Disclaimers: The characters belong to Universal and Mark VII. But, as always, it’s fun to write about them.
“Chet, that stuff doesn’t work! It’s a hoax.”
The beginning of A-shift at Station 51 found Johnny Gage knee-deep in another argument with his favorite nemesis, Chet Kelly.
“It does, too, Gage. I saw it with my own eyes. The Amazing Prospero had that man clucking like a chicken!”
“Yeah, like I’d believe your eyes! It was an act. Besides, what kind of name is The Amazing Prospero anyway? He sounds like a fake.”
“Gage, I’m tellin’ ya . . .”
Through sheer bad luck, Roy chose that moment to walk into the locker room. After one look at his shift mates, he wanted to bolt out of the room.
“Ah, the voice of reason,” Johnny exclaimed rather loudly, “Roy, tell Chet they don’t work.”
“What doesn’t work, Johnny?” Roy regretted the question the moment it left his mouth.
“Hypnotists! They’re quacks. They can’t make a person do all that stupid stuff. Right, Roy? You tell him. Tell him!”
DeSoto sighed deeply and rolled his eyes. It was going to be a long shift.
“Well, Johnny, I might agree with Chet on this one.”
“WHAT?” The dark-haired paramedic couldn’t believe his ears. “But, Roy, you can’t possibly . . .”
“Told ya, Gage!” Chet crowed in delight.
Before Kelly had a chance to continue gloating, Captain Stanley announced roll call. Thankful for even a brief reprieve, Roy hurriedly left for the apparatus bay. Johnny and Chet followed, but at a much slower pace.
After roll call, the crew scattered to complete their assignments. As Roy had feared, Johnny had not forgotten about the earlier argument. He started up again as they finished morning inventory on the squad.
“Roy, do you seriously think people can do that?”
“Johnny . . .”
“I mean, c’mon, a little swing of a pocket watch and, presto, you cluck like a chicken?”
“I think . . .”
“Huh uh. No way! It has to all be an act. It . . .”
Gage finally stopped to take a breath after Roy’s yell.
Taking advantage of the blessed silence, Roy quickly said, “I think it’s possible. Hypnosis seems to work on a lot of people.”
“But . . . but . . .” Still reeling from the senior paramedic’s unexpected stance on the subject, Gage was momentarily speechless.
Before he could regain his voice, the tones sounded, sending the squad on its first call of the day. The “man down” turned out to be an elderly gentleman who was having a heart attack. Shortly after transporting their victim to Rampart, the paramedic team returned to the station.
Johnny immediately headed for the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee. Roy followed with slightly less enthusiasm. To Gage’s dismay, Chet was regaling Marco and Mike with tales of The Amazing Prospero. Johnny filled two cups with the fragrant brew and absentmindedly handed one to his partner before commenting.
“Oh, please! Don’t tell me you guys are buying into this junk?”
Marco was the first to speak, “Why not, Johnny? I’ve seen stuff like this on TV. It looks interesting.”
The lanky paramedic rolled his eyes. “How about you, Mike? What do you think?”
“I have to say I agree with you on this one, Johnny.”
“Well, it’s about time. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only sane one around here!”
His comment elicited a round of chuckles from everyone except Johnny.
Mike continued, “My mother went to one once to help her lose weight. It cost her $75, and it didn’t even work. So I think it’s a scam.”
“There, you see, that’s what I’m tryin’ to tell you all!”
Cap strolled into the room just in time to hear the end of Johnny’s comment.
“What’s John trying to tell you? Or do I even want to know?”
The crew quickly filled their Captain in on their debate and awaited his opinion.
“Hypnotists? My wife thinks they’re great. I’m not so sure.”
Delighted that at least a couple of the guys agreed with him, Johnny grinned and said, “Well, it looks like it’s 50/50. Three for and three against. I just wish I could prove my side is right.”
Suddenly, Chet’s face lit up and he exclaimed, “Hey, I know how we can solve this!”
The dark-haired paramedic looked at Chet with great suspicion.
“I’m afraid to ask, but how?”
“We’re all getting together at Roy’s on Sunday for our Christmas party, right?”
Now it was Roy’s turn to regard Chet with suspicion, but he remained silent for the moment.
“Well, I can call the club I took Mindy to last night and see if The Amazing Prospero is available on Sunday. If he is, he can come to Roy’s and prove that he can hypnotize people by doing us.”
Johnny agreed. “Yeah, that would be perfect. Joanne and Mrs. Stanley could be witnesses when it DOESN’T work. What do you think, Roy?”
