Alice; Cameron; Carol; MJ; Melissa; Robin; Sally; Sheryl; Susie; Writer #5
Captain Stanley fumbled with the bedside alarm clock, trying to halt the incessant ringing before it awakened the entire household. He lazily stretched as he climbed out of bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Taking a wide berth around the chest at the foot of the bed, he headed toward the bathroom for a quick shower.
After showering, he quickly dressed, kissed his sleeping wife on the cheek and picked up the newspaper as headed out the front door. He stopped on the front step, stretching his arms wide and reveling in the morning sun.
‘Yes sirree...this is going to be a great day!’ he thought to himself as he shifted the car in gear and headed toward the lake for a quiet day of fishing.
He was on vacation!
Meanwhile, the other guys at Station 51 were slowly lining up for roll call, waiting for their temporary captain to arrive.
"Who do you think it'll be?" Chet asked nervously. He hated new authority figures.
"Don't know." Roy shrugged. "But I'm sure he'll be fine."
"I'm with Chet," Johnny said. "Remember the last time Cap took a vacation? We got that guy who hated the paramedic program."
Roy shook his head. "But he learned to respect us. Come on, you two. You act like we never worked under anyone else but Cap."
"I know how they feel," Marco added. "We've all been together so long, it's hard to ...get a good rhythm when someone's missing."
Mike piped in. "Let's give the guy a chance, okay?"
"Oh, we'll give him a chance!" Johnny snorted.
Roy opened his mouth to chastise his sullen partner, but shut it when the door to Cap's office opened. A huge surly looking man walked into the Engine Bay.
"Innnnnspeeection! Line up!" He bellowed.
Chet leaned over to Gage. "Oh, damn.. not 'Sarge!'" he whispered. "He's an Ex-Marine... but acts like he's still enlisted."
Sarge overheard the remark and headed to Kelly, stopping in front of the shorter man with a smile.
"What's your name, son?"
"Ahh...ah...Kelly, sir. Chet Kelly." Chet resisted the urge to salute.
"Well, Mr. Kelly...and friends. Welcome to Sarge's army!"
Chet stared up at the Captain, his mouth hanging open. After a few moments, he was able to find his voice. "Uh...th-th-thanks, Sir," he muttered.
Next to him, Johnny failed to contain a giggle. His partner inconspicuously nudged him in the side. Johnny turned his head and caught the disapproving glare from of the corner of Roy's eye.
"Who do we have here?" the Sarge asked, stepping directly in front of Johnny. "What's your name, Sonny?"
Johnny cleared his throat and attempted to force the smirk from his face. "John Gage, Sir."
"John Gage," echoed Sarge, nodding and taking a step back to give Johnny a critical 'once over'.
Johnny began to fidget nervously, under the scrutiny of the Captain. Finally, the large man stepped up, toe to toe with the dark haired paramedic. "Well, John Gage, this is the Fire Department, not Woodstock...GET A HAIRCUT BOY!"
"Uh...yes, Sir," John replied in a squeaky voice.
“Awwwright, listen up!" Sarge bellowed, his voice echoing across the bay. "I will announce the duty assignments for this shift -- the only correct response after hearing yours is 'Yes, Sir!' Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," the men replied half-heartedly.
"I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!" Sarge roared.
"YES, SIR!!" the men yelled back with as much volume as they could muster.
"That's better," Sarge grumbled. He looked at the clipboard. "Stoker -- get this engine polished and make sure the hose is packed according to regulation!"
"Yes, Sir!" Stoker replied.
"Lopez -- you're on KP today. Get some decent grub for us today!"
Lopez squared his shoulders. "Yes, Sir!"
"DeSoto -- organize that rolling drugstore of yours and make it sparkle!"
"Yes, Sir!" DeSoto yelled.
"Kelly -- you got the bay. I wanna see my reflection in this floor, get it?"
"Yes, Sir!" Kelly replied.
"Gage -- " he sneered, looking at the poor paramedic. "You have latrine duty. And IF you don't get that hair cut by next shift, you'll be THERE for as long as I'm HERE, understood?"
Gage buried his anger and stood straight at attention. "Yes, SIR!"
"DISMISSED!" Sarge ordered, heading for his office.
The crew ambled across the bay to their respective jobs, but one thing was on everyone's mind:
**Ho-leee COW, what are we in for?**
The crew of Station 51 were eating lunch when they heard a large crash. They went to investigate.
A Toyota had been creamed by a large semi, that had apparently gone out of control. The small car had folded like an accordion. The gas tanks were leaking.
Quickly, the men sprang into action as Sarge called in the silent alarm.
Johnny and Roy ran to the car. Roy checked the driver and yelled to Chet. "He's alive. We're gonna need the jaws and a backboard. What do you have, Johnny?"
John was busy checking on the passenger…a young woman. "Come on…come on!" he muttered, trying to palpate a pulse...there was nothing. He looked at Roy and shook his head. "She's Code F."
Roy backed the squad in and turned off the ignition. Both paramedics were discouraged after having to deal with the horrible accident. The two silently headed for the coffee pot. Roy poured a cup for himself and one for Johnny.
"You guys okay?" Chet asked, with concern. "
John only nodded, lifting the cup of coffee toward his lips.
Roy managed a slight smile. "Yeah, Chet, don't worry, we'll be okay," he assured.
"Well that's good to hear," Chet said with relief.
The men were suddenly interrupted from their conversation, by a thundering voice. "Do you boys get paid to stand around and do nothing all day?" Sarge bellowed from the doorway.
The three men stopped what they were doing and stared at the man, in disbelief.
"Well, answer me!" he demanded.
"Uh...n-n-no, Sir!" Chet stammered.
"Gage, I believe you have a latrine waitin' for you!"
Johnny glared at him and then with a loud sigh, he reluctantly placed his cup down on the counter and headed for the supply closet. Chet followed close behind.
Roy stood there a moment longer, trying, but not quite being able to understand this man's reasoning or behavior. After a moment, he noticed the captain hadn't moved from the doorway and was now casting his gaze his way. Roy smiled sheepishly, then set his cup next to Johnny's and hurried toward the apparatus bay.
Johnny was already in the process of cleaning the latrine, when Roy began his inspection of the squad. Roy could hear his partner’s grumbled protests from outside the locker room.
*Better keep it down, partner!* he thought, shaking his head.
Johnny kept on ranting. "Hair cut! Who does he think he is? Telling me to get a hair cut!" he complained angrily, as he scoured away at the sink. "He's not even my REAL captain! I mean if he were my real captain then MAYBE I'd think about getting a haircut...but, my hair isn't even that long!"
He suddenly stopped scrubbing and stood up straight to double check the length of his dark hair in the mirror.
"Uh...hi Cap," he said, with a nervous smile, as he caught the reflection of the rather large, angry looking man silently watching him in the mirror.
"Gage!" Sarge growled. "My office, NOW!"
Johnny rolled his eyes. "Oh man! I don't believe this," he whispered to himself as he dropped his cleaning supplies into the sink and headed out of the locker room.
As soon as Johnny had passed the doorway, the angry Captain turned and followed on his heels. Roy watched with concern as the two walked by. Johnny shrugged and gave his partner a weary smile.
Then the tones went off.
The squad pulled up at a marina. Boating accident. Johnny and Roy rushed to the Coast Guard Cutter, which sped out to the scene of the accident. A man hung onto a piece of wreckage.
"My boat exploded!" he cried. "Please, I can't find my son!"
Johnny and Roy dove into the water. Roy went to rescue the man while Johnny searched frantically for the second victim.
He finally spotted him, a boy of about twelve. He was floating in the water, motionless.
The time flew by as the men frantically worked on resuscitating the child and getting him to transported to the hospital. They had finally gotten a heartbeat, but the boy never started breathing on his own.
Both men returned from Rampart despondent.
The boy was on a respirator. Most likely, Brackett had said, the poor kid would never come off of it.
It was hard to lose any patient, but the Paramedics took it especially hard when the tragedy involved a child.
They entered the dayroom. Roy poured coffee for himself and his partner, who sat slumped at the kitchen table. Before he could hand his partner the cup, Sarge entered the room.
"Gage!" he bellowed. "I still want to see you...NOW!"
"Cap," said Roy, as Johnny slowly stood up. "We've just had a really rough run. Maybe this could wait?"
Sarge glared at Roy. "I don't believe I was addressing you Let's go, Gage. On the double." He spun on his heel and left the room.
Johnny started to follow when Roy grabbed his arm. He stopped and looked blankly at his partner.
Roy sighed. "Look...just...well, keep your head. Okay? Don't give this guy any ammunition."
Johnny pulled his arm free and followed the captain into the office. The men heard the door slam.
Chet shook his head and looked at Roy. "Man," he said. "I really feel for Gage. I think Sarge has it in for him."
"But why?" Roy asked.
