By Linda2 and Audrey W.
Roy didn’t know which was worse working Thanksgiving Day or the Friday after. True working on Thanksgiving took him away from his family on the holiday. But it was usually a much calmer day than the Friday after. With the stores packed with Christmas shoppers, and the streets teeming with cars containing more people coming and going from stores, the accidents and incidents where usually thick; frequently wild. Anything was likely to happen, from fender benders to major injuries.
Worst of all was when the paramedics were called to a department store because a fight had broken out over a toy. Their major problem then had been that numerous customers were engaged in a group fight when they arrived. Both paramedics had wondered if they would get out of that one alive, and wished they’d had the engine crew with them to run interference.
Afterward, sitting in the day room sipping coffee, they were regaling their co-workers with all the details when the klaxons sounded. Reluctantly rising, they headed once again for the squad while Captain Stanley jotted down the particulars of the run. Roy took the slip of paper from him and handed it to Johnny.
Man down, Regal Department Store. Johnny read the words on the paper and groaned. Before Roy could put the truck into motion, the captain put his hands on the driver’s door and leaned down to look at the men in the cab.
“Want us to come with you? Just in case.” Hank’s grin told the paramedics the question was in jest, but neither man felt in the least like laughing.
“No, thanks, Cap, I think we can handle it.” Roy said as he pressed his foot on the accelerator and started the squad moving forward.
A good while later, Roy had managed to thread the squad through the traffic, and pulled up outside the department store.
“Wonder what this fight was over,” Johnny mused as he took a trauma box and the biophone out of the compartment. Roy shrugged and pulled more equipment from the squad. They approached the main entrance of the department store and were relieved to see a man hurrying toward them. Grateful they would not have to hunt for the victim, they greeted the man who introduced himself as the head of the Human Resources Department.
“I’m Mr. Madison. It’s our store Santa Claus.” As he spoke he led them through the store to the break room. “He was on break when he collapsed. He said his chest was hurting, so I thought I should call for help. He says it’s nothing; that he can go back to work. But he’s still having pain, so.…” Stopping at the break room door, he motioned for them to go ahead of him.
Entering the room, they saw an elderly man in a T-shirt and red velvet pants lying on a couch. Aside from the pants, he wore the white hair and beard of a Santa costume, along with the black boots. The jacket of the suit with its white fur trim had been removed and was draped over the back of a chair. A young woman dressed in an elf costume was kneeling next to the man, talking to him.
“Here are the paramedics. Since they’ve come all this way, in all that traffic out there, why don’t you let them have a look at you and decide if you can go back to work.” The young woman rose as she spoke, turning to face the paramedics. “He says he’s okay, but he was really in a lot of pain just a few minutes ago.”
“I’m fine now. I can go back to work.” The man on the couch started to rise but was pushed back down by the young woman.
“Let them look at you,” she insisted.
“Look, Kris, if you don’t let them look at you, I’ll send you home right now.” Mr. Madison spoke this time. “I don’t care how long it takes to find another Santa, I don’t want to run the risk of you having another attack with a kid on your lap.” As ‘Santa’ started to protest, he continued, “Now how would that look? Santa having a heart attack right in front of all those kids?”
“It would scar them for life,” the young woman exclaimed.
“So, let these guys look you over. If they clear you to go back to work, then fine. Other wise…”
“Okay, okay,” Santa finally agreed reluctantly.
The paramedics approached the old man and knelt down on the floor beside him. Opening their equipment boxes they began taking his vital signs and hooked him up to the heart monitor.
“Hi, I’m Roy and this is my partner Johnny. How are you feeling?” Though the question was asked in a conversational voice, the other man seemed to realize it was not a rhetorical question. The paramedic really wanted to know how he was feeling.
“I’m okay now. Just a little pain in the chest; it kinda comes and goes.”
“What’s your name?” Johnny asked with his green pen poised ready to jot the answer down on the notepaper mounted on the biophone.
“Kris Kringle,” the man answered without hesitation.
