This story is a follow-up to the episode 'The
Late spring 1975
A few months had passed since a day Roy DeSoto had been given no choice but to leave his partner John Gage in a smoke-filled room at an apartment fire while he carried out an unconscious victim. A fighter jet had crashed into the complex, causing a major fire that ended up injuring a few firemen in the line of duty, including Gage.
The incident still nagging at him from time to time, Roy ran the scenario through his head as he helped his partner work on the squad. The two paramedics were tinkering with their vehicle while it sat parked in the apparatus bay of Station 51.
I was so sure he’d mumbled something when I asked if he was okay. I could’ve sworn he said, ‘Yeah’. But when I saw him being carried out over the shoulder of a Pasadena fire fighter . . .
I messed up.
The dark-blond paramedic looked at the feet of Gage sticking out from under the vehicle and sighed.
I wonder if he ever thinks about how close he came to losing his life because of me? Maybe that’s why he never wants to talk about it.
Roy tried once again to shove the underlying guilt away as he maintained an outward appearance that things were back to normal. He also tried to rid himself of the reoccurring hint of fear that someday it might happen again. Little did he know, something else was about to come back and cause a stir among the crew.
Johnny reached out from under the squad, waving his hand in an attempt to get Roy’s attention. Not getting any results, Johnny yelled, “Hey! Hand me the screwdriver!”
Roy was about to comply when he saw a mouse run under the truck near Gage. An instant later, the younger man was out in the open and scrambling to his feet, the rolling cart he’d been lying on shooting off in the opposite direction.
“Something just ran past my head! But I couldn’t tell what it was.”
“It was a mouse.”
“A mouse.” Roy shrugged. “I saw it go under a few seconds ago.”
The younger man looked at the floor near the squad. “You don’t suppose Herbert came back to mess with Chet, do ya?”
“I don’t know, but something tells me you’re gonna make sure he knows about it.”
Johnny splayed a hand across his chest. “Roy, I’d only be doing it for Chet’s benefit. He’s got every right to know his nemesis mouse is back.”
“Yeah. . .right. And what about the rest of us who have to listen to Chet?” He watched as Johnny headed to the back lot where the others were hanging hose. His eyes then went to where the mouse had dashed under the truck. “You had to let him see ya. . .”
“Hey, Chester B.!” Johnny called out as he exited the building.
“Uh oh.” Mike glanced at Marco, who was looking from the hose rack to Chet below.
“I know. When he calls him that, there’s something about to start.”
Chet watched as Johnny approached. “Hey, there’s someone here to see ya.. . .or should I say something.”
“Huh? John, you make less and less sense the longer I know you.”
“Careful. You may need my help on this one and if you keep that up, you may not get it.”
“Just tell me what’s up.”
Johnny rocked on his feet as he explained. “You recall Herbert?”
“Herbert?” Chet started to shake his head ‘no’ when it suddenly dawned on him. “You mean as in the mouse Herbert?”
“He’s back? Are you sure?”
“Well, I can’t say he introduced himself as that. But it’s a mouse and it’s in the station. So I’d say the odds are pretty high.”
“What’s up?” Mike hollered from above.
“Just you two!” Chet replied. “I’m not gonna let a mouse get to me again,” he told Johnny.
“If you say so. But if you wanna discuss a new strategy, I’ll be inside.”
Johnny turned and headed back into the station. Chet returned to the task of hanging hose.
I’m *not* gonna let it get to me. Besides it can’t be Herbert. He’s been gone for months now.
Still Chet couldn’t help but take a glance toward the interior of the apparatus bay.
“You happy now?” Roy asked as his partner returned.
“As a matter of fact. . .yeah. Yeah.” Johnny leaned against the side of the squad while Roy continued to work. “Look, someone had to break the news to Chet. It may as well’ve been me.”
“Well, I. . .” he waved a hand as he tried to think of a good reason. “I don’t know why. I guess because I could be straight forward and not beat around the bush about it. . .much Anyway, it’s done. He knows.”
“Well, I know what’s not done. You gonna stand there all day or go back to helping here.”
“I was done.”
“Then why’d you ask for a screw driver?”
“I was just tryin’ to tinker a little to keep busy while you finished up.”
Roy shook his head and sighed. With a smile he added, “Me too.”
“You mean all this time we’ve both been done? We could’ve quit by now?”
The older man nodded.
“Man, I sure hope we can figure out a mouse better’n we can each other.”
“”Something tells me the mouse is already one point ahead.”
The paramedics no sooner got into the dayroom when Chet came following closely behind.
“So where’d ya see this mouse?”
Johnny glanced over his left shoulder at his partner and grinned. He then looked beyond to the other fireman. “I thought you said you weren’t gonna let it bother you.”
“I’m not. It doesn’t. I just wanna know where he might be so I don’t disturb him.”
Gage turned around with a look of disbelief on his face. “Disturb him? What ever happened to the reputation we need to keep up by not having a mouse hangin’ around?”
“I got to thinkin’ about that more. . .you know, after Herbert left. And I figured. . .well, I’m sure we’re not the only station with a mouse in it. But if it bothers you that much, then you can get rid of him again.”
Johnny and Roy exchanged baffled expressions. “Chet,” the younger paramedic began. “What are you--”
Just then Mike and Marco entered the room in search of their fellow engine crewman.
“Chet, what was the rush to leave?”
“Yeah,” Marco added. “You took off like you were going to a fire.”
“He was just in a hurry to catch up with an old friend,” Johnny explained.
The two firemen looked on in puzzlement.
“It looks like Herbert might be back,” Roy offered. “And Johnny here,” he added, placing a hand on his partner’s shoulder, “was kind enough to let Chet know.”