No one responded.
"Sit down, Gage!" Sarge ordered, as he, himself sat down at the desk.
"No thanks, I'd rather stand," Johnny answered, a little impatiently.
The captain's eyes narrowed and his lip curled up in a sneer. "That was NOT a request, Sonny Boy!"
Johnny sighed again, but reluctantly sat down.
"Gage," Sarge began in a low voice, "I'm not going to beat around the bush. I don't like you! I don't like your attitude. You have no respect for authority. You have no respect for yourself, or for this department."
"Oh come on..." Johnny attempted to interject.
Sarge stood up. "Did I give you permission to speak, boy?"
Johnny rolled his eyes. "No, Sir."
Like I was sayin', you got no business being a firefighter! You're a disgrace to the uniform!" Sarge growled, pointing a finger at the paramedic. "I'm gonna be watchin' you, Gage! One little slip up and I'll see to it that you're out of here so fast it'll make that shaggy head of yours spin!"
Johnny sat restlessly in the chair, throughout the reprimand. His right leg bounced rapidly, while he inspected his thumbnail. As soon as the captain was finished, he looked up at him. "Is that all...Sir?"
Sarge glared disapprovingly at the paramedic, for another moment, before answering. "Dismissed."
Johnny stood up and walked dejectedly from the office. He thought about whether or not he should give Captain Stanley a call, ‘Maybe there's something Cap could do?’ Then he decided against it. ‘Cap, deserves a vacation, I'll just have to stick it out on my own! Besides, it's only for a week!’
The guys watched with growing concern as Johnny entered the kitchen and sat down at the table without saying a word.
"You look like a shell-shocked war veteran, Gage...what the heck happened?" Chet implored.
"Well, so much for tact," Roy said as Marco rolled his eyes and Mike shook his head. "You okay, Johnny?"
"Aw, man," Johnny groaned. "That guy...he's...he's...I don't know what he is. Man am I in deep...and I don't even know why!" Johnny pushed himself away from the table and started pacing the confines of the day room.
"Maybe you should just take a vacation or sick time or something, Johnny...the guy has it in for you, that's for sure." Chet stepped in front of Johnny, bringing his pacing to a halt. "Just say the word, Johnny, the Phantom's ready..."
"Awww, Chet...do yourself a favor and don't try to help." Johnny stepped around the husky Irishman and headed over to the coffee pot and picked up a cup. "I don't know what I'm gonna do. He thinks I'm a poor excuse for a firefighter and is just waiting for the chance to drum me out," he complained, waving the cup in the air.
Maybe we should try to call Cap," suggested Marco. "He'll know what we should do."
"Cap left town after last shift and won't be returning for another week," Mike said, shaking his head sadly.
Johnny's shoulders slumped as he poured coffee into the cup.
Roy hated seeing his best friend this way, but didn't have an answer as to how to resolve the situation. "Well...I guess you better keep a low profile and stay out of his way."
Johnny glumly stared into his cup and nodded. "Yeah...man it's gonna be a long week."
Tension filled the station for the remainder of the shift. Sarge not only had Gage, but all of the others walking on egg shells. It was the longest shift the A-group could ever remember.
Johnny spent part of his day off getting a hair cut. He figured the rest of the week would be hard enough without adding fuel to the fire. He then went hiking in the mountains, trying to regain his balance. But, try as he may, he couldn't let go of the anger and tension inside him that ‘Sarge’ seemed to bring to the forefront.
He tossed and turned that night, dreading the return to duty. He resolved not to give the Sarge anymore ammunition.
His resolve seemed short lived when he overslept. He raced to the station, but the damage was done. He ran in three minutes before roll call, scrambling to get dressed.
Roy and Chet stood in the locker room. "Hurry, Gage!" Chet urged. "Sarge will fry you for sure!"
"LINE UP!" bellowed Sarge. Johnny was still pulling on a shoe. He sighed, "You guys go. No use all of us being hung!"
Roy and Chet reluctantly ran to line up. Johnny followed a minute later.
"Well," Sarge said sarcastically. "Look who decided to join us. Nice of you to grace us with your presence, pretty boy."
"Sorry, Sar-..Cap!" John muttered.
"I thought I told you to get a haircut for this shift!"
John felt a spark of anger flare up. "I got it cut!" He winced at his own tone. It sounded like a whine.
The Cap smiled. "Got it cut, huh? Well, soldier! It's still not regulation. I want it cut 2 inches shorter by next shift."
At that point, Johnny lost it. "Now, wait a minute..." He was halted only by the sound of the tones.
As he and Roy pulled out in the squad, Roy turned to him, concerned. "I think you have a real problem here!"
Johnny snorted. "Tell me about it!"
Sarge pursed his lips together as he watched the squad disappear down the street. He watched it for a long minute, not making a sound, then grimly walked over to the radio to acknowledge the call.
"Oh boy, I thought Gage was going to lose it for a minute there," Chet muttered to Marco under his breath.
"QUIET!" Sarge yelled as he once again stalked over towards the engine crew. He didn't stop until he stood nose to nose to Chet. "You will stay quiet during roll call!" His voice suddenly dropped to a growl. "And I will deal with Gage when he gets back."
Sarge listened from the captain's office as the men worked on their duty assignments. He wouldn't stoop to following them around like Hookrader, but he wanted to be sure that there actually was some work going on. There was only an hour left until it was time for inspection.
Sarge frowned and glanced at the clock again. He wasn't very experienced with this type of unit, but surely it was time for that squad to be back now. It was probably that Gage...just like a raw recruit on the first day of basic training. Thinking he could take on his superiors and get away with it. He'd soon fall in line. Sarge frowned again. This time it would be different.
"Well, well, well, don't you look handsome," Dixie remarked with a smile, as Johnny ambled up to the nurses station.
"Thanks Dix," he replied, sullenly and handed her a supply list. "I didn't have much of a choice."
"Somebody at headquarters doesn't like the shaggy look?" she teased.
"Dix!" he whined, giving her a pitiful look. "It was NOT shaggy! It was just right!"
She smiled and placed two I.V. bags in front of him. "Obviously, not everyone shared your opinion."
"Obviously," he answered, raising an eyebrow. "Cap's on vacation and his replacement..."
"Doesn't like long haired, pretty boy types," Roy finished, giving Dixie a wink.
"It's about time you get here," Johnny said flatly, glancing at his watch.
"I stopped at a traffic accident on the way in, to see if they needed any help. No one was injured though," Roy explained. "I didn't think you'd be in such a big hurry to get back to Sarge, anyway."
"Oh, I'm not! Believe me!" assured Johnny.
"Sarge?" Dix asked with a laugh. "I take it your new captain is a little strict?"
"A little? You should see him, Dix! The first day...he starts calling me Sonny," Johnny ranted, rolling his eyes. "Then, he tells me to get a haircut, gives me latrine duty and now he says this haircut isn't good enough! It isn't regulation! Well, let me tell ya...I'm not getting it cut two inches shorter! No way! If he doesn't like it, well... then he can just..."
"Come on, Sonny," Roy interrupted with a grin, picking up the box of supplies. "We better get back. We don't want to give him anymore ammunition to use against you."
"Yeah, I guess so," Johnny sighed, giving Dixie his best 'long-suffering' _expression. "See ya later, Dix." He waved and turned to follow his partner.
Smiling, Dixie watched the two paramedics leave. "Keep yourself out of trouble, Johnny!"
Roy carefully backed the squad into the bay. "Johnny, whatever he says, just try to stay calm. It isn't going to do you any good to lose your temper," he advised as he turned off the ignition.
"Yeah, I know. I'll try."
As soon as the squad returned, Sarge was waiting. He met the paramedics as they were walking into the dayroom.
"You boys have been gone for exactly two hours and thirteen minutes. Long time for a man down response, isn't it?"
Roy's mouth dropped.
"No, Sir," replied Johnny. "It is not a long time. The man's arm was caught in a pipe. We had to extricate him. He had a huge gash. We had to stop the bleeding and transport him to the hospital."
Sarge snorted. "Sounds to me like that left you boys another full hour of slacking."
"Now wait a minute," Johnny snapped. "We are pro-..."
The tones sounded again, cutting him off. Brush fire. The squad took off, followed by the engine.
Hours later, the several divisions of the fire company were still battling to contain the fire to the perimeters of the brush land. Nearby houses were being evacuated. Johnny and Roy were kept busy with smoke inhalation and firefighters with soot in their eyes or minor burns.
Johnny hated that people were in danger, but at least working this fire proved a reprieve from Sarge.
The thought was short lived however, when the man himself came into the triage area. "Gage, DeSoto! Come with me. I have a victim down in the ranger station."
Johnny and Roy hurried to follow Sarge. All three hopped into the squad, driving through territory dangerously close to the fire's edge.
Roy glanced with concern at the line of fire that was much too close for comfort. "Let's do this fast!"