“And how old…Kris Kringle?” Johnny had the answer half written before it dawned on him what the man had said.
“What’s your real name?” Roy asked.
“It’s what’s on his employment records.” Mr. Madison spoke from behind them.
“Oookay.” Johnny finished writing the name down and asked his next question. “How old are you?”
“As old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth,” Kris answered solemnly.
Johnny rolled his eyes and pinched his nose with his thumb and forefinger, then looked at Mr. Madison standing behind him. The man shrugged as if to say he didn’t know anything more. This was going to be one of the wilder ones.
“Okay.” Johnny was beginning to think the man had watched Miracle on 34th Street once too often. Picking up the biophone, he contacted Rampart.
“Rampart, how do you read…?”
“Why don’t we get this wig and beard off of you?” Roy said and was surprised when the man refused, but was more surprised to find that the hair and beard were real. Placing the nasal canula for the O2 over the man’s hair and mustache was somewhat awkward, but he managed it without too much trouble.
The heart monitor showed a fast pulse and sinus rhythm with multiple PVCs. Dr. Early, monitoring on the other end at Rampart, insisted that Kris be transported immediately. When they were ready to place Kris on the gurney to transport, he refused to go despite the fact he was pale under his beard and obviously in pain once again.
“I just can’t leave those kids in the lurch; they were all looking forward to visiting with me.”
“They can come back another day. There’s still a whole month left till Christmas, Kris,” said Mr. Madison.
“Some of them, sure. But for some, this is the only day their parents can bring them.”
“Listen, Kris, I’ve done my best to find another Santa. I already called; it’ll take time for them to find someone else. But they will.” Mr. Madison was obviously becoming frustrated, but was doing his best not upset the other man. “Now you really have to go with these men to the hospital.”
“All right, all right, I’ll go.” Before anyone could sigh in relief he added, “On one condition…that he,” pointing to Roy, “stay and take my place until the other Santa gets here.”
“But, Kris, you can’t ask him to do that! I’m sure it’s against regulations or something.”
“All right then, I won’t go.” Kris folded his arms across his chest being careful of the leads the paramedics had put on him, and looked as determined as the pain would allow him to.
“Hang on,” Roy said and began setting up the biophone again. “Let me contact Rampart.”
Everyone collectively held their breath as he spoke with Dr. Early on the other end of the link.
“Rampart, the patient is refusing to be transported.” DeSoto held the phone to his ear as he listened for the reply.
“51, tell him he has to come in, he needs immediate treatment. He could have another heart attack.” Dr. Early’s reply was urgent.
“He understands that, Rampart and he says he’ll come…on one condition.” Roy was vaguely surprised to hear Dr. Brackett’s voice come over the biophone.
“What condition, 51?”
“That I stay and take his place…as the store Santa.” Everyone waited in silence for the reply to come. It took a full thirty seconds, but finally Dr. Brackett spoke again.
“Do what you have to to get him in here, 51.”
“You…you mean I should stay?” Roy asked slightly incredulous and somewhat dismayed.
“Do what you have to, 51.”
“10-4.” Replacing the receiver, Roy glanced up, exchanging looks with his partner. “Well it looks like I’ll be staying.” He turned to Mr. Madison. “At least until you can get someone else.” Mr. Madison nodded in agreement.
“Now, let’s get you on the stretcher,” Johnny said. Kris was transferred to the gurney along with his jacket, the heart monitor and O2. He then was wheeled out and placed in the ambulance, which had come to the back door. Johnny climbed in with him and the doors where shut behind them. The ambulance then began its journey to Rampart. Roy turned, going back into the store.
Riding in the back of the ambulance, Johnny did not think it would take too long to get to Rampart. But with the sheer volume of traffic, much of it stop and go, even the ambulance had a hard time getting through. Johnny didn’t have to be watching to know that most of the drivers on the streets were not yielding for the ambulance as they should be. After awhile of the stop and go, they were suddenly in the clear and traveling along at spanking pace. Within minutes they were slowing and backing into the parking space.