Recalling how Chet had gotten on their nerves last time Herbert was in the building, the two glared at Gage.
“Well, he would’ve seen ‘im eventually anyway. . .probably.”
Marco was about to comment when the klaxons went off. All five men listened to see who was being sent out.
“Squad 51, possible heart attack, 1823 West Palm Street, one eight two three West Palm Street, Apartment 110, time out 9:45.”
“Saved by the bell,” Mike quipped.
Johnny flashed a departing grin, then disappeared from sight as he hurried into the apparatus bay.
Once at the scene, the two paramedics gathered their supplies and made their way across a courtyard and to the apartment. Johnny set down the oxygen and rang the doorbell. When they didn’t get a response right away, he tried the knob and the unlocked door opened.
“Hello?” Roy called out as they entered the livingroom area. “Fire department!”
“In here!” called out a very weak and old sounding voice from another room.
The men exchanged a quick glance, then hurried to where they voice had come from. A very petite and elderly lady was sitting at her kitchen table. Her white hair up in a bun, she stood and started to walk toward the men to greet them.
“My, you boys are fast. I just called a few minutes ago,”
“Is there someone here with you?” Johnny wondered. She sure didn’t seem to be showing any sign of distress that might indicate she was the one they were called out for.
“No, no. . .it’s just me. I live alone now since my dear Martin passed away a few years ago.”
It was Roy’s turn to jump in. “Ma’am, why don’t you take a seat and let us check you over.”
“Oh, alright. But can I get you boys a drink or anything first?”
Johnny answered for both as they carefully escorted her back to the chair. “No, we’re okay. But what about you? Are you havin’ trouble breathin’ or any sign of chest pain?”
“Nooo. . .” she slowly answered. Taking a seat, she looked over at Roy as he gently took her wrist to check her pulse. Johnny went about getting out the BP cuff. “I was just feeling a little tired and sore,” she went on to explain. “I got up this morning and I didn’t feel quite the same as I usually do; my arms kind of hurt and I’ve heard that’s a sign of a heart attack coming on. I thought I’d better call for help before it was too late.”
Just as they had when they’d first entered the apartment, the paramedics exchanged another glance. Neither felt they were needed there, but they’d make sure before they risked leaving.
“Pulse is normal,” Roy stated. He then went on to check her respirations.
Johnny finished with her blood pressure reading. “BP’s good. Ma’am--”
“Petra,” he corrected. “Is there anything you might’ve done yesterday that would’ve made you feel more tired or sore today than you usually do?”
“Well, I suppose I stayed up later. George Burns was on the ‘Johnny Carson Show’ last night and I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. And I did move a couple of large items in the livingroom and bedroom yesterday. My old arms aren’t used to that. . .” she said with a smile.
“Respirations are normal,” Roy put in. “I think you’ll be okay. It sounds like you might’ve just overdone yesterday.”
“I’m sorry to bring you all the way over here for nothing.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Gage said with a reassuring smile. “That’s what we’re here for. If you feel like something may be wrong again, don’t hesitate to call. Better to error on the side of being okay than to not call and have something seriously wrong.”
They picked up their supplies and started toward the doorway when she stopped them. “Could I send some homemade cookies with you?”
Roy was about to say ‘no’ when Johnny commented, “Sure!”
They waited a moment as she walked over to a cookie jar that was what used to be a coffee grounds can. While she was putting several of the treats in a small paper bag, Johnny looked at the floor and noticed several dead ants and a squished black beetle near the baseboards of the counter. He nudged his partner and nodded with his head.
Roy grimaced. “Do we want to know?” he whispered.
“Question is does she know, if you get my drift,” Johnny whispered back. He then addressed the woman. “Uh. . .Petra, do you realize you’ve got some. . .uh. . .dead bugs on the floor?” The kitchen floor of all places. . .
She looked down at the terminated critters, then up at the paramedics. “Oh yes. Those were intruders.”
“Don’t you think it might be a good idea if you cleaned them up?” Roy wondered.
“No. I keep them there to show the others what’ll happen to them if they come inside and hang around.”
Neither man responded at first, but rather looked on with blank expressions as she handed the bag of cookies to Johnny. He held them, along with the biophone, in one hand.
“I’m sure your landlord could have someone come in and spray the place,” Roy offered. “You know, it’s their responsibility to help tenants with these kinds of problems.”
“Oh, I don’t need my landlord,” she said, shaking her head. “They’d just have the place sprayed as you said, and in a couple of months, I’d be right back where I am now. No, I prefer to get the message across loud and clear on my own.”
“Does it work?” Johnny wondered.
“You don’t see any crawling around right now do you?”
Johnny shook his head as Roy looked on, lost for words. He was sure he had to be looking a little green because the thought of eating cookies baked in a buggy kitchen was making him sick. When he glanced at Johnny, it was obvious he was a bit nauseated at the thought himself.
“Let’s go,” Roy quietly said, nudging his partner.
Gage flashed a wide, lopsided grin and nodded a farewell to Petra as they headed for the next room. “Well, thanks for the cookies. And remember, if you think something may be wrong with you, don’t hesitate to call.”
She followed them to the front door, closing it as soon as they were gone.
“You really want to eat those cookies?” Roy asked as he and Johnny headed for the squad.
“Who said anything about eatin’ ‘em? I just didn’t wanna hurt Petra’s feelings.”
When they got to the squad they set the equipment down and Roy began to put it back in the respective compartments. Johnny trotted over to a trash dumpster located across the parking lot. He tossed the bag of cookies in, then returned in time to climb into the squad where his partner sat waiting.