The other two nodded and ran into the cabin. Roy called for an ambulance. They hurriedly stabilized the victim, who appeared to have suffered a heart attack. Roy drove in with the ambulance. Johnny and Sarge silently followed in the squad.
As they were driving, a man jumped out nearly in front of the squad, frantically waving his arms. Johnny slammed on the brakes, missing him by the narrowest of margins.
The man ran to the squad. "Please, my friend! He had an accident on his bike!"
He ran off as Johnny and Sarge jumped out, quickly following him.
They looked down the hill. A second man lay at the bottom, not moving, his leg bent at a funny angle. The fire was raging close to the spot, threatening to shut them off from help.
Johnny swallowed hard and looked at Sarge. "Let's do this!"
Roy heard the message sent that the Squad had discovered yet another victim -- trapped down the side of a ravine -- and that a rescue was going to be attempted. Frowning, he felt an unfamiliar sense of fear coupled with worry....for the well being of his Partner.
He knew Sarge was a veteran Firefighter....but it was clear that he disliked Johnny...and Roy couldn't help but wonder if the man's personal feelings might intrude into his work -- leaving Gage vulnerable.
Instantly, Roy's anger surfaced....as did his instinct to protect his friend.
He glanced out the back of the ambulance, seeing the figure of the lone Squad rapidly diminish in size as it was left behind.
*Damn that Sarge! What the hell is the man's problem anyway? Johnny is a great Firefighter and Paramedic!*
The sound of coughing drew his attention back to his patient, but a part of his mind still toyed with the uncomfortable thought that he was leaving his Partner behind, in harms way.
He prayed he was WRONG!
Johnny quickly ran around the side of the squad and opened a compartment, grabbing a ropes, lifebelts and a splint. Running back to the front of the squad, he tossed one of rope to Sarge and started yelling instructions as he headed down the steep hill, "Tie this rope off and toss it down...be ready to help guide this guy up."
Seconds later, Johnny was kneeling next to the injured man on the ground, glad to see he was conscious. Though in pain, the man smiled weakly at his rescuer.
"Look, we don't have much time so we're gonna have to move fast," he explained as he worked the lifebelt around the man’s waist, then tied it to the lifeline Sarge has tossed down. He then he did a cursory check to make sure the victim had no other injuries than the obviously broken leg. "Okay, I'm gonna put this splint on and it's gonna hurt like crazy, but I can't help that right now..."
"Just do it," the man answered fearfully, "I don't want to die here."
Johnny nodded, applying the splint as quickly as possible. The man cried out, but stayed conscious, much to Johnny's relief.
"Okay... I’m going to support you.....while your friend and my captain up there, help guide us back up this hill...let us do the work."
Johnny helped the fallen man to his feet. It seemed to take forever, but they finally reached relative safety at the top of the hill.
"Gage...we need to move," Sarge bellowed, guiding them to the cab of the squad.
Johnny glared at Sarge and ignored his command, continuing on around the back of the squad. "What's your name?" he asked the injured man.
"Jacobs," panted the man, "Keith Jacobs." He drew in a sharp breath as his broken leg bumped against the ground.
"Gage, what the hell do you think you're doing?" thundered the Sarge.
"Mr. Jacobs, I'm gonna help you up onto the back of this truck here," Johnny explained, ignoring the captain’s question. "It's gonna hurt like hell, but we don't have a choice."
"Okay, man..." Jacobs moaned. "Just make it quick."
Johnny clambered up onto the back of the squad and reached down, grabbing Jacobs under the arms. He nodded at the man's friend, and together they managed to manhandled the victim onto the truck.
Johnny lay him back carefully, taking a few precious seconds to make sure the man was comfortable. Then, he dared to look back at the captain. "You're going to have to drive the squad," he declared carefully, forcing himself to keep his voice steady. "I'm going to need to stay back here and ride with him."
"Gage, you're not the one who gives orders here," Sarge growled..
"No, I'm the one trained to deal with injured people. And this man needs my help more than you need me to drive this truck." He stopped and looked around. Thick smoke filtered through the surrounding trees, and they could easily hear the hiss and crackle of burning shrubs and snapping limbs. "I don't think we really have a lot of time to argue." He gazed steadily at the angry captain.
Sarge opened his mouth, then stopped. Without another word, he spun around.
Johnny felt the door slam more than he heard it. A moment later, the engine roared to life and, with a mighty jerk that threw him off-balance, the squad was tearing down the rutted road.
By the time Sarge maneuvered the squad into the parking lot near the command post, Johnny was certain he had bruises on top of bruises. The ride had been rough, but he had to admit, Sarge did a great job getting them through the fire. A spark of admiration flared...the guy sure knew how to drive.
Johnny jumped down from the back of the squad as two ambulance attendants approached with a gurney. Minutes later the victim and his friend were in the ambulance and on their way to the hospital. Squad 36 was taking in an inhalation victim and provided escort for Johnny's patient as well.
Johnny cringed at the tone of Sarge's voice, the flicker of admiration he felt a moment earlier beginning to waver.
"What the hell do you think you were doing back there boy?" Sarge grabbed Johnny by the collar and slammed him back against the squad, snapping Johnny's head back against the metal compartment. "Since when do you think you became qualified to give orders? I am in charge! Do you understand me?"
Johnny shook his head, trying to clear the stars that danced before his eyes.
"I ASKED YOU A QUESTION, BOY! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?" Sarge bellowed.
Johnny nodded his head, "Yes sir...perfectly."
Sarge dropped his hands and stared at Johnny, noting the defiance he saw in the young man's eyes. "Get over to that hospital and pick up that partner of yours and get back here on the double. No pussyfooting around Gage...you got that?"
Johnny glared at Sarge, "Yes sir." He quickly stepped past the Captain and slid into the driver's seat of the squad. Gingerly rubbing the back of his head, he started the squad and slammed on the gas, leaving the Sarge sputtering in a cloud of dust.
"Did you see what he did to Johnny!?" Chet demanded of Marco and Mike.
The three men had been resting in the break area, grabbing a quick bite of food and something to drink before returning to battle the fire.
"Yeah....I saw," Marco commented, his voice quiet, but laced with anger.
Mike simply nodded.
"What is that guy's problem anyway?" Chet demanded to know. "He had no right to do that to Johnny! No right at all!" Leaping up, he started off. "And I gonna tell him that!"
Stoker grabbed his arm, yanking him back. "Not here...and not now..."
"But he can't just...just...shove Johnny around!" Chet argued.
"NOT HERE...and NOT NOW!" Stoker repeated sternly.
"Stoker's right, Chet," Marco agreed. "We'll deal with the problem later."
Chet looked from one man to the other, clearly not wanting to wait...but finally relenting. Flopping back down onto the bench, he snarled. "Yeah...well...you just better BET we will!"
Johnny drove away, shaking his head in an attempt to clear the ringing in his ears. He blinked several times. *I hate that guy!*
This week was just getting longer and longer. And now to boot, he had a headache. He hoped they controlled this brush fire soon. Right now, he'd kill for a simple rescue, like a cat up a tree.
He drove on, nearing an intersection. He had to constantly clear his head, which was now threatening to explode, as the ringing in his ears got worse.
He slowed down as he approached the intersection. *Must've banged my head harder than I figured!* He felt a wave of dizziness wash over him.
The light started to turn yellow. As he began to move his foot to the brake, his vision blurred. Startled, he missed the brake and hit the accelerator, speeding right into the intersection.
His heart leaped into his throat as a dark figure bounced onto the hood of the squad and off again. He heard someone scream.
Shaking, John slammed on the brake, his body whipping forward. His head hit the windshield and then everything went black.
Someone was shaking his shoulder. "Johnny?" He tried to focus... he knew this person. *Vince?*
"He flew through the intersection!" A distraught older woman said to Vince. "And he just hit that poor man! Oh my God! I hope that poor man is okay! And his siren wasn't on or anything...he didn't even have the light. Oh my!"
Vince's brow furrowed. He couldn't believe Johnny would be so careless for no reason. He waved over the approaching squad. *What a mess!* he thought, looking from the unconscious paramedic to the unconscious pedestrian that Johnny had hit.
"BP's 90 over 50...pulse is 80...respirations are rapid and weak..."
*Vitals? Who's giving vitals?*
"10-4, Rampart, IV D5W."
*Rampart? Who's talking to Rampart?*
Johnny felt something cold against his wrist, and then a sharp pinch. "Hey!" He jerked his hand away.
"Bob, he's coming around."
Johnny forced the weights off his eyelids and carefully brought his surroundings into focus.
"Take it easy, Gage. You're on our turf now." Bob Belliveau's grinning face swam into view.