“I guess if Joanne agrees, that would be okay.” Roy had a feeling he might regret this.
By the end of the shift, all arrangements with The Amazing Prospero had been made.
The following Sunday dawned bright and somewhat chilly. After church, Joanne DeSoto began her preparations for the party. She was softly humming a Christmas carol when her husband wrapped his arms around her from behind and kissed her neck. Joanne leaned back into Roy’s embrace and laughed quietly.
“Well, my own handsome paramedic, just what do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m saying hello to my lovely wife.” He kissed her neck again. This time he let the tip of his tongue brush lightly against her skin.
“Hmm, I think . . . I think your kind of hello is gonna have to wait. Are the kids ready to go?”
Chris and Jennifer were spending the day with neighbors Tom and Susan Whitman and their children, Brad and Lisa. Plans for the day included a trip to the Children’s Museum to see their spectacular Christmas displays, some Christmas shopping at the mall, and dinner. Since the kids were busy, Roy and Joanne decided to have the crew from A-shift over for a little Christmas get-together.
“Yes, they’re ready. Tom should be here any minute to pick them up. I gave each of them a little spending money to buy Christmas gifts.”
“Well, once they’re gone, maybe we can have a proper hello.” Joanne threw Roy a saucy smile.
The blond-haired man promptly blushed, but his huge grin belied any real embarrassment.
The clattering of feet on the stairs forestalled any further comment, and Joanne returned to assembling the ingredients for her stuffed mushrooms while Roy went to straighten the living room.
Chris and Jennifer burst into the room bubbling with excitement over their plans for the day. Almost inaudible over the childish fervor, a car horn sounded in the driveway.
“Okay, kids, Mr. Whitman is here,” Joanne embraced her son and daughter, “you guys be good now.”
She ushered them through the door and waved to Tom as Chris and Jennifer climbed into the station wagon. Watching as the car drove away, the dark-haired woman finally closed the door and went in search of her husband. Once she located the object of her desire, she wrapped her arms around him and whispered in his ear. All thoughts of the party vanished for Roy as he led Joanne upstairs.
Breathless minutes later, Joanne softly giggled when she caught sight of Roy’s choice of boxer shorts. They were white and printed with little Santa’s and reindeer.
“Nice boxers, Sweetie.”
Roy glanced down at them and then looked at his wife with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
“’Tis the Season,” he said with a chuckle.
Much later that afternoon, the DeSoto’s doorbell rang, announcing the arrival of the first of their guests. While Roy answered the door, Joanne set out the last of her appetizers. After their little tryst, both Roy and Joanne had had to work extra fast to finish preparations for the party.
With a final glance at the arrangement of hors d’oeuvres, Joanne hurried to greet their guests.
“Hank, Elly. Merry Christmas! It’s so good to see you both. Oh, Elly, that looks delicious. Let me take that for you.”
Joanne took the Chocolate Torte into the kitchen before rejoining everyone in the living room.
Gradually the rest of the men from A-shift made their appearances with Johnny being the last to arrive.
“Hey, Cap. Hi, Mrs. Stanley.” As had the guys before him, Johnny greeted Captain Stanley’s wife with a shy smile and a quick peck on the cheek. Despite meeting her at several social occasions, the crew was wary of insulting their Captain by being too familiar with her.
Soon everyone was enjoying the incredible array of appetizers with their drinks, and conversation and laughter flowed smoothly.
About an hour after everyone’s arrival, the doorbell rang once more, announcing the arrival of The Amazing Prospero from the Starshine Night Club. Roy escorted the silver-haired gentleman into the room and made introductions all around.
“Please, please, just call me Simon. Simon Miller. The Amazing Prospero is my stage name, of course.”
Smiling, Joanne offered Simon some refreshment which he graciously accepted. Conversation resumed, this time revolving around Simon’s profession. Almost immediately, a good-natured debate between the guys ensued.
Joanne and Elly listened in amusement.
“Well, gentlemen, I understand from Mr. Kelly that you want me to hypnotize the six of you.”
“Yep, that’s right! That’s exactly what we want,” Chet responded.
Johnny snorted softly before saying, “No offense, Simon, but I still say it’s all an act. You know, like a magic act.”
“I understand your skepticism, Mr. Gage. We’ll just see how you feel when I’m done. Shall we get started?”
After seeing the men all nod in agreement, Simon instructed, “Okay, I would like the six of you to all sit here in front of me. Now, ladies, since you’re acting as witnesses, it would be best if you stood behind me.”
Everyone scurried into position.