When the doors were first opened, Johnny didn’t notice anything unusual. Then a small man with graying red hair and a beard stepped up into the ambulance. Johnny had never seen the man before and was startled when the man addressed Kris.
“Well, Kris, I told you this would happen.” The man looked at the heart monitor and then nodded at the paramedic, who sat with his mouth open in surprise. “You’ve been away from North Pole City too often and too long lately.”
“I know, Dr. Rasputen, but the kids…”
“The kids’ll get along fine without you for a little while. What would they do if you dropped dead of a heart attack? Who would take your place then?” The little man unknowingly echoed Mr. Madison’s argument from earlier. Kris heaved a sigh of resignation and Johnny knew the little man had made his point. “Now let’s get you out of this cold ambulance and into the warm infirmary.”
Suddenly the ambulance was invaded with more little men who surrounded the gurney with Santa on it, lifted it out of the vehicle and carried it through the double doors of the building. Johnny deduced it must be the infirmary.
Johnny, intending to follow his patient into the building, stepped down from the ambulance. The ground made a crunching sound and the paramedic looked down to see snow underfoot. He then noticed that there was snow everywhere. He didn’t have time to look around long, for his patient was quickly disappearing through the double doors into the warm infirmary.
Roy glanced at his watch under the red sleeve of the Santa coat. Mr. Madison had been able to find a spare suit in the stockroom of the store. When Roy had protested that it wasn't necessary for him to really play Santa, Mr. Madison had looked at him admonishingly.
"You don't mean to tell me that you lied to Santa, do you?"
"Well, no, but, really." Mentally reviewing his arguments, he realized none of them would hold water with Mr. Madison. Taking the suit from him, the paramedic-cum-Santa stand-in reluctantly put it on over his uniform, all the while hoping he wouldn't actually have to play Santa. When he had the suit on, he asked to use the phone and called the station. Explaining the situation to Stanley was tricky, but he managed it. Sighing, Roy replaced the receiver.
Hoping the 'someone' Mr. Madison assured him was coming would arrive soon, he peered out of the stockroom door. The paramedic was wishing it wouldn't be necessary for him to go through the act of playing Santa. But after several minutes of waiting for the children and their parents to give up and leave for the day, and them still waiting, he finally donned the beard, hair and hat of the costume. Roy knew he had to play Santa.
Once in the chair and greeting kids, Roy couldn't believe he'd only been there almost an hour. It seemed more like three.
Cap's not gonna like this. I hope the other Santa gets here soon.
A mother clearing her throat got Roy's attention. He looked up to see a young lady holding a set of twins, one in each arm. The babies were about three months old, one a boy and the other a girl, dressed in red velvet outfits. The woman smiled as she handed the infants to Santa DeSoto.
"Uh. . ." was all Roy got out before he had two wailing babies on his lap. He tried bouncing his knees up and down to cheer the infants, but it didn't help. "Ma'am, maybe if you tried later. . ."
"You're Santa, cheer them up," she suggested in a firm tone of voice.
Roy looked at the upset children and could see there was no way they'd be smiling anytime soon. "I really think…."
"Look, Santa," she said, "I've been waiting in this line for over an hour. If you think I'm gonna give up my time with you now, you've lost your mind!"
The paramedic sighed. Suddenly he heard the elf helper call out 'Smile!" and he did just that, though a weak one. The wailing babies looked out of place.
No sooner had Roy bid the 'wonderful' young mother and her babies farewell, another mom was ready with her little toddler girl. Her dark brown hair in pig tails, the child crawled up on Roy's lap and giggled. He did the expected "ho ho ho's", then asked the girl what she wanted for Christmas.
"Uh. . .a dolly, a kitty . . .uh. . ."
Before the kid could say more, Roy was plopping the girl back on the floor, a wet stain left on his lap. "Oooh no…."
The little girl started crying and Roy stood, heading for the stockroom to change.
"Wait, where are you going?" Mr. Madison asked, following behind DeSoto. "There's a long line still waiting to see you."