Johnny blinked and shifted his gaze beyond the smiling paramedic at his side, and spied the crumpled front end of the squad. "Sarge!" he cried, lurching upright so quickly that he nearly clipped Belliveau on the chin. He realized the folly of his move instantly as violent nausea bubbled up from his stomach.
"Doggone it, Gage!"
Johnny was only dimly aware of Belliveau's displeasure as he choked against the bile in his throat. It was a long minute before the vomiting ceased and someone was laying him back against the ground. He closed his eyes against his misery. "Sorry," he whispered.
*Concussion! Sarge is going to kill me.*
"You guys ready to transport?" A new voice spoke up.
"Yeah," Belliveau said with obvious disgust in his voice.
"How's he doing?"
Johnny opened his eyes a slit at the sound of yet another new voice, recognizing the uniform of a police officer standing at Belliveau's shoulder.
"He's conscious," Belliveau answered, glancing at Johnny with undisguised annoyance, "...but he's not in any shape to answer questions. You're gonna have to wait until the doctors see him. How's the old guy doing?"
"Not too bad, considering how hard he was hit. Guess he has a possible hip fracture, some contusions, they said. If he's lucky, that'll be it. The front end of the squad is pretty high, so it caught him up high instead of down around the legs."
*Squad?* Johnny opened his mouth to speak, catching Belliveau's warning glance just in time. He bit back the words and fought down a rising sense of panic.
*Oh, God, don't tell me I hit someone with the squad...!*
Roy paced nervously in the ER, waiting for his partner to be brought in. He didn't know exactly what had happened, but from the details he had received, Johnny had been involved in an accident and hit a pedestrian on his way in.
"Roy," Dixie came up to the anxious paramedic and put an arm around him. "Why don't you go get a cup of coffee, I'll let you know when he gets here."
"Thanks, Dix, but I'd just as soon wait here," he replied, attempting a weak smile.
"Well, don't worry. It sounds like he'll be fine," she assured him. "And I'm sure there's some reasonable explanation for the accident."
A few minutes later, an ambulance backed in and an elderly man was taken out and wheeled into one of the treatment rooms. Roy watched as the man went by, feeling slightly relieved that he at least seemed stable. ‘I don't think Johnny's going to handle this too well, no matter who’s at fault.’
The next thing he knew, the second ambulance was at the doors. The attendants and Bob Belliveau were unloading Johnny. Roy followed Dr. Early over to the gurney, looking to Belliveau for an update.
"Let's get him to Two," Dr. Early ordered.
"Hey, Roy. " Belliveau said with a sympathetic smile, as they walked along side the gurney. "He's taken some nasty blows to the head, and he was conscious a little while ago."
Roy studied his partner with concern. Although his eyes were closed, Roy could easily detect the distress in his features. They entered the treatment room and Roy helped place him on the exam table.
"Someone get me a B/P," requested Dr. Early.
Roy quickly grabbed the cuff and proceeded to get the reading. He noticed that Johnny's eyes were now open and he seemed to be aware of the activity going on around him.
"Hey there, partner," Roy said softly, glancing up momentarily from his task.
Johnny's only response was a look of pleading, before closing his eyes again.
Roy followed the medical staff out of the room as the x-ray technicians entered. Dixie smiled at him. "Come on, I'll buy you a cup of coffee."
Roy nodded, running his hand through his hair. He followed Dixie to the lounge and wordlessly dropped into a chair.
Dixie placed a steaming mug in front of him. "We're in luck!" She smiled. "It looks fresh."
Roy nodded, staring into his mug.
Dixie sat in the chair next to Roy. "Roy, Johnny'll be fine."
Roy shook his head. "Did you see the look on his face? Knowing Johnny, he's going to torture himself for hitting that man." With a heavy sigh, he continued. "I just don't understand. Vince said he ran the light with no sirens. That's not like Johnny!"
Dixie nodded. "But accidents can happen to any of us, Roy. At any time. Maybe he was distracted, or...I don't know. It was an unfortunate accident."
Roy snorted. "Try telling that to Johnny."
"I will," Dixie smiled. "As soon as he's awake and able to listen."
Roy frowned. "I guess good old Sarge isn't gonna like this one very much. You know, he's probably what had Johnny so distracted anyway. That guy has been riding him for days now. No wonder he's off balance."
Dixie shook her head. "I've dealt with people like him, Roy. No one should have to be treated that way. Isn't there anything you could do?"
Roy shrugged, frowning. Before he could answer, Brackett entered the room. He looked grim.
Roy jumped up. "Doc, is it Johnny? Is he okay?"
Dr. Brackett nodded. "He's got a concussion. We needed to stitch a small gash on his forehead where he hit the windshield. But, what bothers me is, we found a lump on the back of his head. Fairly large goose egg, but I don't see how he could have sustained that injury when it was the FRONT of his head he hit on the windshield."
Dixie shrugged. "Maybe from the impact of his head snapping back against the seat?"
Brackett folded his arms. "I don't think so. Not from the speed of this accident, or the position of this bump. Roy, was Johnny injured earlier?"
Roy shook his head. "No. He was fine, at least he was when I left him."
Dr. Brackett sighed. "Well, I guess we'll have to ask Johnny about it, but he's not likely to remember."
Dixie stood up. "Why the concern, Kel? Is there more to this?"
"I'm just wondering when he sustained the concussion, Dix." Brackett looked from the head nurse to Roy. "Whether the concussion is a result of the accident..."
"...or the cause?" Roy finished.
Brackett nodded slowly.
Johnny heard the door open and soft-soled shoes stepping across the distance from the door to his bedside. Six-and-a-half steps and a stop. The noise from the corridor closed off as the door swung shut, leaving him and his visitor in the relative silence of the room.
He heard something drop onto the bedside table, and the unmistakable aroma of County hospital food wafted across his nostrils. He cracked an eye open and glared.
"I knew you'd wake up when you smelled lunch." A bright smile greeted him.
"You're not really gonna make me eat that!" He pointed a lazy finger unenthusiastically at the tray.
"And I'll fight you every step of the way to get that down your throat," agreed the matron. She fussed about Johnny, raising the head of his bed and plumping his pillow.
"A little thing like you?" Johnny's smile was very faint.
"I'm little, but I'm strong," she grinned. "You eat what you want, Mr. Gage. But just remember that the more you eat, the sooner you'll get out of here." She patted his hand gently. "I'll be back in a while. Try to eat a little, okay?" She winked and departed.
Johnny glanced at the food and pushed aside the table, leaning his head back against the pillow and closing his eyes again. He heard the door creak. "I'll eat, I'll eat," he muttered without opening his eyes.
"You want me to leave while you do?"
Johnny's eyes snapped open.
Roy's smiling face grinned at him from the doorway. "Can I come in, or do I need reservations?" He stepped in without waiting for an invitation, taking in the untouched food and his partner's slightly embarrassed _expression.
"Sorry," Johnny murmured, shifting on the bed. "Thought you were the nurse."
"Well, I'm sure whoever she is, she'll still go out with you. How you doin'?"
Johnny shrugged. "I'm doin' okay. I think Brackett's gonna let me outta here tomorrow."
"Yeah, that's what he said. Says you'll probably be back at work next week."
Johnny looked away, and his mouth twisted in a bitter half-smile. "Maybe..."
Roy frowned and decided to broach the subject that had been on his mind since yesterday.
"Johnny...Brackett says the concussion you have wasn't caused by hitting the windshield...that you were probably already losing consciousness when you accelerated through that intersection. He says you've got a pretty nasty bump on the back of your head....that that's what caused you to black out. What happened?"
Johnny sighed. "It doesn't matter, Roy,"
"Yes, it does." His eyes narrowed as he watched Johnny's miserable _expression. "Johnny," he said more quietly, leaning closer, "Look, Johnny, did Sarge have anything to do with this?"
"Roy, Sarge wasn't the one driving the squad, I was!" Johnny sighed and closed his eyes again. "It's my fault and nobody else's."
Roy was silent for a moment, searching for the right words to get through to his partner. "The guys told me what he did to you, Johnny."
"Doesn't matter," Johnny shrugged, indifferently.
"They were pretty concerned about it," Roy admitted, remembering a very agitated Chet Kelly.
Johnny opened his eyes and looked at Roy, seeming almost angry. "Ya know, maybe everybody should be a little more concerned with the guy I ran over, instead of with me."
"Johnny, that guy’s gonna be okay. I just spoke with Dr. Brackett..."
"Roy? I'm really tired, could we talk about this later?" Johnny laid his head back and closed his eyes again.
Roy sat in the chair for a few minutes longer, wishing he could somehow convince his friend to stop punishing himself. Finally, he stood up, giving Johnny a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "Get some rest, I'll be back later."
But Rest didn't come...
*How could I do it! How could I run down an old man! How!?* Johnny's mind screamed over and over again.
He knew Roy and the other fellas would want to find a way of absolving him of the responsibility of what had occurred -- but they couldn't!