“Now, once I have you all under, what am I to have you do? Hop up and down? Coo like babies? Or perhaps the ever-popular clucking like chickens?”
Chet spoke up quickly, “I say we do the last one. The chicken thing.”
No one protested so Simon continued on.
“All right, gentlemen, I want you all to relax,” as Simon spoke, he pulled out a gold watch.
Johnny rolled his eyes and muttered, “Oh, brother . . .”
“Take a deep breath and relax. Now, let your eyes follow the watch – back and forth, back and forth. That’s it. That’s it. Now, you are growing sleepy, very sleepy . . .”
Elly and Joanne watched and listened as Simon proceeded to send the men under.
“Okay, ladies, let’s see how I did. Raise your right arm over your head.”
Six arms shot into the air.
“Mr. Gage, raise your left arm and wiggle your fingers.”
John did exactly as he was told.
Suddenly, an idea came to Joanne and she leaned over to whisper in Elly’s ear. A wicked grin lit the blond-haired woman’s face and she nodded.
Roy’s wife tapped the hypnotist on the shoulder and shared her idea. If Simon was surprised at all, he didn’t let it show.
“Gentlemen, I would like each of you to take off your clothes until you’re clad only in your boxer shorts.”
The two wives watched mesmerized as one by one the guys stripped. Chet’s yellow boxers were revealed first, followed by Mike’s blue plaid, Hank’s navy blue, and Marco’s pale green. The two paramedics were slightly slower. Roy’s Santa’s and reindeer soon made their appearance and, finally, Johnny peeled away his jeans to reveal his crimson boxers. Despite their married state, the women cast admiring eyes at the six fine firemen before them.
Elly looked at Joanne with a gleam in her eye.
“I have another idea.”
“She quickly shared it with Joanne and passed it on to Simon. The hypnotist was unable to hold back a grin at this latest request.
“I want each of you to get on your hands and knees and bark like dogs.”
One by one the men dropped and for the next minute the room was filled with a cacophony of noise.
The pair of witnesses dissolved into a fit of laughter.
“Okay, gentlemen, you may stop. Ladies, have you seen enough?”
“Y-y-yes,” was Elly’s breathless reply.
“Oh, wait. Wait a minute,” cried Joanne, “let me grab our Polaroid.” She left the room and returned a moment later with the camera. Joanne quickly snapped a couple of pictures of the scantily clad, still-kneeling men. She handed one to Hank’s wife.
“Okay, you can wake them up. Just keep them the way they look right now,” Joanne said with grand merriment and mischief in her voice.
“I’m going to count to three and clap my hands,” instructed Simon, “When you here the clap, you will awaken and feel refreshed as if awakening from a nice nap. One, two, three . . .”
Simon clapped loudly once and the crew of A-shift blinked as they awoke from their trance. It took a few seconds before they all realized the state of their undress and their interesting positions on the floor. Glancing first at each other and then at the two women in the room, the guys felt their cheeks heat in embarrassment. Slowly, they stood.
“This is all your fault!”
As the recriminations flew, Joanne and Elly helplessly laughed earning glares from their respective spouses.
It wasn’t long before the men were all re-dressed. Simon said good-bye and took his leave.
“Uh, Cap, Roy,” stuttered Johnny, “I’m sorry, you know, for all of this. I shouldn’t . . . I shouldn’t have . . . and now Mrs. Stanley and Joanne saw us in our underwear . . .”
Elly smiled broadly at John Gage and the rest of the men under her husband’s command. She held out her Polaroid picture for them to see.
“Um, guys, under the circumstances, I think you all could call me Elly now,” as she spoke, Elly gave a little wink, “Right, Hank?”
Her husband just growled as his men again blushed.
Clutching her own prized photo, Joanne finally spoke up, “C’mon, everyone, dinner’s ready. Let’s sit down and eat.”
The dark-haired woman pulled her husband aside as the rest of the guests filed out of the room. She refused to let the grumpy look on Roy’s face deter her from giving him a huge hug.
“I did it for you, you know,” she said with a chuckle.
“Huh? What do you mean you did it for me?”
“Well, honey, I just couldn’t let those adorable Christmas boxers of yours go unseen now, could I?”
Roy’s scowl deepened for a brief second before the wicked twinkle from earlier re-appeared in his eye. He let out a chuckle of his own.
“Is that your way of telling me you didn’t see enough of them this afternoon?”
“Hmmm, let’s just say it’s too bad we still have a houseful of guests.”
Thanks so much to Audrey W. and Jill H. for the fantastic beta read. It’s greatly appreciated. What fun this was to write!