"Sorry," the paramedic replied, pulling off the fake beard and hair as he entered the stockroom. "I did what I could, but I don't get paid enough for--" He stopped in mid sentence and shook his head. "What am I saying? I don't even get paid…for this anyway." He gave a sympathetic look to the other man. "I'm sorry, but I've really got to be going to Rampart to meet up with my partner." Glancing down at the wet spot on the suit he added, "This just isn't working out."
Mr. Madison nodded. "I'll go give them the bad news. Maybe a free toy for each kid will appease the crowd. Oh, yes I was just coming to tell you, you have a phone call."
Roy apologized again, then took off the suit. Unfortunately, with his uniform on underneath, there was a small wet spot as well since the stain went part way through. "Johnny's never gonna let me live this down. Maybe it'll dry by the time I get there." Grimacing and trying to keep the wet portion of the pant leg away from his skin, the paramedic picked up the phone on the service desk. "This is DeSoto."
Meanwhile, Johnny Gage had his own situation to figure out. The dark-haired paramedic was no sooner in the infirmary, when he saw the many little people hustling about as Kris Kringle was wheeled into another room, Dr. Rasputen following. His mouth hanging open, he stood looking around.
This isn't Rampart, that's for sure, Johnny thought. Maybe if I come in again, it'll be the right place. Pushing open the doors he walked back outside. The sight that met his eyes was astonishing. Where the ambulance had been was nothing but snow. Gage didn't have much time to look around and wonder where he was or what was going on for suddenly a little lady only as high as his elbows came up and grabbed hold of his left arm.
"You don't want to stand out in the cold. Come with me."
"But it's not that cold in LA. . .'
She seemed to ignore his comment as she led him back into the building and down a hallway. "Dr. Rasputen said to make sure you get a warm meal in you."
Johnny didn't get a chance to say more. He was being dragged towards another set of double doors. When the little lady and he got to the other side, he was amazed to see many more little people seated at tiny tables eating dinner.
"Grab a tray."
"Mr. Gage, grab a tray and get your food from the cooks."
"How'd you know my name?"
"Your name tag."
He did as he was asked, all the while looking around at the unfamiliar setting. After getting food dished up on a plate and placed on his tray, he followed his new guide to one of the tables. Only one problem; he was too big to sit at the furniture comfortably. The paramedic awkwardly sat in a small chair, feeling like he was back in kindergarten. He grinned at the curious onlookers as he took a bite of his meal.
I wonder where Roy is? For that matter, where am I?
Roy hung up the phone and stared ahead. He'd just been informed that the ambulance with his partner and Kris Kringle hadn't shown up at Rampart yet. And there had been no reports of an accident involving any ambulances, nor did Gage respond to any calls over the HT.
Where can they be? An ambulance can't just disappear into thin air.
Mr. Madison approached from behind. "You sure you won't change your mind about playing Santa? The kids'll--" As he came up to the paramedic, he saw the puzzled look on his face. "Something wrong?"
Roy slowly came out of his thoughts. Without really noticing the man, he replied, "I don't know." He kept his eyes straight ahead as he walked towards the front doors. He picked up the pace as he neared them and trotted out to the squad.
Mr. Madison shook his head. "Everyone gets rude this time of year.”
Roy arrived at Rampart after taking the shortest route, which the ambulance should have taken as well. There had been no sign of it along the way. He quickly went into the ER entrance in search of anyone who could give him some more information.
Johnny leaned back in the little chair and patted his full belly. He had to admit, the food had been good. So good in fact, he had put aside his apprehension and even gone up for seconds. He stifled a yawn as he scooted his chair back, his eyelids drooping.
His small escort sitting beside him grabbed a hold of one of Johnny's arms in alarm. "Oh dear!"
"Whaz up?" Gage asked, lazily. He hadn't felt this content to just kick back in a long time.
"I forgot your kind isn't used to the rich food here."
Johnny looked puzzled. He cocked an eyebrow, which was about all the energy he had in his stuporous state.
"Oh my. It happens anytime a guest eats too much. I never should have let you go back for seconds."