What ever had happened prior to the moment he had mowed down that poor man, didn't really matter...all that mattered was that he, John Gage, had acted irresponsibly.
Was the fact that he had tried to drive the Squad, while ill, really any different than if he had gotten drunk, and then tried to drive?
He WANTED to believe there was a difference -- Dear Lord, he hadn't even realized what was happening...but the only concrete fact was: Somewhere here in Rampart was another human being, injured and in pain because of his careless actions.
Looking around in the darkness, the hospital room suddenly felt overwhelmingly oppressive.
Reaching over, he turned closed the clamp on the IV tubing, then with a couple of yanks...torn the IV needle out of his left hand.
Ignoring the feel of blood dripping from the IV site, he threw back the covers, then sat up, swung his feet over the side of the bed and stood.
The room began to spin...
Dropping back down on the edge of the bed, Johnny drew in several deep breaths, fighting down the sense of dizziness and nausea.
A few minutes later, he tried his legs again...better this time...he was fairly certain he wouldn't end up toppling over, but the task of retrieving his uniform and shoes and then dressing, were of a monumental proportion.
Twenty minutes later, breathing heavily, his face beaded with sweat, he pulled open the door to the room and peered out into the silent hallway.
A wall clock displayed the time of 3:17 AM.
He glanced toward the nurse's station, finding it unoccupied. Glancing past the desk, he saw the Night Nurse busy inside the medication room, her back turned his way.
Without another moment's thought, Johnny slipped down the hall toward the stairwell.
Chet Kelly finally abandoned the pretense of sleep and got out of bed. He glanced over at the bunk Captain Stanley usually occupied with an evil look on his face before he stalked out of the dormitory. Only a few more hours and this would all be over -- all least for this shift.
He wasn't surprised when he found Roy DeSoto already sitting at the table in the day room. Chet knew that if he couldn't sleep . . .
"Morning Chet," Roy muttered as he lifted his coffee mug to his lips for another shot of caffeine. "You couldn't wait for the tones either, huh?"
"Naw." Chet made his way to the counter for his own cup. "Not even after that call last night. Forget about what happened later."
"I know." Roy grimly remembered the tense evening they had all spent the night before. "You wanna come with me to see Johnny this morning?"
"Yeah. I'll bet he's real upset." Chet's body went taunt as the door opened, but it was just Marco and Mike. He looked at the clock. They was still at least thirty minutes until the tones.
"I guess no one could sleep," Roy remarked, with just a hint of irony.
"I know I couldn't," Marco replied. A small smirk crossed his face as he went over to the coffee pot. "I had to make sure Chet stayed put. I didn't want to have to break up any fights in the middle of the night."
Chet's face automatically darkened. "I still wished I would have popped that guy."
"No you don't," Mike said quietly. "You don't want to throw away your career on the likes of that man."
Chet didn't say anything, but he did hand Mike a cup of coffee. They all went over to sit at the table. For a long moment there was silence.
Chet spoke first. "What are we going to do about that guy?"
Roy snorted. "What are we going to do about Johnny? I'm more worried about him. He's still really torn up over what happened --" His voice trailed off as Sarge came into the room,
"He should be." The temporary captain's eyes gleamed harshly as he pronounced judgment on the absent paramedic. "A man like that doesn't belong in the fire department."
Chet jumped to his feet and would have taken a swing if not for the swiftness of Marco, who had anticipated his pal’s response.
"Doesn't belong...what do you know...what do you know about Johnny?" Chet stuttered, shrugging Marco's hands off of his shoulders. "What do you know about any of us?"
"Chet, take it easy," Mike cautioned, motioning for Chet to sit down.
Chet stared at the level-headed engineer for a moment before dejectedly shaking his head and slumping back into his seat.
"Cap, if you'd just give us a chance," Roy was cut off by the ringing of the telephone. They four men watched from the table as the Captain answered.
"Station 51...DeSoto? Hold on," he held the phone out, silently waiting as Roy pushed himself back from the table, walked over and took the phone.
"Roy DeSoto here...oh, hi Dixie...WHAT!? He can't be gone!...Yeah, yeah, we'll call right away if we see him." Roy hung up the phone and turned to face his friends and the captain. "Johnny's gone."
"Gone? What do you mean gone?" Marco asked incredulously.
"Gone. From Rampart. Dixie said he's disappeared and that they have looked all over for him...they think he left the hospital. They want us to call if we see him."
Chet stood and went to stand next to Roy, looking pointedly at Sarge as he steered Roy from the room. "This is your fault...all of it."
Marco pushed himself up from the table and glared at the captain as he followed Roy and Chet to the dorm. Alone with Sarge, Mike stared at the man.
"You're not a man of many words, are you Stoker," the Captain commented more than questioned.
Mike eyed the man a moment longer, before rising from the table and standing before him. "No, I'm not. But I will give you a few words...Heaven help you if anything happens to Johnny." With that said, he left the room.
Johnny stopped outside the hospital and tried to catch his breath. Still unsteady on his feet, he stopped and leaned against a tree at the edge of the parking area trying to decide what to do next. The staff at Rampart was accustomed to seeing paramedics roam the halls at all hours, so he slipped out with relative ease. Nobody seemed to notice the blood that trickled down his arm where the IV had been pulled out.
*Sarge is right,* he thought to himself. *I'm supposed to take people to the hospital, not put them there.*
His head was spinning and he could feel the earth shift under his feet. Johnny lowered himself down to sit at the base of the tree and lifted his hand up to his throbbing head.
He became aware of the blood still flowing down his arm.
*Oh wonderful Guess I should have...gotten a...band-aid for that...*
Before he could finish his thought, the spinning in his head won out as Johnny toppled over to the ground.
He heard a toneless voice...was only distantly aware of the touch of hands -- the sensation of being dragged across the hard ground... the fading sounds of traffic. The stench of rotting garbage assaulted his senses. He felt someone roughly searching through the pockets of his uniform -- wondered what they might be looking for...
*Money* he thought dully.
He tried to force his eyes open...to speak...to tell the other person, he was without any funds...but couldn't. He heard angry mutterings...cursing...then felt the sharp sensation of a boot impacting his rib cage.
The sounds of receding footsteps followed the assault.
As he gave way to the pain and exhaustion, he was vaguely aware of rain drops striking his face.
The staff lounge at Rampart had been converted into a makeshift command center. An enlarged map of the immediate area stood at the window. Vince Howard and Sgt. MacDonald from the LAPD stood by the map, outlining their strategy for the search.
Dr. Brackett sat in one of the chairs at the table, drinking a cup of strong coffee. He was not overly pleased to be there, and had suppressed the urge to bite the head off of the poor nurse that awakened him at the crack, until he heard the reason for the call,
MacDonald pointed at the map. "We've got three teams going over the interior of the hospital now. Once they're done, they'll move into the parking lots. Vince, I'd like your men to cover the area off the hospital grounds."
"Sounds good," Vince said. "Dr. Brackett, how far do you think he could have gone?"
Brackett sighed. "In the condition he's in, not too far at all. If he's lucky, he made it maybe four blocks ... could be less."
"Okay, I think we have all the information we need," Mac said. "I'll get a broadcast out and have the men search a four-block square radius around the hospital."
Vince's radio crackled to life. "SO-65 to Command Post ... we've found him. Request ambulance."
Hearing the information that the police had located his missing partner, Roy sprang into action... tearing out of the lounge and down the hall toward the ER Bay, where a designated ambulance was waiting.
The second after the "B" shift had arrived, he had given the keys to the Squad over to his counterparts and had made a beeline directly to Rampart. He hadn't bothered to ask if Stoker, Kelly and Lopez were intending to do likewise, he simply KNEW they would be only a few car lengths behind him.
Jumping into the back of the ambulance, he slammed closed and locked the doors, then shouted up to the EMT's...."OKAY, Let's go!"
As the ambulance crossed the short distance toward the alley in which the police had discovered Johnny, Roy readied his supplies, trying to encompass any possible new injuries that may have been sustained in the hours his partner had been AWOL from the hospital.
His worry was mixed with anger -- at the Sarge for the physical and emotional harm he had done to Johnny -- and at himself, for not finding a way to protect his friend.
Lew Marks, Captain of the "B" shift at Station 51, listened uncomfortably as Sarge spewed out his venomous accusations against John Gage.
He had been as surprised as his men when they were given word of the earlier incident -- certainly this wasn't the first time a civilian/ Fire Department accident had occurred over the years, despite the training and best efforts of the Fire Fighters and Paramedics -- but still they all cringed knowing what the situation could spell for Gage's future.
Marks drummed his fingers restlessly against his left leg, anxious for the Sarge's tirade to end. He wanted to shut the man down the moment it all began...but then thought that maybe if he gave the guy some room to vent and calm down, it would be better for all concerned.