As they headed back to the station, Johnny stared out the front windshield in thought.
“You know. . .I wonder if Petra’s theory would work with mice?”
Roy took a quick worried glance at the younger man. “If you’re thinking of bringing in a bunch of dead mice. . . .no, make that any dead mice. . .to scare away Herbert, you’re nuts!”
“Of course not.,” he said, turning slightly in his seat, his hands moving animatedly as he continued. “What I was thinkin’ is what if we got a bunch of those toy mice. . .you know the ones that’re about the size of a real mouse and they have fur on ‘em. Maybe we could fool Herbert. . .if it is Herbert. . .into thinking they were real mice. Cats fall for it or they wouldn’t make the toys, right?”
“Forget it. A mouse is gonna know. Cats just like the fur on those things and the fact they can chase after them when someone tosses it for them. But you won’t ever fool a mouse with one of those things.”
Wearing an expression of disappointment, Johnny faced forward again. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Cap would’ve thought we were crazy anyway.”
Gage’s frown deepened. The two men were quiet the remainder of the way to the station.
“Any more sign of Herbert?” Johnny teased as he entered the dayroom.
Chet looked up from a project he was working on at the table. Mike and Marco had been watching the curly-haired fireman and eyed Gage with annoyance.
“You have any idea what you started?” Mike asked.
“Yeah,” Marco agreed. “Chet’s not going to stop thinking about Herbert until that mouse is out of here. And it may not even be Herbert.”
The paramedic grinned. “I was just doin’ ol Chester B. a favor. I’d say it’s better he knows about the mouse up front rather than get a surprise. Don’t ya think? Besides, he said it didn’t bother him anyway.”
“I don’t trust what either one of you say about the subject,” Roy teased.
Johnny shot an amused glance at his partner, then strolled over to Chet. “So what’re you making that you’re not gonna disturb Herbert with?”
“I’m not making anything. I’m just settin’ a more effective trap. And it’s not called disturbing, it’s called the first step in re-distributing.”
“What ever. . .” Johnny looked at the contraption on the table. It was a simple standard mouse trap, but unlike the last time they’d set a trap, it had a huge chunk of cheese mounted on it.
“Think you got a big enough piece of cheese there?”
Roy came closer and looked with curiosity.
“I’ve got an idea,” Chet defended.
“What. . . to give the mouse a hernia?”
Mike and Marco watched the exchange in amusement. They had figured Johnny would give Chet a hard time when he saw the set up.
“Maybe he’s hoping it’ll eat the cheese and be so full, it won’t be able to run away.”
Chet gave a disgusted glance at Roy. “Would you guys be serious?” The curly-haired fireman stood up with the trap in his hands. “I figure last time the cheese was too small. Herbert could grab it and run before the trap snapped on him. But this time it won’t be so easy. It’ll either take him long enough to carry it away or he’ll have to eat it right out of the trap and then. . .wham!. . .he’s caught.”
“Then what?” Marco asked.
Chet frowned at the lack of support he was getting. “Look, guys, remember I said if Herbert ever came back he’s had it? I meant it. So that’s where the re-distributing part comes in. I’m gonna catch the little guy and make sure he doesn’t ever come back again.”
“How?” Mike wondered. “Besides the trap’ll kill ‘im.”
“Well, if it does, then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. If not, then someone needs to take him far away to a field; far enough that there’s no way he’ll find his way back. Either way it’s gotta be one of you who takes care of Herbert.”
“Us? Why one of us?” Johnny asked, splaying a hand on his chest. “You’re the one who wants to get rid of ‘um,” he added as he pointed a finger at the fireman.
Chet looked sheepishly around at the others and sighed. “Because I’m. . .well . . . “ His gaze averted down, he continued. “I’m uncomfortable at being one-on-one with a mouse; and if it’s dead. . .well you know. . .it’s even worse.”
“So that’s why you really wanted to get rid of Herbert the first time,” Johnny commented. “It wasn’t about our reputation at all.”
Chet shamefully shook his head. “Well, not entirely anyway. I just didn’t wanna chance running into him somewhere.”
The others looked at one another, not sure what to make of the latest development. Soon Marco spoke up.
“This isn’t a way to get us to feel sorry for you and do your dirty work for you, is it?”
Chet shook his head. “Guys, I swear. . .”
But before anymore could be said, the engine was toned out for a small brushfire in Topanga Canyon. After the engine crew was gone, Johnny and Roy sat at the table with the mouse trap Chet had quickly set back down in front of them.
“You think we should go ahead and put it near the fridge?” Gage wondered.
“Sure. Even if Chet was just pulling one over on everyone, the sooner we get rid of Herbert, the sooner Chet’ll go back to being himself.” He picked up the trap as he stood and carried it over to the appliance. “I hope you’re still happy you told him about the mouse.” When he didn’t get a response, Roy repeated, “I said I hope you’re happy you told him about the mouse.”
Johnny rubbed a hand across his chin in thought. “I’m just wonderin’ if I want Chet back to bein’ himself.”
Roy rolled his eyes and set the trap on the floor just under the refrigerator. I think I’m beginning to wish the *mouse* could be the one to stick around.
When the engine crew returned to the station, the paramedics were already out on their second call since the fire had been reported. Chet glanced around the dayroom as he entered.
“Something wrong, Chet?” Hank Stanley asked, following directly behind.
“You seem a little nervous. Everything okay?”
“Oh sure, Cap. Just peachy.”
The captain raised his eyebrows at the sarcastic tone. Chet caught the look and apologized. “Sorry about that. It’s just that . . .well, you know Herbert’s back.”