Johnny just stared, as if still waiting for the explanation.
"What's wrong, Tisabelle?" another little person asked.
"I let our guest eat seconds, Harry."
The elfin man gasped. "Is he. . .?"
Tisabelle nodded. "Yes, yes. He's going to fall asleep. Go see if Dr. Rasputen is still with Santa. If he's not, we'll need his help."
Harry took off towards the main part of the infirmary. Tisabelle got out of her chair and tugged on the lethargic paramedic's arm. "C'mon. Stand up."
“Jus . . .jus’ a minute." Johnny yawned again, then slowly stood, wobbling slightly, as he was unsteady on his feet. He blinked his eyes and shook his head as if to clear it. The others in the room looked on with wide eyes. They wondered how Tisabelle was going to get out of this one.
Harry came running back into the cafeteria. He stopped beside the little lady and whispered, "Dr. Rasputen is still in with Santa. What're we gonna do?"
"There's only one thing to do."
"Keep him busy till the effect wears off. Help me get him to the sleigh."
Harry's mouth dropped open in surprise. "Wait, you're not going to . . ."
Tisabelle nodded. "Don't worry. We can use his help anyway."
The others all shook their heads. "This can't be good," one whispered to another.
"Uh uh," another agreed. "She's gonna be in biiiiig trouble."
They watched as the two elfin people led Johnny from the room.
Roy was talking to Brackett about the ambulance disappearing when the two got a visitor with some very surprising news. Dixie knocked on the doorframe of the doctor's office and stepped in.
"Well, you won't believe this."
"What?" Both men asked in unison.
"The ambulance that had Johnny and the patient in it showed up."
Roy breathed a sigh of relief and Kel started for the doorway.
"It's about time," the doctor said. Dixie stopped him with a hand on his arm and shook her head.
"There's one complication. Johnny and the patient weren't in the ambulance. Only the attendants and they have no idea where they've been." Two puzzled expressions told her to explain more. "They don't recall anything beyond being dispatched to a department store. It's like their memories have been wiped clean."
Roy's mouth dropped open in shock. Brackett continued to stare in disbelief.
Johnny was wide-awake and shivering as he rode in the sleigh with Tisabelle and Harry. Still just wearing his light blue shirt and slacks, the paramedic was not dressed for the cold weather.
"W...w…we almost…th…th…there?" He asked, teeth chattering. After looking out over the mounds of snow, he glanced at the animal pulling the sleigh along. If he didn't know better, he'd swear it was a reindeer. A reindeer? I must be dreaming.
"Yes," Tisabelle answered. She smiled and winked at Harry, who looked like he was about to be sick to his stomach. Tisabelle was happy because, for now, her plan was working and the cold was keeping their guest very much awake. Seeing the apprehensive look on Harry’s face she whispered, “Don’t worry. He won’t remember a thing, they never do. You know that.” Harry’s scowl only deepened and he began muttering, his words unintelligible. Returning her gaze to the shivering Johnny, she only hoped they didn't cause him to become sick from the chill in the meantime.
After a couple of minutes, the threesome arrived at a quaint house that resembled one made of gingerbread. They got out of the sleigh and went inside. Grateful to feel warmth again, Johnny rubbed his cold arms vigorously, then stopped suddenly when he saw what was in the room. It looked like a little old-time factory, back when everything would have been made by hand. More little people were busy working at each of the dozen or so tables set up.
Tisabelle was pulling on his arm again. "C'mon, times a wasting. We have to get you busy."
Johnny looked down at the little lady. "Busy?"
Harry was the one to explain, though reluctantly, "Yes, you're going to help us make toys."
Tisabelle winked at Harry, who rolled his eyes in disgust, and pulled Johnny forward. The paramedic’s jaw dropped open in stunned surprise.
Roy looked on apprehensively as Dr. Brackett examined the ambulance driver. The man had no trouble following the doctor’s finger with his eyes. Nor were any of his reflexes impaired. Both hands grip on the doctor’s fingers equally strong. There was nothing that physically pointed to a neurological deficit, except the fact that neither the driver nor his partner could remember where they had been for the hours they were missing. Still neither one remembered anything beyond receiving the call.