"What they ought to do is throw Gage out of the Department, all together!" Sarge ranted. "The likes of him can't be trusted with other's lives...and this goes to prove it!"
"It sure as hell sounds like SOMEBODY needs to be thrown out of the department...!" Hank Stanley's voice thundered throughout the small room...and carried across the Engine Bay.
Marks looked over-- he hadn't even heard the door to the office open -- yet, there stood Stanley...
Fury was written across his face.
Sarge sneered at Stanley. "The head of the idiot brigade returns. What's the matter, Stanley? Can't accept the fact that you couldn't mold a failure into a real man?"
Anger flashed across Hank's face, but he controlled himself. "It's you that's the failure, not me, and certainly not John Gage." Hank walked slowly toward Sarge. "I got home this morning. Imagine my surprise to hear the events of yesterday, including how you slammed one of my men against the squad. Slammed him hard enough to cause a concussion... which was the cause of his car accident. You are the reason that civilian was hurt!"
"That's a damn lie!" Sarge jumped out of his seat, fists clenched.
"I hear it's the truth." Chief McConikee stood in the doorway glaring at Sarge. "Too many witnesses saw you manhandle Gage. And from what I hear, this incident is one in a series of abusive behavior you showed to Mr. Gage. It's to his credit that you haven't been reported before. Although, I wish he had come to me. We may have avoided this whole mess." He looked at Stanley. "I'm sorry, Hank. I feel responsible."
Stanley shook his head. "Chief, the only one responsible is this ...trash right here!" That said, he left the room. He needed to go to Rampart and check on his paramedic.
McConikee turned to Sarge. "You're on suspension, pending an investigation. I intend to have your badge." McConikee turned on his heal and followed Stanley out of the station.
Sarge was left behind, both stunned and furious.
Johnny opened his eyes. A fuzzy world swam into view. He groaned at the pain ..in his head...in his side. He struggled to sit up as fireworks exploded in his head. Someone pushed him down on ...a gurney?
He thought that was Roy, but it sounded like Roy was talking underwater.
"Don't try to move."
*Oh yeah. That was Roy.*
"We're going back to Rampart."
John frowned. "No...!" he whispered. "No hos...pi...tal." He struggled to sit up again, desperate not return to Rampart.
"Johnny, I mean it. Lay still," Roy ordered. He secured the straps and they loaded him into the ambulance for the short trip back to the ER.
Johnny struggled weakly for a moment, but didn't have much fight left in him. "Roy, I just wanna go home," he said dejectedly, in a voice barely above a whisper.
Roy was silent for a moment as he took Johnny's pulse, then finally he looked up from his watch. "Everything's going to be okay, just relax."
Johnny fought to stay awake but as the ambulance came to a stop, he closed his eyes, losing his battle with consciousness.
As they wheeled the gurney down the hall, Roy happened to look back and notice Captain Stanley walking up to the nurses station, followed by Mike, Chet and Marco. He was curious as to why Hank would be there. Part of him wanted to go fill the captain in on the whole ‘Sarge affair’, but he decided that could wait. Right now his biggest concern was making sure Johnny was going to be okay.
A short time later, Roy emerged from the treatment room and headed to the lounge in search of the guys. By now he was sure Mike, Marco, and Chet had filled Cap in about the events leading up to what was happening. He hoped, that with Cap back, maybe something could be done about the Sarge and his apparent vendetta against Johnny. Thinking about all of it brought a frown to his face.
He was still frowning when he pushed open the door to the lounge. Chet, facing the door and seeing him first, jumped to his feet thinking the worst at the scowl on Roy's face.
"What is it Roy...how bad is it?"
Mike, Marco, and Cap stood and turned to face Roy as well.
Roy looked at his friends, grateful they were all there for Johnny right now. Johnny needed them whether he would admit that or not. He relaxed and smiled, hoping to alleviate their fear.
"He's okay for now...a bit disoriented, but that's normal with a concussion. He also has a couple cracked ribs that they are taping up." Roy walked over to the coffee pot and reached for a cup.
"Cracked ribs? I thought he only had a concussion," Stanley commented looking at Mike for confirmation. Mike nodded and waited for Roy to explain.
Roy poured coffee into his cup, then sat down at the table and tiredly rubbed his eyes. "The cracked ribs aren't from the accident. We think he was kicked in the ribs by whoever dragged him into that alley...Johnny keeps going on about not having any money, so we're assuming someone tried to mug him."
"And when they didn't get any money, the kicked him while he was down and left him there." Chet angrily shook his head and dropped back down into his seat, laying his head back on the cushion. "Man, I can't believe this is happening. There is only one person to blame for this...if I could get my hands on him right now, I'd..."
"Enough Chet," Captain Stanley ordered. He could not believe what had happened in his absence and was feeling a certain amount of guilt himself over the situation. If he had been at work, instead of on a fishing trip, none of this would have happened.
Roy, seeing the look on Captain Stanley's face, immediately stood and crossed to him. "Cap...none of this is your fault. We don't believe that, and Johnny doesn't believe that."
"Yeah Cap...we know who's fault it is. What's going to happen to Sarge anyway?" Chet added.
"He's been suspended, pending investigation. It seems the Sarge has a history of questionable conduct," Cap answered, wishing they'd known the man’s history before he had shown up at his station on his shift.
All eyes turned to the door as it opened and Dixie stepped in. "Johnny's all settled. Why don't you guys come on and I'll take you to his room, but keep it quiet...I'm bending the rules by taking you all at once. I think it'll do Johnny good though."
She turned to open the door, but paused and turned back to the guys. "There's one thing you should know before you go up...we've had to restrain Johnny. Dr. Brackett was concerned that with his current disorientation, he might try to wander off again."
The guys nodded, not saying anything. Satisfied, Dixie opened the door and led them to Johnny's room.
Johnny drifted lethargically in the haze, feeling as if he were floating. The sensation wasn't particularly unpleasant, but it was slightly nauseating. He felt bruised and battered from his head to his toes, and tired beyond imagination.
He shifted restlessly on the bed, wishing the sedative they'd given him would kick in and relieve him of his misery. The restraints annoyed him -- this ultimate indignity only added to his despair. The next stop would be the psych ward, he decided.
He sighed and closed his eyes, swallowing thickly and praying for blessed sleep.
Dixie led the small group of men to Johnny's door, but before she could push it open, Roy spoke up.
"Cap, why don't you go in first -- alone?" He looked around at the other men. "I think we might overwhelm him if we all troop in there at one time. I mean, he's in restraints...how's he gonna feel if we're all staring at him?"
Hank nodded. "Yeah, Roy, you're right. That's a good idea."
Dixie smiled. "Trust me, fellas, the thing John needs most right now is some friends."
Roy tilted his head. "Oh, I agree, Dix. Just not all at once. Let Cap go first."
Dixie shrugged. "Whatever you say." She looked at Hank. "He'll probably be a bit groggy," she told him. "He's been sedated. But I think he'll still be awake enough for you to talk to him."
"I'll keep it short," Hank assured her, glancing at the others, "then the rest of you can visit a bit."
Dixie nodded and pushed open the door. Hank stepped through.
The sight of the man on the bed startled him into speechlessness. Surely this wasn't the same man who had playfully teased him about bringing back fish a week ago. The dark-haired man in front of him was a shadow of his former self. And he was asleep. Hank could only imagine what he'd see in those eyes if John were awake.
The motion of the door caused the patient to stir, and he opened his eyes. He stared blankly at his visitor a moment before recognition showed in his eyes.
"John, how ya’ feelin'?" Hank smiled, trying to cover his shock. He stepped to the bedside, taking in the pale features and dark circles under the eyes.
"Been better," slurred Johnny, blinking slowly. He swallowed.
Hank reached for the water pitcher at Johnny's side and poured some into the glass sitting next to it. He offered the glass to Johnny, tipping it carefully so he could sip at the straw provided.
Johnny quenched his thirst before speaking again. "What're you doing here?" His voice was very quiet.
Hank fixed him with a penetrating gaze. "I came to make sure you were all right," he said flatly. "I don't like anyone putting my men in danger." He paused, then added, "Especially racist bullies like that man who has the temerity to call himself a firefighter." He spat the last words out.
Johnny turned his head slightly to the side. "He wasn't the one --" he started.
"He wasn't the one who what? Had his head slammed so hard into the side of the squad that it gave him a concussion? That later caused him to pass out while he was at the wheel of that squad, following up on an injured patient?"
Johnny blinked at the ferocity behind the words, swiveling his eyes to look more carefully at Hank's face.
"John, that man endangered the lives of every man on the crew with his actions!" Hank's voice softened. "I'm just grateful no one was killed."
Hank ran a hand through his hair. "What do I have to say to get it through that thick skull of yours? This...Wasn't...Your...Fault!" He enunciated each word carefully, studying the younger man as he spoke.
