The doors began to roll up and the men hastily moved out of the way as the squad was backed in to place.
“Hey, Marco! Nice cat!” Johnny said as he climbed from the vehicle.
“Yeah, well, it’s the same one as before.” Marco turned and left the surprised Paramedic standing by the door of the squad. “What’s wrong with him?”
“Cap’s calling animal control again. She was in the truck this time.”
“How’d she get there?” Johnny looked perplexed.
Mike shrugged and went to the day room.
STATION 110......SQUAD 18...................CAVE IN...........BLUE SHANSEY BUILDING...........222 AVE A.....................2-2-2 AVE A...................TIME OUT 11:10...
“Blue Shansey Building? Didn’t it get condemned three years ago because it didn’t meet the building codes of the county?” Marco asked the others as they sat at the table eating preparing for lunch.
“Yep.” Chet answered. “According to the papers the owners were supposed to tear it down and rebuild it if they wanted to open a refinery, but it was washed as a bad deal. The building was sold and marked for demolition by the new owners last year.”
“And you know all this because?” asked Johnny with a smirk.
“I read the paper, Johnny-boy. You know, r-e-a-d? Didn’t they teach you that at the reservation?” Chet smirked back and reached across Marco to retrieve the bowl of lettuce Johnny had been shredding.
“Yes! They also taught us r-e-s-p-e-c-t for others,” Johnny shot back. He tossed the last leaf into the bowl and shoved it toward Chet, knocking the plate with tomatoes on it away from Marco.
“Hey!” Marco said disgustedly. “Can’t you too co-exist even one day without arguing?”
“Sorry, Marco,” Johnny said and helped put the tomatoes back on the plate. “Some people just need to learn how to THINK before speaking.”
“Yeah, well, that’s never been his strong point. You should know that by now,” Marco said with a grin.
“Gee, thanks a lot, Partner!” Chet called from the sink where he was washing the shredded lettuce. With a wet splat Chet dumped the whole lump into a larger bowl where he placed other ingredients. “You through mangling those tomatoes, Marco?”
“Here ya go, Partner. What are we having, anyway? Lettuce and tomato sandwiches?” Marco peered into the bowl.
“Chef’s Salad,” answered Chet peevishly. “Keep it up and you wont get any.”
Johnny looked at Marco and shrugged. Chet had acted annoyed ever since the cat had appeared and taken a liking to Marco.
Mike poked his head in the door, “Animal control’s here. Where’s the cat?”
“I’ll get her,” Marco said and hurried from the room. The slam of a door was heard and Marco’s muttering to the cat followed his progress to the front of the station. A few minutes later he walked back in to the day room.
“Track said the cat got out of her kennel, but without opening the door.”
“She probably wiggled her paw through the bars and opened the door. Then when she was free it closed on its own.” Roy said reasonably as he too, entered the day room. “What’s for lunch?”
“Rabbit food,” Marco told them. “Chet’s on another health kick.
“This is good stuff, guys. You’re gonna love it. There’s meat and veggies all together, and you can have whatever dressing you want on it. There’s also shredded cheese if you want it.”
“Sounds interesting,” Roy said. “Move your feet, Partner and wash the table again.” Roy tossed a rag at Johnny who had quickly lowered his feet from the table. With a quick swipe of the rag he then tossed it back toward the sink, hitting Chet in the face.
“Oops, sorry. I was aiming for the sink.”
A snicker was heard and both men looked around suspiciously, but no face showed any sign of amusement. Roy was pulling plates from the cabinet and Mike was sitting on the couch.
“Where’d you come from?” Johnny asked.
“The truck bay, of course, where else?” Mike picked up the discarded paper, flipped it open to the sports page and proceeded to ignore the stocky Irishman. Henry tried to insert his way between man and paper and was pushed away for his trouble.
The tones sounded again and all activity stopped. Once it was determined the call was not for them, they went back to their different chores in the kitchen.
“Cap!” Roy called out the door into the truck bay, “lunch is ready!”
A loud crash, followed by the sounds of disgust came from the office. All the men went to see what had happened.