“We think it could be him, yeah. But I thought you were okay with it this time. . .I mean, sure, we want to get rid of the rodent, but he is just a mouse.”
“Yeah, Chet,” Mike added having been standing behind the captain with Marco. “He is just a little mouse.”
Chet frowned at the two. They were pushing him into having to tell the captain he had a bit of a fear of mice. Something he didn’t want to admit to his superior.
Just as he was ready to comment, the curly-haired fireman spotted the edge of the trap underneath the refrigerator. He got down on his knees and pulled it out slightly. It was still set and ready for the little pest. He pushed it back under as he heard the captain say, “Good Lord, think you put enough cheese on the thing? What’re you trying to do, give the mouse a hernia?”
Chet sat back on his heels and sighed. A guy just can’t catch a break around here.
Johnny and Roy arrived at the scene of their latest call and were met by a very distraught woman in her early thirties. Her husband had fallen off the roof of their one-story home and was lying on the ground where he had landed.
As they trotted toward the structure, Johnny asked, “How’d he fall?”
The woman pointed up at the roof. “Those things.”
Both paramedics looked up and noticed the little dots in the sky above one end of the house. Bees were swarming all around the roof, the group covering the air several feet high.
“Oh man,” Gage groaned.
“Did he get stung?” Roy wondered.
“I don’t know. But those things are trying to build a nest up in a vent on the roof,” the woman explained. “And when Brett got up there and started spraying them, they were all flying around him. He wasn’t up there very long before he lost his balance.”
As she finished her explanation, the threesome had reached Brett. He was lying near a bush beside the house. Some obviously broken branches were evidence of where he’d first hit before reaching the ground.
Trying to ignore the buzzing sound from the numerous bees, Johnny and Roy knelt down on either side of the man.
“Diane. . .call. . .call your mother. . .tell her we won’t. . . .be there for dinner. . .tonight.”
“She’s not going to be happy about it. . .”
“Dianne!” Brett winced as he firmly spoke her name.
The woman glanced at the two paramedics, who were only half paying attention to the exchange as they went about their job. With a sigh and a shake of her head, she turned and left.
Johnny glanced at the husband with a small smile, then contacted Rampart on the biophone while Roy quickly checked the victim’s vitals.
“Can you tell us where you hurt?” Roy asked as he checked the pulse.
“My leg. . .right. . .leg. I think. . .I think it’s broken. And my . . .right side. . .ribs.” He glanced upward. “Damn bees.”
“Did you get stung?” Johnny asked, glancing up at the still somewhat angry bees.
Brett shook his head. “I don’t . . .think so. Not. . .unless it was. . .while I was on. . .the way down.” He groaned. “Ah, God, my leg. . .hurts.”
“We’ll give you something for that as soon as Rampart gives us the word,” Roy assured.
“Okay. . .good.”
The senior paramedic gave the vital signs to his partner, then confirmed that Brett had indeed fractured his right fibula and possibly a few of his ribs on the same side.
Johnny tucked the biophione receiver between his neck and shoulder so as to hold the item in place while he wrote down the information from Roy. Before he had the first letter written down, he jerked his head up and the receiver flew off his shoulder, his note pad and pen also landing on the ground.
Roy and Brett looked quickly to him as Johnny put a hand to his own neck. “I just got stung,” he explained. “It must’ve gotten on my neck while I was getting set.”
The younger man gave his partner an embarrassed grin. “Yeah. It’s been so long since I’ve been stung, I forgot how much it hurts.”
“Let me get the stinger out, then we can clean up the bite as soon as we get him set,” Roy said, pointing to Brett.
Once the first step was over with, Johnny picked up the note pad and pen. “Okay. Give me the information for Rampart and we’ll try this again.”
Roy noticed the dark-haired paramedic grimace every now and then. It was obvious the sting was bothering him more than he wanted to let on.
“You know, you might want to call in a professional bee handler,” Johnny offered as he gently touched the sting site. “It’d be a whole lot easier than dealing with these things on your own.”
“Believe me, I’m gonna.”
The three men looked up at the bees. Johnny then addressed his partner. “I guess we should be glad we just have one mouse to deal with.”
“Maybe you can use that to fix what you started with Chet.”
“Don’t remind me.”
Once they had Brett ready to transport, Roy got in the ambulance with him and Johnny followed behind in the squad. His partner had treated the bite by cleaning it with an alcohol wipe and putting ointment on it, but the stinging pain was still there.
Man, how come I didn’t hear the damn thing flying near me? All he could figure was it must’ve landed on his back and crawled up to his neck. Maybe we need to introduce Brett and Dianne to Petra.
Thoughts of the elderly lady’s theory brought a smile to his face. It was obvious old age was affecting her sensibilities, but at least her bizarre idea seemed to satisfy her.
Johnny arrived at Rampart shortly after Roy and Brett. As he headed in search of his partner, he ran into Joe Early in the corridor.
“Hey, Doc, have you seen Roy?”
“He’s in Three with Kel.” He glanced at the slight swelling and redness on Johnny’s neck. “What happened to you?”
Wincing after being reminded, the paramedic reached up and palpated the injury with his right index finger. “Ah, a bee stung me. I didn’t know he was on my neck till I cocked my head to the side. I must’ve squeezed him an’ he got defensive.”
“Well, c’mon, let me take a look at it.” He motioned for the Johnny to follow him to Treatment Room Two. Gage complied. “Did you get the stinger out?” the doctor asked.
“Great. Have a seat” he directed as they entered the room. “And I’ll just make sure there’s no part of the stinger left. Sometimes a small portion can break off and you wouldn’t know it till an infection started.”