Roy felt a sinking in the pit of his stomach. They weren’t any closer to finding his partner than they had been before. Dr. Brackett released both men from the ambulance crew and answered the police officers’ questions about the apparent amnesia. Both officers seemed to think that grilling the men, asking the same questions over and over would eventually cause them to remember the missing events. Kel assured them that all that would do would be to frustrate matters and push the memories farther out of reach. He suggested simply allowing the men to recover whatever memory they would on their own.
Roy, hearing this advice, knew it was sound. But he wished there was something he could do other than stand around waiting.
Busy did not begin to describe the workshop. Small people seemed to swarm with quick movements. Since Gage was taller than any of them, he had been set to work placing finished toys on shelves that were out of the others’ reach. They had ladders to climb to reach the shelves but were delighted to have someone who had no need of the ladder.
Johnny had begun his job thinking it would be an easy one, but was surprised at the speed with which the toys were assembled and passed on to him to put on the shelves. He found himself practically running from table to table, grabbing up the finished toys to place on the shelves. The elves, which he finally decided that was what they had to be, would scold if he did not keep up with them. He finally got the hang of transferring the toys from the tables to the shelves, and began to have fun.
Suddenly a bell rang throughout the workshop and all work ceased. The small men and women left their workstations and headed through a set of doors at one end of the room.
Staring after them, Gage stood with the last of the completed toys in his arms. Tisabelle approached him, smiling. Harry had left earlier muttering to himself.
“Come along, dear,” Tisabelle said. “Put those toys on the shelves, then we’ll join the others.”
“What was that bell? Where’d they go?”
“Hot cocoa break.”
“Hot cocoa, with marshmallows?” Gage’s eyes lit in anticipation.
“Of course, dear, if that’s how you like it.”
“Yumm.” Johnny started forward with the toys still in his hands, then remembering them he turned and placed them on their shelves. “That how I like it!” he said turning around again, his long legged stride quickly catching up with Tisabelle who had gone on ahead.
They entered the other room and found another dining room. The tables and chairs in this room were the same size as the ones in the infirmary cafeteria. Johnny frowned as he remembered the way his knees had bumped the table when he had eaten earlier. This time, however, Tisabelle led him to one that was somewhat taller.
“You can sit at Santa’s table,” she said. “He should be along any time now. Santa rarely misses hot cocoa breaks.”
“But he’s in the infirmary. He just had a heart attack. He won’t be able to get out of bed for days,” the surprised paramedic said.
“Oh no, dear,” Tisabelle reassured him, “Santa didn’t have a heart attack. Not like the ones you mortals have. He’d just been away from here for too long. Now that he’s come back, he’ll be just fine. You’ll see.” She nodded and patted his arm when he began to protest. “Now you just sit there and I’ll go get your hot cocoa with lots of marshmallows.” Turning she began to cross the room; Harry joined her halfway to the hot cocoa dispensary.
“Are you sure you should let him drink hot cocoa? After what happened earlier?” Tisabelle could tell Harry was still not happy with her for allowing the young man to partake of too much elfin food earlier in the day, but she knew as soon as the young man was gone, he would get over it.
“Just one cup won’t hurt him.”
“Make sure it’s only one.”
Johnny sat at the table where Tisabelle had left him. He watched as she crossed the room and was met halfway by Harry. Vaguely he wondered what the other man’s problem was. The other elves were cheerfully imbibing hot cocoa and chattering amongst themselves. Harry seemed to be the only uncheerful one in the group.
A wave of excitement ran through the room and Johnny looked up to see his patient from earlier walking toward him. The man was smiling, greeting the small people energetically as he passed by them. He looked the picture of health. All the paramedic could do was stare at him open mouthed. Behind Kris Kringle came Dr. Rasputen. They made their way to the table where John was sitting.
“Ahh, Johnny Gage, how good to see you again.” Under the man’s white beard, Johnny could see that his color was restored and a twinkle lit his eyes.