Captain Stanley was standing behind his desk, shirt covered with a fine powder and shimmering particles floating in the air around him.
“Who’s the twit with the glitter trap?” Hank growled.
All eyes turned to Johnny, who had once before set a glitter trap for Chet.
“I didn’t do it! I’m not suicidal!”
“I didn’t either,” chimed in Chet before anyone could accuse him.
The sound of a soft sneeze turned all eyes to the room behind the men. There on the floor sat the gray tabby cat just recently removed by animal control. She sneezed again then looked up at the men and blinked green eyes at them as if to say, ‘What’s going on?’
Marco’s grin flashed across his face. He reached out and the cat leaped to his arms.
“I thought animal control came and got her!” Captain Stanley said, surprise on his face.
“They did. She must have gotten away again.” Mike reached around Marco and stroked the cat’s head. She rewarded him with a gentle butt of his hand, the gesture easily read.
A thump was heard, then the sound of nails clicking across the floor heralded the srrival of Henry, who sniffed around on the floor before looking up and seeing the cat in Marco’s arms.
“Woof’ Henry said and was given a reply of “Meow”. Henry gave the equivalent of a doggy shrug and headed back to his favorite spot. The cat jumped from Marco’s arms and followed.
“What was that all about?” asked Roy.
“Maybe Henry was giving permission for her to stay.” Mike said. The others looked at him. Mike shrugged, “Who says animals can’t communicate?” He turned and headed back to the day room. “I’m ready for lunch!”
“Storm’s a brewing!” Johnny said as he and Roy headed back to the station from Rampart. They had just finished a rescue that had involved a woman and her Doberman pincher.
“Looks like a really bad one, too,” Roy answered. “I hope it holds off until we get back to the station.”
Dixie sat at her desk, her mind floating half way between here and there when a slight movement caught her eyes. She turned her head and peered into the shadows by the elevators. The day had turned cloudy, but that did not explain the overly dark corner in the waiting room. She rubbed her eyes, thinking it was just a play of the light when she saw it move.
“Dix?” a soft voice said, breaking her eye contact with the shadow. “Something wrong?” Dr. Morton was standing beside her, his hand resting on her shoulder. “You’ve gone awfully pale.”
“No, no, I’m okay, Mike. I...thought I saw something over in the corner by the elevators. I guess I must be more tired than I thought”. She glanced back to the corner and saw that the shadow had indeed become lighter.
“Didn’t your shift end an hour ago?” he asked her.
“I’m waiting for Patsy to check in. She had to run up to personnel for a minute.”
“Umm, okay, but you get out of here as soon as she returns. It’s getting ready to let loose and it looks to be a bad one.”
Dixie nodded, “I noticed. Don’t worry, I’ll be home long before it hits.”
Morton grunted at her in a friendly manner. She was his favorite of all the nurses and he felt a certain protectiveness about her. If it had not been for her, he may never have made it through his internship.
After he had left, Dixie looked toward the corner once more. The darkness had not returned and she brushed it from her mind.
IT slid between the double doors and into the soothing darkness below. IT had found a place to hide and feed. No one seemed to care when it fed and no alarms were raised. One had seen it. One had to be vanquished.
IT had noticed the dimness before the One. IT could feel the electrical impulses building in the air like a giant magnet. The pull was strong, beckoning for IT to come out of hiding, but IT knew the falseness of the claim. IT would wait. Time was on ITS side and patience was being learned the hard way.
Dixie hurried from the building, hoping to get to her car before the weather broke. She glanced upwards at the ominous rumble of thunder. One large drop hit the ground in front of her.
Once at her car she opened the door and stopped in surprise. A gray striped tabby cat was laying in the driver’s seat. It was curled into a tight ball, tail wrapped snuggly around it.
“Now, how did you get in here?” she asked it.
The cat looked up at her and yawned. It blinked its luminous green eyes at her then stretched to its full length.
“I don’t know how you got in here, but you can’t stay. I’m not allowed pets at my apartment.” She felt silly standing in the parking lot talking to a cat. She reached down and ruffled the cats hair. “Come on, out now.”