Johnny hopped up on the exam table and the doctor carefully examined the sting.
“It looks okay, other than normal irritation. But if you have any problems from it, be sure and stop in.”
“I will,” the paramedic assured as he hopped back down. “Man, you shoulda’ seen all the bees around the outside of that house.”
“Building a nest?”
He nodded. “In a vent on the roof. We told the guy to hire a professional to get rid of ‘um.”
“Good advice. Let’s hope he uses it.”
Johnny grinned. “Well, with a broken leg and probably few cracked ribs, I’d say he doesn’t have much of a choice.”
The two went back into the corridor where Roy was now talking with Dixie.
“So, what’s the prognosis? Is he gonna live?” Dixie teased, addressing Doctor Early.
“He hasn’t used up his nine-lives yet,” he kidded in return.
After flashing a grin at the two, Johnny questioned his partner. “How’s Brett?”
“He’s okay. He’ll be off the roof for awhile. His wife said she’s gonna call for a bee specialist while she’s waiting for her husband to get discharged.”
“I wonder how much it costs?”
“Probably more than a simple mouse trap and a piece of cheese.”
“Don’t tell me you have mice in your house. . .” Dixie put in, a disgusted expression on her face.
Roy shook his head. “No, but a mouse decided to come into the station . . .again; though it may not be the same one. And Johnny felt obligated to alert Chet Kelly, who is now in the process of setting the rodent up for a hernia.”
Both Dixie and Joe raised their eyebrows in question.
“He’s gone overboard on the size of the cheese for the trap,” Johnny explained. “Think we oughta get back and see how things are goin’?”
“Sure. Who knows. Maybe he’s already caught the little guy.”
As the two paramedics said goodbye and stepped away from the base station, the doctor and head nurse wished them luck. Soon the men were in their squad and on their way back to the station.
“So, did ya catch Herbert?” Johnny asked as he and Roy walked out to the back lot where the engine crew was playing basketball.
“Are you gonna ask that every time you guys come back from a run?” Chet wondered.
Johnny gave it a few seconds thought. “Probably.”
“I hope you hurry up and catch him, Chet,” Marco commented, eliciting a frown from Gage.
“Hey, I think you guys better get in here,” Hank Stanley called from the doorway of the dayroom, a cup of coffee in his hands.
The five men hurried toward their superior.
“What is it, Cap?” Johnny asked.
“Go look,” he said, pointing to where he’d just come from.
The men did as directed and were surprised to see that the mouse was already caught by the tail in the trap, the cheese still partially attached to where it had originally been.
“Man, he must’ve been quick to nearly get away,” Gage commented.
Chet was still on his hands and knees. “See? I knew what I was doin’,” he said with pride.
“Okay, if you know so much, you can to take the mouse somewhere and set it free after we get off duty.".”
The curly-haired fireman looked up at the captain, his eyes wide and mouth open. “But. . .Cap. . .” He looked at the others for help.
“Are you saying you don't trust the captain’s judgment?” Johnny teased as he stood up along with the others. But he couldn’t keep up the game when he noticed the lost look on Chet’s face. “Oh, I’ll do it.” He squatted back down and reached for the trap. He slid it out. “Someone get me somethin’ to put Herbert in for now. . .”
Marco hurried to the apparatus bay and returned with one of the buckets from the utility closet. Johnny placed the mouse and trap inside, then released the critter. He then removed the cheese the rest of the way and set it in with the mouse.
“I guess he’s gonna need somethin’ to make a bed with.”
“She,” Roy stated.
“It’s a she. That’s not a Herbert. That’s a Henrietta.”
“Oh. Well then she’s gonna need somethin’ to make a bed with.”
Mike took his turn at helping and soon returned with a clean rag from the closet. “Here, Johnny.”
Soon they had Henrietta set.
“So what’re you gonna do with her till tomorrow?” Chet wondered.
“Well, I was thinkin’ maybe she could stay somewhere outside. You know, so we don’t have to look at her beady eyes. . . and twitchy nose.”
“I think she’s kinda cute,” Mike commented.
Marco looked in the bucket that Johnny was still holding. “Me too.”
Chet frowned. “Oh, you guys would. Look, no rodent is ‘cute’.”
“I’ll find a good place,” Johnny interjected. He walked out of the room, looking down at the mouse in the container.
It wasn’t long before Johnny came up with a solution. He decided to put the mouse in his Land Rover and leave a window open slightly to let fresh air in. The dark-haired paramedic figured it would keep Chet happy, and quiet, having the mouse out of the station. And it would also make it easier for him to just hit the road in the morning and get the dropping-off duty over with.
After another rescue, this one involving a woman who had taken a tumble down a fight of steps, the paramedics were once again at Rampart. Doctor Early approached as they refilled on supplies.
“How’s the bee sting?” he wondered, noticing there was still an inflamed area on Johnny’s neck.
Gage put his fingers where the sting had been. “Oh, it’s doin’ okay. It hurts some, but not as bad.”
Roy glanced around at the somewhat crowded corridor. “You sure are busy this evening.”
The doctor nodded. “It’s been picking up steadily all afternoon. There’s a virus that’s been hitting some people sudden and kind of hard the past few days. At first it was one person here and there. Now it seems like we’re getting an influx. It’s not an epidemic like we see with the flu in the fall and winter at times. But there’s certainly more people getting it than I’d expect this time of year.”
“A spring cold?” Johnny questioned.
“A little more than that.”
A call coming over the base station ended the conversation and the paramedics headed for the exit.
Later that night after a final check on the mouse, everyone was settled in bed and ready for what they hoped would be a solid night’s sleep. However, four hours after they went to bed, the klaxons sounded, waking the men up.