“But you….you should be in bed!”
“Why would I be in bed on such a fine day?” The other man asked as he sat down on the chair at the head of the table. “I’m perfectly healthy. Just needed a little North Pole City magic to restore the ol’ heart.”
Johnny wished he had his own stethoscope and other equipment. The man had been throwing PVC’s; he’d been pale as a sheet. Now he looked and sounded as healthy as he claimed to be. But it wasn’t possible, was it? People didn’t recover from heart attacks just like that, did they?
“Don’t worry, son,” Dr. Rasputen sat the table across from Johnny. “Santa’s as good as new. He’ll have to stay close to home for a bit, but he’s going to be just fine.”
“But…but…” Looking from one man to the other, Johnny came to the conclusion that he would have to take their word for it. Dr. Rasputen was a doctor, he supposed, and knew his patient better than the paramedic who had just met him. Tisabelle appeared at Johnny’s side with a large mug of hot cocoa piled high with marshmallow’s and placed it on the table before him. It served to distract him and as he took a sip, he forgot everything else for the moment. Tisabelle and Harry placed equally large cups of cocoa in front of Santa and Dr. Rasputen.
Before he knew it, Johnny found himself standing in the stables being introduced to Santa’s reindeer. The hot cocoa had been delicious, and in his preoccupation with it, he had forgotten every question he had been going to ask. Now Santa was going to take him back home in one of the sleighs.
He found that Santa had several small sleighs and a large one, which he used on Christmas Eve. All the sleighs were invisible to mortal eyes in the mortal world, and the only reason Gage could see them now was because he was not in the mortal world, but in the world of magic. Santa ordered a small sleigh with only two reindeer to be prepared and told the other man that he would take him back to the city.
Gage didn’t know whether to be happy he was going, or to regret not being able to stay longer and find out more about the village. He was fascinated to see that the sky above him was dark, even at mid afternoon, but the lights in the village were more than adequate to make up for the darkness. The village itself looked as if it had been taken directly from a storybook or film. Except for the cold and the snow, he might have been able to believe he was on a Hollywood set of North Pole City.
“Come along, dear,” Tisabelle, who was still acting as his personal escort, said, bringing him out of his reverie. “The reindeer are all harnessed and the sleigh is ready to go.”
Bidding goodbye to the reindeer and the elves that had followed him around on his tour, Johnny followed Tisabelle out of the stable to where Santa stood beside a small sleigh.
“Well, young man, are you ready to go?” Santa smiled broadly at his guest.
“Yep, I’m ready.” Johnny was slightly surprised to find that he wasn’t cold at all any more. “Hey I’m not cold,” he said in surprise.
“Of course not,” Tisabelle replied smiling. “When you’re in the Christmas spirit around here, it keeps you warm as toast.”
Johnny climbed into the sleigh and sat down beside Santa. The reindeer trotted forward until they were out of town. Then they began to run and, before he knew what was happening, the sleigh was flying through the air. In only minutes, the sleigh was over Rampart hospital and Santa was guiding the reindeer to land on the roof.
“That’s odd,” Johnny said looking at the crowds below. Though it was late afternoon, it was still fairly light, but no one seemed to notice the sleigh flying overhead and landing on the hospital roof. “No one seems to have seen us.”
“Of course not.” Santa brought the sleigh to a halt on the roof as he spoke. “As I told you before, it’s magic and therefore invisible to the mortal world, just like North Pole City.”
“I see.” Johnny would have like to chat and find out more about the magic sleigh, the reindeer, and Santa himself. But Santa told him he needed to get back home before too long so that he would not wear himself out again by being away from the magic too long. So Johnny hopped out of the sleigh and stood on the roof to watch as the reindeer lifted the sleigh once more into the air and in a twinkling the sleigh was gone.
Johnny stood on the roof a minute, not sure what to do. It was as if he was suspended in time and unable to move. After a few seconds, the feeling passed and the paramedic wondered what he was doing on Rampart's roof. He looked down at himself and saw he was in uniform, so he assumed he was on duty.