Johnny shook his head slowly. "Then why," he said slowly, "am I in restraints?"
Hank almost laughed. "So you don't go wandering off again." He patted Johnny on the shoulder and jerked his head toward the door. "Look, the rest of the guys are out there, waiting to say hello. I've got a few things to tend to. You just take it easy, and get some rest."
"'Kay," Johnny murmured, his eyes sliding shut. "'M kinda tired." He forced his eyelids up again. "Thanks, Cap," he whispered.
Hank nodded. "You just get well, John." He watched Johnny's eyes close again, and then took his leave.
Out in the hall, he looked worriedly at the waiting group.
"How's he doing, Cap?" Mike gazed steadily at his captain.
Hank shook his head. "Not so great, Mike. He's pretty depressed, I'd say." He looked at Dixie. "How's the guy he hit?"
Dixie shrugged. "Bruised and contused, but no serious injuries. He had tried to jump out of the way when he saw the squad speed up. He's shaken up some, but he'll be fine. Told us that would be the last time he tries to cross against the red light just to catch a bus."
All heads turned her way.
"Cross against the red light?" Roy echoed, surprised.
Dixie nodded, her own _expression one of surprise. "I thought you knew?"
Roy shook his head ‘no’, as did the other men.
"When Vince interviewed Mr. Jennings....the man Johnny hit....he told Vince that he saw the city bus pulled up to the bus stop just as the lights began to change." Dixie explained, He said he was anxious to get to his appointment...and didn’t want to miss the bus...."
"So he started to cross without waiting for the WALK sign...?" Roy questioned.
Dixie nodded, adding: "...he said he saw the Squad approaching but just figured it would stop."
Hank frowned. "Does Johnny know this?"
Dixie nodded. "Yes, he was told. But Johnny being Our Johnny, he still feels guilty, though."
Hank pursed his lips. "Maybe the two should meet face to face."
Dixie smiled. "That may be just what the doctor ordered. But I think we better give him a day or two."
Roy looked at Dixie. "Mind if I run in and see him?"
She smiled. "Go ahead."
Roy entered Johnny's room. He quietly approached the bed. Johnny appeared to be sleeping. He stared down at his friend, taking in the bruises, the bandaged forehead, the circles under his eyes.
Roy shook his head as a flash of anger toward Sarge seized him once again. He sighed and turned to walk out of the room, stopping when a soft voice called his name.
He turned back to the bed, smiling when he saw Johnny's dark eyes open and looking at him.
"Hey. How're you doing?"
Johnny shrugged. "Okay. Want these off though." He gestured to the restraints on his arms..
Pulling up a chair, Roy sat down next to the bed. "How's your head?"
"Feels like I have a hangover," Johnny answered, yawning.
"I'll bet!" Roy laughed, then grew serious once again. "Look, Johnny...that Sarge, he was...he's not right, you know?"
Johnny simply looked away.
Roy sighed. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" Johnny looked at him. "Why?"
Roy frowned. "I should have...done something. I saw the way he treated you. We...I should have stopped him. He shouldn't have gotten away with it...any of it!"
Johnny leaned back against the pillow and shut his eyes. In a barely audible voice he said, "Maybe he’s right. Maybe all I do is screw up."
Roy's mouth dropped. Then he angrily replied, "That's not true. Don't talk like that."
Roy waited, but his partner didn't respond. Frustrated, he clenched and unclenched his fist. *Damn you, Sarge!* he thought.
He looked at his friend in the bed. "Get some rest. We'll talk later." He turned to leave the room.
Outside the door, his co-workers waited. "Did you have any better luck with him, Roy?" Cap asked.
Roy shook his head. "No. He's still pretty upset."
The men nodded, not quite sure what to say. Finally, Stoker spoke up. "Maybe we should just give him some time. Could be the head injury talkin."
Roy frowned. "But what if it isn't?"
Again, the men just stared, all of them at a loss for words.
"Well, lets see about gettin' something to eat," Stanley suggested to his men.
Giving Dixie a smile and a nod, he lead the way toward the elevators.
"Sounds okay to me...we left the Station so fast this morning, we never even got a chance to finish our coffee," Marco said, following.
Stoker and Chet started toward the elevators as well, but Roy hung back, lingering outside the door to Johnny's room.
The doors to the elevator opened, and Cap ushered his men inside, then looked back. "Roy? You comin'?"
"No...." Roy responded. "No...you guys go ahead. I'll...I'll grab a bite later on..."
For a moment, it looked as though Cap intended to
protest the decision, but then simply gave a nod, followed by: "I'll check back
with you later on."
Once the men were gone, Roy turned and re-entered the hospital room.
He moved silently over to the bed and looked down upon his Partner, who, even in the depths of an exhausted sleep, was tugging against the restraining hold of the wrist straps.
"You've been through way too much already, Junior...to have this done to you, too!" Roy said softly.
Reaching down, he gently removed the wrist restraints...and an instant later, Johnny flopped his left arm up and across his eyes...in his usual GAGE sleeping position.
He gave a contended SIGH, never really waking, simply slipping into a more comfortable sleep.
Roy adjusted the covers, then pulled over a chair and sat down, keeping vigil.
The man known as ‘Sarge’ sat alone in his small one room apartment. On a normal day, the apartment was spotlessly clean, another habit that had stayed with him from his military days.
Today, however was not a normal day. He had just been suspended and possibly faced being booted from the Fire department. He sat in a chair, facing his living room window.
*After all my years of hard work and dedication! Risking life and limb! I've given everything to this department! Some young, hotshot...’boot’ is not going to come along and ruin my career, my life! I won't let him!*
He took a long swig of beer, sucking down the entire contents of the can and then clenching his jaw. He squeezed the empty can, crumpling it in his hand.
"No sir! I'm gonna make sure you get yours, Sonny boy!" the man seethed, popping open another can.
Hearing a noise, Roy awoke and opened his eyes. He hadn't even realized he'd fallen asleep. "Hey Doc," he said quietly to Joe Early, who stood on the other side of the bed, silently studying Johnny's chart.
"Oh, sorry Roy. I didn't mean to wake you," the doctor replied, kindly.
Roy yawned and tried to work out a kink in his neck. "That's okay, I didn't mean to fall asleep. How's he doing?"
"He's coming along," Dr. Early smiled and put the chart down. "I see someone removed the restraints?"
"Yeah, I couldn't stand to see him like that," Roy confessed. "Besides, I figured I'd hang around and keep an eye on him."
"Well, he seems to be resting comfortably," remarked Joe. "Probably the best thing for him right now."
"Yeah," Roy agreed, wearily rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand.
Dr. Early studied Roy for a moment, frowning as he watched the paramedic stifle another yawn. "I think Johnny is fine now, Roy. Why don't you go on home and get some rest. We can call you if there's any change."
Roy considered the suggestion for a minute, then shook his head. "Nah...I think I'll stay here for awhile yet. I want to be here when he wakes up."
"That's the answer I expected, but I had to try," Dr. Early chuckled hearing Roy's stomach growl. "At least go down to the cafeteria and get a bite to eat."
Roy stood and grinned, rubbing his belly. "I guess it has been awhile since I ate. I think I'll grab something and bring it back up here." He gently patted Johnny's arm and spoke to his sleeping friend, "Johnny, you take it easy...I'm gonna step out for a minute, but I'll be right back."
Dr. Early smiled and left the room. Roy followed close behind, but paused at the door to take a last glance at Johnny before proceeding down the hall.
Sarge haphazardly parked his car in the area outside the emergency entrance of Rampart General Hospital and staggered through the doors. He took a deep breath and pasted a smile on his face as he approached the admissions desk.
"May I help you sir?" The young nurse inquired, tilting her head to one side.
"Yes, yes...I'm here to visit a friend. Mr. John Gage. What room is he in please?"
The nurse flipped through the papers in front of her before replying. "I'm sorry sir. Mr. Gage is not accepting visitors."
Sarge nearly choked on the anger that threatened to overwhelm him. He did not come this far to be turned away now. Spying the phone on the desk to the nurse's left, he pleasantly asked, "Mind if I use your phone there?"
"No, not at all sir," the nurse replied, turning to reach for the phone. Sarge quickly grabbed the papers and slid them inside his jacket, hastily heading toward the elevator.
The nurse shook her head, placing the phone back on the desk as she watched him step onto the elevator. As the doors closed, she glanced down where the papers had been lying and, finding them gone, looked on the floor behind the counter and in front of the counter. Finding nothing, she quickly picked up the phone and dialed security.
Sarge stepped out of the elevator and stopped outside of Johnny's room. Looking both ways down the hall and finding it clear, he stepped inside, closing the door behind him.
Pain in his rib cage woke Johnny, as he tried to turn over on to his right side.
"Bad idea!" he murmured, rolling onto his back once again.