“Station 51, Engine 8, Engine 16, structure fire, 2126 South Clairemont Street, two one two six South Clairemont Street, time out 1:23.”
The men quickly got out of bed and pulled up their bunker pants, bringing up the suspenders over their shoulders. Within a minute, they were rushing for the apparatus bay and their respective vehicles.
The fire was at an apartment complex that was made up of three separate buildings. Two were still untouched by the flames, but the fire was spreading quickly in the third. Engines 8 and 16 were already in the scene, just rolling out their hoses to tackle the blaze.
“Did everyone get out?” Hank Stanley asked the captain from Station 16 as the latter approached him.
“No, we’ve got one couple unaccounted for. They live on the second floor, apartment 218.”
With that information, Hank directed his paramedics to go inside and do a quick search. Meanwhile, Chet and Marco rolled out one of the hoses from the engine to help in battling the fire.
With their SCBA gear on, Johnny and Roy made their way through the dark, hazy interior of the building. Flames were more concentrated in other sections of the structure, thus allowing them to get up to the second floor with no interference.
They stayed close to each other as they shone their flashlights on various doors, looking for the apartment where the missing couple resided. Johnny nudged Roy when the beam of his light revealed the door they were searching for.
He placed a hand on it to see if it was hot. With the door still cool to the touch, Johnny opened it. He and Roy entered and began their search of the interior.
“I’ll look in the bedroom!” Johnny said, his voice muffled by his air mask.
Roy nodded and went into the kitchen area. Suddenly the handie-talkie crackled and Hank Stanley’s voice followed.
“HT 51, Engine 51.”
Roy removed the HT from his turnout pocket and keyed the mic. “HT 51.”
“Roy, the husband that was missing just showed up. He was out at a bar with some friends. As soon as you and John find the woman, you guys get out of there.”
The paramedic glanced around, unable to see much beyond his face. “10-4.” He returned the HT to his pocket and continued to search. Suddenly he tripped, nearly losing his balance. When he shone his light downward, there was the missing wife with a damp towel next to her that she’d evidently tried to use to avoid breathing in too much smoke. Roy knelt down beside the woman. Placing two of his fingers on her neck, he could feel a carotid pulse. He then placed a hand on her chest.
Slow and shallow, but at least she’s alive.
Roy reported the find to his captain, then quickly got the victim over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and went in search of his partner.
Johnny got up off his hands and knees after looking under the bed, and stood still a moment as he started to feel woozy.
I must’ve got up too fast. . .
After several seconds the wooziness diminished and he looked over at his next place to check for the victims. . . the closet. He could barely make out the image of the door across the room.
Just as he was nearing it, he heard a noise from behind. Though he couldn’t understand what was being said since the voice was muffled, the motion he could make out told him that Roy was indicating for him to exit the room, if not the premises altogether.
But he’s only got one victim. . .maybe the other is in the next room and he needs me to get him. . .
Gage waved a hand in acknowledgement and started toward where his partner had just been. Although he was now feeling dizzy, he figured once he got out of the building he’d be okay. However he only managed to take a couple of steps forward when the smoky interior faded to a pin point.
At least it’s a better situation with Johnny this time . . . He was on his feet and even waved to let me know he heard me
Roy was sure Johnny was right behind him as he made his way through the livingroom of the apartment and toward the exit. But when he glanced over his left shoulder, the younger man was no where to be seen. Roy hurried back into the next room and immediately called for help over the HT when he saw his partner lying on the floor.
It *is* happening again. She can’t wait. . .she needs clean air. He’s at least got his gear on. . .
He had no choice. He rushed out through the front doorway of the apartment and was grateful when Chet met him in the hallway near the steps.
“Take her, I’ll get Johnny!”
Chet didn’t take time to ask for an explanation. What ever was going on, he could get answers to later. He just nodded and took the woman from Roy, then hurried back out as the senior paramedic went in the opposite direction.
Once back in the bedroom of the apartment, Roy rolled his friend over onto his side and saw that Johnny was still unconscious.
“I’ve gotta get you out of here. And this time, I’m going to.”
He drug Johnny over to a dresser where he could get some leverage to lift the unconscious man up. Johnny gave a muffled groan as Roy struggled to get him to a standing position.
“Hang in there. I don’t know what’s wrong, but you can bet I’m gonna figure it out.”
Once he had the dark-haired paramedic on his feet, Roy immediately draped the fallen man over his shoulder and awkwardly carried him out, partially across his back over the air tank.
Mike Stoker and Hank Stanley both saw the paramedics right away as they emerged from the doorway. Hank trotted to meet them, anxious to find out what had happened to his youngest crew member.
“He passed out,” Roy explained before the captain could ask. Though his voice was still muffled by the air mask, Hank understood what had been said. He hurried alongside to where DeSoto set Gage down, quickly helping to remove Johnny’s air mask and SCBA gear before laying him on his back on the ground.
The senior paramedic removed his own mask and immediately shrugged off his SCBA gear as he began to assess the still unconscious man. Chet already had oxygen going on the woman they’d rescued and she was coming around.
“Where. . .where am I?” She asked, her voice raspy from the smoke. Her question was followed by a few coughs.
“Take it easy,” Chet said. “You were in a fire, but you’re going to be okay.” He then went on to reassure the husband who had just made it over near the group.
Hank was watching DeSoto. “What is it, Roy? Did something happen inside?”
“I don’t know, Cap. We split up. I motioned for him to follow me out after you contacted me and he waved, I assumed to let me know he’d heard. But when I looked behind me a few seconds later, he wasn’t there. He was on the floor, still in the other room.”