Shrugging, Gage headed for the door that would lead to a staircase inside. After going down several levels, he found himself at the main floor. John pushed open the door in front of him and walked into the corridor of the emergency area. Dixie was the first to spot him.
"Johnny! Where've you been?"
He gave her a puzzled look, then replied "I'm not sure. I was about to ask you...I mean where I've been and why was I…." An alarmed expression crossed Dixie’s face, puzzling him further.
"Why don't you come in here and sit down," she said opening the door to Treatment Room Two. "I'm going to get Kel to take a look at you. Roy's here, too. He's very worried about you."
Johnny followed her into the room. He started to sit on the exam table when Dixie asked, "Do you know where the patient you were bringing in went? Kris Kringle?"
Gage slowly shook his head. "I. . .I was bringing in a patient? Why? What was wrong with him?" He frowned in concentration as he tried to remember.
"I don' know, Dix. Last thing I remember is being at the station, the klaxons sounded, we left the station, I think…then 'poof', I was on the roof here."
"Just…stay…put," the nurse said. "I'll be right back." She left to find Brackett and Roy.
When the threesome returned, they found Johnny lying down on the exam table, his left arm covering his closed eyes. The paramedic had fallen asleep.
Dixie gently shook the man. "Johnny. Johnny, wake up."
"Hmmm. . .?" He lifted his arm and glanced at the others. "Wha. . .where am I?"
"See what I mean?" Dixie asked. "He's disoriented."
Roy gave an alarmed look to Brackett as the doctor stepped forward to check Johnny over. He took out his penlight and flicked it in John's eyes one at a time as he asked him a few simple questions. Pupil reaction was normal. Next he searched for any sign of injury to his head. There was none. "Huh. . ."
"What is it?" Roy asked.
"It's just like with the ambulance crew. There's nothing that physically points to a neurological deficit, except the obvious problems with his memory. He’s able to tell me the day, date and time, who he is, all that.”
“So, can he return to work?” Roy asked hopefully.
“The only problem I can find is that chunk of missing memory. Otherwise he fine.”
“So…Yeah he can go back to work. Just keep an eye on him and let me know if he has any more memory lapses.”
“Hey, I’m sitting right here you know.”
“Sorry, John. You can return to work.”
“What about our patient?” DeSoto asked.
“What patient?” Brackett asked. Doctor and paramedic both shrugged and shook their heads, as neither knew what the senior paramedic was referring to.
Roy furrowed his brows. He recalled getting a run to a store. . .Must have been earlier and we already brought the victim in, he thought. “Nothing. . .I think I’m getting my calls crossed.”
Johnny snickered. “Man, are we ready for a day off or what? First I can’t remember, now Roy remembers too much.”
“With the craziness of holidays, anything is possible,” Kel said with a smile.
He had no idea how true his statement was. For far away in North Pole City, Tissabelle and Harry watched the paramedics and others at Rampart in a crystal ball as the two elves sprinkled magic dust on it. Santa had assigned them to the task of taking all memory of his being a part of the mortals’ day away from them.
As the paramedics walked down the corridor of the ER towards the exit, they passed two very puzzled police officers who were equally confused as to what they were doing hanging out in a hospital.
“Looks like I’m not the only one,” Johnny commented. “Man, what a day.”
When they arrived back at the station, Gage and DeSoto got out of the squad and walked toward the kitchen.
“I’m gonna have a cup of coffee. How about you, Johnny, want some?” Roy crossed the room to the coffee pot and picked it up.
“Nah,” Johnny replied. “But, I would like some hot cocoa, with lots of marshmallows!”
Roy threw his partner a puzzled look. Johnny, rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the treat, looked back at him.
“Nothing.” Roy turned back to the cup of coffee. The day after Thanksgiving was always a little wild and this one was no exception. In fact it was turning out to be one of the wilder ones.
Many thanks to Lizabeth S. Tucker for the beta read.
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Stories by Linda2 Christmas Stories