The cat blink again and turned its back on her. The cat caught its tail and gave it a good lick before turning in the seat three times before settling back down, flatly refusing to budge.
“Now look, cat, this is my car and I said you can’t stay, now shoo!” Dixie reached down to pick the cat up and place it on the ground, but the cat immediately fluffed up and spit and hissed at her.
Startled, Dixie took a step back. She tried to remove the cat again and this time got a swipe of paw, claws sheathed, and a warning growl.
“Problem, Dixie?” a familiar voice asked.
“This cat won’t let me get her out of my car!” Dixie sputtered.
Mike Morton laughed and reached in to gently pick the cat up and rub its head. A loud rumbling purr came from the animal. She stretched upward and rubbed her head against his chin. With a quick lick she turned and jumped back in to Dixie’s car.
“See! What’s wrong with her? She let me pet her, but when I tried to get her out she hissed at me and tried to claw me.” Dixie looked in exasperation at the animal now placidly sitting in the car.
Another low rumble filled the air. A bolt of lightening flashed, causing the area to temporarily brighten. Dixie caught the sight of a dark shadow that was quickly swallowed by the darkness left behind after the flash. She stepped back in shock and fear. She had seen that shape earlier, and possibly even before when she had almost been late for her shift.
“Dixie?” Morton said, dancing on one foot. The head nurse had tromped his foot in her haste to back away from the cat.
“What? Oh, Mike, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to step on you!”
“Morton shook his head, “ Better you than a truck. You don’t weigh as much.”
“What?” she asked.
“Never mind, I’ll tell you later.” Mike grinned at her.
“In the meantime, what’ll I do about the cat?” Dixie looked at the now sleeping animal.
“Take her home with you?” Mike asked, scratching the tip of his nose.
“I’m not allowed pets.”
“Hmm, I’m not much of a cat person, either.”
“Dixie, Mike, is there a problem? You two are getting ready to get wet.” Kelly Brackett, head of the emergency section of Rampart, strode up to join the two beside the car.
“Where’d you get the cat?”
“I didn’t.” Dixie scowled.
“What’s the problem, then?”
“I can’t get her out. She hisses and spits when we try to get her out.”
“Hum, tell you what, how about I take you to dinner and when we get back, maybe she’ll be gone.” Brackett smiled down at Dixie.
“Well, if you two have it covered, I’m outta here!” Morton told the couple. “Try and stay dry!”
“Thanks, Mike!” Dixie called to his departing back.
“Well?” Brackett asked.
“Fine, where’re you taking me?” Dixie closed and locked the door. The cat yawned and stretched and made itself more comfortable.
“You better not die in there!” Dixie told it.
Brackett laughed and took Dixie’s elbow, “Come on, Cat Woman, before you get your fur wet.”
The two made it to Brackett’s car and inside just as the deluge hit.
The cat sat up and looked out the window at the departing vehicle. With a rumbling purr of approval she lay back down and waited for the darkness to come
Thunder rolled and lightening flashed. The rain fell in heavy sheets making visibility almost nothing. Inside the car the cat lay sleeping. A sudden coldness alerted it to the presence of another.
Evil. IT was pure evil. IT boiled in anger and frustration. IT had been thwarted yet again from the prey IT sought. One reason lay unconcerned in the vehicle. IT waited until the blackness descended once more then quickly sailed into the vehicle that sat quiet before IT.
With a rush, IT slipped through the hood and into the vents, then into the car where the cat lay waiting. IT knew the cat was there and IT hated the creature even more than the frustration of going without.
The cat yawned and stretched, waiting. The only sign of life was the occasional flicking of the tail and a tremble in the whiskers. The cold did not bother her.
A finger of darkness crept through the vent, searching. Another followed, and yet another. Finally, most of the darkness was in the car, filling it with its death-like chill. Still, the cat did not move. IT became bolder and surrounded the cat, leeching the life from it.
A bright light flashed, causing pain to fill the darkness. IT howled and writhed. Another bright flash and IT lost the presence of the cat. A hiss filled the darkness, then a yowl. One final flash and IT left the car, pain and anger lanced through IT.