Hank nodded and called in a Code-I. He then helped Roy set up the biophone and other equipment he needed to take care of their comrade and the woman.
After several minutes of being on an IV and oxygen, a very disoriented Gage was being loaded into an ambulance beside the woman from the apartment. As Roy climbed up in to go with them, the younger man opened his eyes to slits.
“Oh man. . .Wha. . .what’d I do?” He mumbled from underneath the oxygen mask.
Roy was double checking the flow of the IV. “You passed out.” A puzzled look from his friend brought forth more of an explanation. “Early thinks it might be a touch of that virus. You’ve just got a low-grade fever, but add the turnout gear and conditions we were in to that, and you just plain overheated. You were pretty dehydrated too. Your blood pressure dropped, but it’s come up some since you’ve had the IV.”
“What. . .great timing. . .huh?” Johnny closed his eyes. “I owe ya. . .one.”
Roy sighed. No ya don’t, partner. I owed *you* one this time.
Chet followed behind the ambulance in the squad. Another engine and a snorkel truck passed by him as they headed in the opposite direction toward the still flaming apartment building.
Chet returned his attention to the ambulance in front of him.
“Man, Gage, that’s twice in a few months you’ve had to be carried out of a burning building. You better quit pressing your luck.”
Joe Early folded his arms across his chest. “I’m going to keep you here at Rampart the remainder of the night and we’ll see how you are in the morning.”
Johnny was lying on the exam table, no longer on oxygen but
with the tubing from the IV still leading to his left arm; Chet and Roy stood
nearby as they waited to find out the younger man’s status.
“But I feel a lot better,” Gage assured.
“For now, I’m sure you do. But I think you’ll do better if we keep you on the IV and you get plenty of rest. ”
“Rest? In a hospital?”
Early smiled. “You know what I mean. And don’t worry. I’ll leave instructions that you aren’t to be woken up unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Roy stepped forward. “I’ll come get you tomorrow and give you a lift back to the station.”
Johnny nodded and sighed. “You ever get the feeling we go through this more than our share?”
“It keeps us from feeling invincible I guess.”
“Believe me, I feel anything but that right now.”
The following morning, the crew of Station 51’s A-shift headed to the parking lot after getting off duty. Roy drove his Porsche out of the lot and headed for Rampart while the others went home.
I’m sure glad it didn’t turn out to be anything real serious with Johnny. He keeps this up, though, he’s going to make me old before my time. He stopped at an intersection and waited for the traffic signal to change. I’ll probably end up with the duty of dumping off the mouse.
Suddenly it occurred to him that with Johnny getting sick and the attention focused on waiting for headquarters to get in a replacement in the middle of the night, they all had forgotten about Henrietta in Gage’s Land Rover.
Well, I guess she should’ve been okay. She certainly had enough cheese to last the night. Actually thanks to Chet she had enough for about the next month.
He continued on toward Rampart, knowing he and Johnny could decide what to do with the mouse when they got back to the station.
“Cap said he’d swing back by the station,” Roy said as he and Johnny waited for the release papers to be brought into the room. He glanced at his watch. “He’ll probably be waiting on us if those papers don’t get here soon.”
Johnny looked over at the door as it opened. “I think they’re here. . .”
Dixie entered and handed him the forms to sign. She eyed the dark-haired man. He looked tired and he still had some inflammation on his neck from the bee sting the day before.
“You sure you feel okay? I mean, I know Joe declared you healthy enough to leave before he went home, but I hope you’ll still take him up on his advice to get some more rest.”
Johnny shot her a crooked grin as he handed the signed release papers back. “Don’t worry. I don’t plan on doin’ anything but resting. I don’ wanna be stuck at home with a virus next shift. I’m goin’ straight home as soon as I get my Rover.”
I guess he’s forgotten about the mouse too. Roy figured he would wait till they were in the car before he’d remind his partner about the little furry critter who was temporarily staying in his Land Rover.
Roy glanced at Johnny as they headed out of the parking lot of Rampart. “You haven’t forgotten about your ‘date’ with Henrietta, have you?”
“Henrietta?” Then it dawned on him. “Oh man, is she still in my Rover?”
“She sure is. We forgot all about her too.”
“Man, I did forget,” he said with a sigh. “Oh well, how much trouble can it be dropping off a mouse?”
“I don’t know, but since you just asked that, I have a feeling it’s going to be more than we think.”
Johnny frowned at Roy’s insinuation.
Hank Stanley waved and walked toward Roy’s Porsche as the two paramedics got out.
“I was beginning to think they’d decided to keep both of you there.”
Roy smiled. “No, it was just that it took a little longer than usual to get Johnny’s release papers.”
“You mean they don’t have a drawer full with his name on them ready to go?”
Johnny looked stunned a moment until he saw the grin on the captain’s face. “Ah, c’mon, Cap,” he teased in return. “I’m not at Rampart that often.”
Hank snickered. “So how’re you feeling?”
“Better. A little tired, but much better.”
“Yeah, but now he’s gotta take care of Henrietta.”
“Henrietta?” Recognition registered on his face. “Oh, that’s right, the mouse. We forgot all about her, didn’t we?”
“Well, Chet gave her enough cheese to last a month. I’m sure she’s okay.”
Johnny was already just about to his vehicle when the other two casually made their way over to join him. The younger man opened the passenger side door and looked in the bucket.
“Oh man! I don’t believe this!”
Hank and Roy were just behind Gage and peered over his shoulders, but they couldn’t see into the bucket. Johnny lifted it out with both hands grasping the sides, still staring at the contents.
“What is it?” Roy wondered.
“She had babies!”