It was then that he became aware of another presence. Blinking away the last vestiges of sleep, he stared up at the man standing at the foot of the bed. His unexpected visitor’s _expression was dark and foreboding.
The chill of fear swept over him. Swallowing hard, he managed: "Sarge?"
When the elevator door opened, Roy DeSoto stepped out juggling a large Styrofoam cup of coffee in one hand and a paper plate with a sandwich and an apple in the other. He continued down the hall towards Johnny's room, nodding at a couple of nurses that he knew slightly.
He paused at Johnny's door and took a sip of coffee. It wasn't very good, but it was hot and sweet -- just what he needed right now. Hearing a voice on the other side of the door, he smiled. Johnny must have awakened and turned on the TV. But as he pushed the door open, his smile disappeared from his face when he realized it wasn't the TV he had been hearing.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Roy shouted when he realized the voice he'd heard, was that of Sarge. Anger welled up inside of him, causing his hands to tremble. Before he had a chance to get his emotions in control, the apple began rolling around on his plate. "Damn it!" he swore, as he watched the apple roll off the plate and onto the floor.
Roy looked over at Johnny, who watched silently from his bed. He thought he caught a glimmer of amusement in Johnny's eyes and he even noticed the corners of Johnny's mouth turn up slightly when the apple fell to the floor.
"It's okay Roy," Johnny quietly told his friend.
Roy walked over to the side of the bed, next to Sarge. He set his plate and coffee down on the tray and turned to the larger man. "Look, I don't know how you got in here, but I want you to leave...now!" he demanded.
"Roy," Johnny spoke up again. "It's okay, really."
Sarge sighed, holding his hands up in resignation and started backing towards the door. "I better go, I've caused enough trouble all ready." Then he turned and left.
Roy watched the door for a moment, a little surprised that the captain had relented so easily. He turned to check on his partner. "Johnny, what was that all about?"
Johnny yawned and rubbed his eyes. "I don't know for sure," he answered. "I have to admit I was a little afraid when I woke up and saw him standing there. But then...it was weird Roy, he just looked kinda sad and all alone."
Roy sat down on the edge of the bed, shaking his head. *I can't believe that guy had the nerve to show up here!*
"Tell me what he said?" Roy commanded, suspecting that the Sarge’s visit was made for the sole purpose of harassing and intimidating Johnny, yet again.
"Well," Johnny began, looking perplexed. "He just started going on about his son...I didn't even know he had a son." Johnny yawned, trying to shake off the drowsiness that threatened to overtake him. "I guess he got killed in Vietnam. He said something about not being trained well and he..." Another big yawn interrupted his word "...thought he knew it all?"
"That's too bad," Roy said softly, noticing his partner's battle to stay awake. He wondered what, if anything, that had to do with the way he had behaved, but decided as long as Johnny was unharmed, he could wait until later to find out the rest of the details. "Why don't you get some sleep, you look pretty beat. I'm just going to sit here for awhile."
Johnny nodded, his eyes already closed. "‘kay...."
Roy kept his vigil as Johnny slept. All the time, his mind was on Sarge and his surprise visit. Finally, he stood up and left the room. He had to know why events had unfolded this way.
A quick call to a friend got him a lead on Sarge's address.
Roy pulled up to a small building. He entered and went to number 24. He hesitated outside the door, his resolve crumbling, but then he remembered the look of pain in his friend's eyes when he realized he had hit that man with the squad. Roy knocked on the door.
It was quite a different Sarge who opened the door. The man looked smaller, older. Not at all like the powerful captain who had entered their station less than a week ago.
Roy asked, "May I come in?"
Wordlessly, Sarge stepped aside and Roy entered.
"Coffee?" Sarge asked.
Roy shook his head no.
"I suppose I know why you're here." Sarge gestured to a chair.
Roy sat down without a word.
"I suppose I was ...a little hard on your friend." Sarge walked to the mantel of his fireplace and leaned on it. "I...I'm sorry. I guess it was all those years of ...well, military training."
Roy shook his head. "I don't buy that. There was more to it. Why Johnny?"
Sarge sighed. He picked up a small photo and handed it to Roy.
Roy glanced at it and gasped. The photo was of a young man, in a dress military uniform. The dark hair, cocky grin. If Roy didn't know better, he would swear he was looking at a photo of Johnny. Except for the eyes. This man had lighter eyes.
"That's my boy..." Sarge sank into another chair, staring at the floor. "That was my boy. He was sure of himself, cocky...a young go-getter. I was ...rough on him. I wanted him ...to make something of himself, you know?"
Roy nodded, saying nothing.
Sarge sighed. "We didn't always see eye to eye. One day, we had a huge fight. I wanted him to go to college...he wanted to join the service. We exchanged some words...and he ran off and joined the army. He didn't even come home to tell me. After that, he sent me a letter or two, but I was so damn mad, I never answered them. Then I got that telegram..."
Sarge paused as his voice hitched.
Roy watched his hands tremble.
"I was so angry at him. Damn fool got himself killed!" Sarge choked out. "I ...I guess when I saw your friend..."
"...you channeled your anger toward Johnny." Roy finished.
Sarge nodded. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize... Mr. DeSoto... Roy, I loved my boy. I guess the one I'm most angry with is me. I was a fool! A damn fool! And now it’s too late...too late to tell him..." He dropped his head into his hands.
Roy felt a lump in his throat. He swallowed attempting to clear it. All the anger he had felt towards this man turned to pity. "I'm sorry," he said.
Sarge nodded. "So am I." He stood up and took the picture back from Roy. He walked to the mantel and set it down carefully. With his back to Roy, he continued, "I didn't apologize to my son. But I did try to apologize to your partner. I am sorry." There was a long pause, and then finally; "I called Chief McConikee this morning and turned in my badge. He's letting me take retirement. Damn nice under the circumstances."
"I'm glad he did." Roy stood up. "I should get going."
Sarge nodded and walked to the door. He looked at Roy. "I am sorry."
Roy stuck his hand out. "So am I."
Sarge looked at Roy's proffered hand. He then took it in is own and the two men shook. "Good-bye, DeSoto."
"Yeah," said Roy. "Good Luck, Cap."
Roy watched as the door shut behind him. He sighed as he turned away and walked down the hall. *Funny how things turn out* he thought.
As Roy neared Johnny's room, he again heard soft voices. The door was partially open and Roy paused in the doorway when he realized Mike Stoker was sitting in the chair next to Johnny bed.
"Mike," Johnny said to the engineer. "How do you figure any of this could possibly be YOUR fault?"
Mike shrugged. "I don't know. I just should have done something the minute I saw him lay a hand on you, Johnny."
Roy watched quietly from the doorway. Mike sat, slumped in the chair, looking down at his hands.
"Oh come on, Mike!" Johnny laughed, in disbelief.
"No, I'm serious," Mike continued, slowly shaking his head. "What kind of a captain will I make if I can't even stand up for my men?"
Johnny took a deep breath, attempting to compose himself and noticed Roy standing in the doorway. "You know Mike, you're treading on Roy's territory now," he said, trying to look as serious as possible. "He's not gonna like it, man! You should know that he always gets first dibs on ALL feelings of guilt around here!!"
Mike looked up at Johnny and cracked a faint smile.
"Don't ya’ Pally?" Johnny said with a grin.
Roy entered the room and sat down on the bed. "What's goin' on?"
"Well...Mike here, is apologizing for everything that happened this week. Say's it's all HIS fault."
"I hope you set him straight!" Roy grinned.
John stopped smiling. "I did. It's my fault."
Both Mike and Roy stared at John.
"Now, how do you figure that?" Roy asked, annoyance clear in his voice.
John looked away and shrugged. "Guess I just have that affect on people."
Mike shook his head. Roy stared at his partner. "What are we going to do with you?" He pulled another chair up and sat down. "As a matter of fact, I just came from Sarge's". Roy spent the next few minutes filling the other two in on his visit.
"Wow," said Johnny when Roy had finished. He was clearly shook up. "No wonder he came here."
Mike nodded. "What a story!"
Roy nodded. "Yeah. I felt sorry for the guy."
Both Mike and John nodded. John slumped down in the bed.
"Do you see now," Roy asked, "that this really wasn't about you?"
"What?" John asked. "Oh, yeah. I guess not." He paused, deep in thought.
"But....?" Roy prompted, concerned.
Johnny glanced up, a twinkle of mischief in his dark eyes. "Man...who would have thought that Sarge had such a good lookin’ son?"
He flashed his trademark, crooked grin, then ducked as Roy and Mike tossed pillows at him.
"Looks like things are getting back to normal..." Mike commented, laughing along with Roy.
Until the next incident...with a crew like this, there ALWAYS seemed to be another incident!
My thanks to Di, whom this interactive story belonged to on her Kindred Spirits site, for the permission to archive it on my site. We both felt it was time it was put back on the web. :o)