The cat sat, waiting, but the darkness did not return. With a loud purr, the cat slipped through the car and out, then vanished.
IT did not see. IT was hurting and hiding in the darkness. IT would return to the master, the one who called IT back into the world. IT rose and floated among the clouds until its destination was reached, then IT slipped to the ground and into a hole in the brick wall. IT would wait.
The lights in the building flashed one, twice, then went out completely. The lightening was almost continuous. The wind howled around the doors and windows. The large double doors on front of the building rattled and shook, trying to loosen their moorings.
One extra loud rumble of thunder and Henry was under the sofa, whining and shaking. The cat strolled into the room looking unconcerned, and certainly not frightened. She peered under the sofa at the shaking dog and meowed a question at him. Henry howled an answer, but refused to leave his hiding place. The cat purred at him and crawled under the couch.
IT was elated. The darkness provided safety. IT slowly left the hiding place and headed for the building, but a bright flash of lightening and the return of lights inside sent IT scurrying back to the safety of the hole.
The bay doors rattled open. Flashing red and white lights played a pattern across the walls and floor. The rattling of the doors was covered by loud thunder and the sudden flash and crash of lightening.
“Get that door down!” Cap yelled over the sound of thunder. Roy pushed the button and watched the weather until the door blocked his vision. He peeled his turnout coat off and shook it out. Water droplets flew everywhere.
“Watch it, will ya!” Johnny groused as water hit him in the face. “I’m wet enough already.”
“Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger, Pal!” Chet grumped at the lanky paramedic.
“Coffee! I need coffee!” Marco headed for the day room. “Hey, who drank the brew and didn’t put more on!”
“My fault!” Mike called as he headed for the dorms.
“Where’s Henry?” Chet asked, looking around. Another flash of lightening was followed by a roll of thunder. Chet winced at the brightness. When his eyes had refocused he saw Henry’s tail peeking out from under the sofa. A low whine and a soft mew was heard.
Johnny and Chet knelt by the sofa and peered under it. Henry and the cat were laying as far back under the furniture as they could get. The cat was on top of the dog holding one of Henry’s ears. She licked it in a reassuring manner, then murmured to him in her own way.
“Awe, come on out, Henry. It’s just a little thunder and lightening. Come on,” Chet wheedled.
Johnny rolled his eyes and reached for the dog. “Come on, Henry. We’re here now. Mamma Chet will protect you from the big bad thunder.” He glanced at his friend to see the reaction he would get and grinned at Chet rolling his eyes.
After some coaxing the dog scooted from his hiding place and leaped at Chet.
“Oof! Henry, you big oaf! Get off me!” Chet shoved the dog from his lap and stood. “Crazy mutt.”
Henry climbed on to the sofa and looked hopefully at his favorite person. The cat came out and jumped up beside the basset. She rubbed against the dog, murmuring in her own language the reassurances the hound needed. Henry flopped down and the cat climbed on top of him. She gave his ear a lick then curled up and went to sleep.
“Will you look at that,” Marco said in wonder. “I’ve never seen a dog and cat be friends before, especially if they didn’t grow up together.”
“Yeah, it’s weird, kinda like what’s been happening around here.” Johnny stood with his hands braced on his hips, looking at the pair. “Strange indeed.”
“Anyone want some coffee?” Roy interrupted the two’s conversation before they could actually agree on something. Chet, he noticed, was scowling at the two men.
“Sounds good, Roy,” Cap answered.
“Not me, I’m turning in. If the lights go out, I want to be horizontal.” Johnny stated and left the room.
“Me, too,” Marco said.
IT waited, crushed as far into the small hole as possible. The storm had passed in the night and now bright morning sun filled the area where IT lay hidden.
Suddenly, IT felt a pull. The Master was calling, but IT could not answer, not as long as the light shone so brightly. The light hurt. IT writhed with impatience. The call was strong, stronger than it had been when first IT came to the presence.
As quickly as the call had started, it ended and IT could rest once more. IT was weak from hunger. Tonight when darkness fell, it would strike and feed. The call had been so strong. Yes, tonight IT would feed and it would answer the call.