“Babies?” the captain asked.
Johnny nodded as he looked to his superior. “Babies. Three of ‘um.”
Roy grinned as he peered at the little jelly bean-sized pink-skinned animals. They were sucking on their mother’s teats. “Nothing is ever easy with you, is it?” he directed at his partner.
Gage switched his hold on the bucket to the handle in one hand and splayed the other on his chest. “I didn’t do anything. This isn’t my fault.”
“No, but if it’s going to happen to anyone, it’s going to happen to you.”
“Wait a minute. This isn’t even my mouse. I was jus’ doin’ Chet a favor.”
“Yeah, but I’ll bet if Chet had taken her, she wouldn’t have been pregnant.”
Johnny looked at the smug grin on Roy’s face. “You’re enjoying this too much, ya know that?” But he still didn’t have his new problem solved. “Well, what do I do now?” He asked looking from Roy to Captain Stanley. “I can’t turn her loose now. Not with newborn babies. Somethin’ might happen to ‘em.”
Roy was still grinning. “I’ve got an idea, and I think you’re going to like it.”
Johnny stared a moment, trying to read into his partner’s expression. He hesitantly replied, “Well. . .what is it?”
Hank listened in with interest.
At the beginning of the next shift, Johnny opened the locker room door to a crack. Peering in through the opening, he saw Roy standing in uniform near the lockers.
When Roy turned at the sound, Johnny continued.
“Are you alone?”
The senior paramedic nodded. “Yeah. Good thing too, or I think someone might’ve gotten suspicious.”
Gage opened the door the remainder of the way and gave him a confused look.
“It’s not every day you peek in and go ‘pssst’.”
“Oh right. I guess you’re right,” he agreed as he stepped over to his locker. “I had to do somethin’ though.”
“It’s okay. Chet wasn’t here, so. . .”
“Yeah, but if Marco or Mike were here we’d’ve been in trouble. You know how much they like to talk. Especially to Chet.”
Now it was Roy’s turn to look confused. Talkative and Mike Stoker never went in the same description in his mind. The engineer was probably the quietest person he’d known in quite some time. He decided to dismiss the statement and carry on.
"How are you feeling?” He looked and could barely make out where the bee sting had been. At least he’s not allergic to bees.
“Much better. Man, I slept a lot yesterday.”
Johnny opened his locker and unbuttoned his shirt. “I hope no one else here gets that virus. Man, I’d hate to have a severe bout of it.”
“I imagine it’s one of those things that just has to run its course then kind of fades away for awhile and you don’t hear about it.”
“Let’s hope so.”
Roy waited as his partner finished changing, then the two headed for the dayroom. But they were stopped by the others who were already lining up for roll call.
“Are we that late?” Johnny wondered.
Roy glanced at his watch as Marco explained. “Cap said he wanted us out here early. Something about a surprise.”
“A surprise, huh?” Gage acted clueless.
“That’s right, a surprise,” Hank answered as came around the rear of the squad. He was carrying a large shoe box with a holey lid on it.
The three other engine crewmen wore expressions of curiosity while the paramedics stood trying to hide their grins. Everyone was quiet as the captain continued.
“It’s been brought to my attention that we’ve got a little problem here. And being the dedicated leader that I am,” he added with some amount sarcasm in his voice, “I decided I’d take care of that little problem. In fact I found a way to solve two at the same time.”
“What problem is it?” Chet wondered.
Roy was waiting for Mike to speak. There has to be a reason Johnny referred to him as talkative. Maybe I’m just missing something.
“Yeah, Cap, what’s wrong?” Marco added.
“Well, it seems Herbert may have still been hanging around after all.”
“I knew it,” Chet said. “Where is the little bugger? I’ll take care of him.”
“Chet, you couldn’t take on a girl mouse,” Mike teased. “What makes you think you can handle a boy?”
That was it. Roy realized what Johnny meant. Mike may not speak as often, but when he did, he came up with some pretty good stuff and seemed to enjoy the teasing.
The curly-haired fireman shot the engineer a glare, then looked to the captain and pointed to the box. “Is Herbert in there?”
“No, but his offspring may be.”
Hank nodded. “That’s right.” He lifted the lid and the men peeked into the container.
“Babies?” Chet looked at Gage. “You were supposed to get rid of her. Now look.”
Johnny’s mouth dropped open in protest. He spread his arms out to his sides in a helpless gesture. “I was sick!”
“So what do we do with them?” Marco asked.
“We’re gonna psychoanalyze the mice?” Mike was staring in disbelief.
“Nope. But it seems as if one of us,” Hank explained, eyeing Chet, “has a certain discomfort with mice; also known as Musophobia. And Roy read in a magazine that the best way to get over that is to spend more time with ‘em.”
Chet’s mouth dropped open as Captain Stanley handed the box to him.
“These are going to be your responsibility on our shift until the babies are old enough to fend for themselves.”
“Bu. . .but, Cap! I’m not afraid of mice! I was just trying to get Gage to do my dirty work!”
The five crew members asked in unison, “Are you saying you don't trust your captain’s judgment?”
The curly-haired fireman looked from one shiftmate to another, then sighed in defeat. He started for the dayroom while looking into the box. “Anybody for some cheese?”
My thanks to Jill Hargan for the beta read, and to she and Kenda for the advice on the opening paragraph. :o) Any mistakes, medical or otherwise, are mine and mine alone. :o) The momma and baby mice were inspired by my brother and the ‘Toshiba Mice’. He and his co-workers found a mouse at work and they left it there in a container over the weekend. They came back to four mice! lol They then took turns with mouse sitting on weekends at their homes. :o)