John Gage and Roy DeSoto hurried toward the two-story apartment building, where they’d been dispatched for a possible suicide attempt. With the basic medical equipment from the squad compartments in their hands, the men trotted up the outdoor steps to the second floor where outside entrances lined the balcony.
When they reached apartment number 217, Roy set the oxygen down and knocked on the door with his free hand. Almost immediately, the door opened, revealing a very worried petite young lady who appeared to be around nineteen years old. She was dressed in bell-bottom denim pants, a t-shirt with a picture of the group Three Dog Night on it, her brown hair in a ponytail.
“I’m so glad you’re here!”
As she stepped back to let them in, a police car stopped near the parked squad.
“You reported a possible suicide?” Johnny tried to clarify.
Officer Vince Howard was on his way up the steps as she began to explain.
“Yes, it’s my roommates.”
“Roommates? They both tried? Where are they?” Gage asked glancing around the small livingroom and kitchen.
She stepped into the kitchen area, then held out a piece of paper. Johnny set down the two black boxes in his hands and took it from her. Roy and Vince both read over his shoulders.
We decided we just can’t go on. Life’s just not far out anymore. We’re checking out.
Laurie and Karen
Roy looked at Becky’s still worried face. “You didn’t answer my partner. Where are they?”
“I. . .I don’t know,” she shrugged, her expression unchanging. “They just left me that.”
Roy and Johnny exchanged glances while Vince took over.
“You mean this is only about the note?”
“Yes, sir. But what else could I do?” she quickly added.
“Becky,” Roy began, “Look, we’d like to be able to help you. . .help your friends. But we have people out there who need us right___ now; some with life-threatening situations. We can’t be sitting around waiting to hear from two girls who aren’t even here. And we can’t be out searching for them all over LA County.”
She sniffled and carefully wiped at her watery eyes, obviously in an effort not to smudge her mascara.
Johnny pulled his green pen from his shirt pocket and jotted something down on the note, then handed it to her, a very serious expression on his face.
“If you hear from Laurie and Karen, and you can find out where they are, call us. The number to the station is on the note. I’m John Gage and my partner here is Roy DeSoto. You can ask for either one of us. But be sure you call the police, too,” he added.
She looked at the information, then up at him. “And you’ll help them?”
Both Johnny and Roy nodded.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Roy put in. “But like I said, with all the people in the area who need us, we can’t help unless their location is known and we have access to them.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
Johnny gave a smile and nod in return. But it was only to ease her worry. Inside he was just as concerned about the missing young ladies. It was frustrating to know they could be committing suicide or have already completed the act and there was nothing he or Roy could do to prevent it.
The paramedics left Becky with Officer Howard and headed for the squad. As they put the equipment back in the compartments, Johnny looked over his shoulder at the still open door.
“Think they’ll really do it?”
“No telling with kids today.”
“Yeah,” he agreed as he closed the compartment. “I know what you mean.”
The paramedics had no sooner called themselves in as available when they were sent on another run, this one to a senior citizen center. The details were sketchy. All they knew was that they had a man down.
Roy flicked on the lights and siren as Johnny put on his helmet. Roy did the same with one hand, the other on the steering wheel.
When they got to the center, a woman in her forties, who was a member of the staff, led them to where the elderly man lay on a couch in the recreation room. He was moaning and clutching his chest.
About a dozen other senior citizens, both men and women, stepped back to let the paramedics in to do their job.
“How long’s he been like this?” Johnny asked as he set equipment down nearby.
“Ten minutes, maybe?” another employee supplied. “It’s gotten worse fast.”
“Is he on any kind of medication?” Roy wondered.
“No. . .I’m not. . .and quit. . .talking. . .like I’m. . .not here.”
The medics couldn’t help but exchange brief grins. Feisty was a good sign.
Johnny set up the biophone while Roy got the victim’s vital signs, and a brief introduction from him. That too was not a bad sign, nor was the fact none of his vitals were out of the ordinary.
“Fred, where exactly does your chest hurt?”
The man looked at his friends, a female one in particular who was eyeing him in complete concern as she and the others were motioned to step back even farther to give the paramedics room to work. He then shifted his gaze to Roy.
“Kind of every where.”
“Every where? Is it like a shooting pain? Or more like pressure on your chest.”
“I don’t. . .know. It hurts. . .all right?”
Johnny finished calling in the vitals to Rampart and questioned his partner, “Do we need to hook him up?”
“I don’t think so.”
Suddenly Roy felt a tap on his right arm and he saw Fred motion for him to lean in closer. He did as requested.
“You see that little lady in the pink dress?” he whispered into the medic’s right ear.
Roy looked at the group and noticed the seventy-ish woman who stood just slightly in front of everyone else and was turned as she talked to another elderly lady.
“She loves it when I’m sick. It turns her on,” he again said in a hushed tone. “Just play along with me until I say.”
Roy was shocked! Fred was faking his pain and wasting their time. Just to get the attention of a woman. He gathered up the supplies he’d taken out and put them away. He then got to his feet while his confused partner didn’t know what to think.
“What’re ya doing? We can’t just stop.”
“Sure we can.” Roy turned to face the couple of staff members there. “He’s fine. Physically, anyway.”
“How--?” Johnny was on his feet now as well. “What about his chest pain?”
“I’ll tell ya later. Just tell Rampart we’re done. And Fred’s going to be just fine.”
It took a few tries to convince Doctor Early that the patient wouldn’t need to see him. Roy had tried to keep it discreet by having Johnny tell him Fred was no longer complaining of chest pains. But he’d ended up just having to let anyone in the vicinity know exactly what Fred had been up to when he had to tell Gage the whole story to really get the reasoning across to the doctor.
As Roy drove back to the station, Gage reflected on their latest ‘rescue’.
“So you think Fred’ll hold it against us for ruinin’ his relationship . . . if you can call it that. . .with Emma?”
“Well, his game was bound to catch up with him sometime.”
“Yeah,” Johnny snorted. “We just sped up the process. A lot.” He turned in his seat to face his partner. “Man, ya know, it’s bad enough we’ve had youngsters play pranks on us at times. Now we gotta worry about old folks doin’ it.”
“Probably a few ages in between, too.” Roy reminded him. “Remember the rubber snake?”
Johnny nodded. “When those girls put it up under their friend’s shirt while he was snoozing in the park, and then flagged us down to help, like somethin’ was really wrong. That was somethin’ else.”
“But at least we got a good dress rehearsal out of it.”
Gage cracked a grin and let out a brief laugh. “We sure did.” After a moment of silence, he grew more serious. “I hope those girls were pulling a prank on Becky. As cruel as that would be, the alternative is a lot worse.”
Roy took a quick glance in his direction, then nodded in agreement.
When the paramedics got back to the station, Chet and Marco were polishing the engine on the driver’s side. Mike Stoker was busy doing the same on the passenger side.
When Johnny opened his door and climbed out, Chet remarked, “Well, if it isn’t those two guys who know how to get outta real work.”
“Yeah, how about some help here,” Marco put in.
“Looks like you guys have a pretty good handle on it to me.”
“But we’d have an even better one with an extra sets of hands,” Chet said. As Roy came around the front of the squad, he added, “Make that two extra sets.”
Johnny glanced to the side. “Well, whataya think, Roy? Should we give them a hand?”
“Sure. It’s the least we could do.”
The two started clapping.
Chet rolled his eyes. “Oh real funny, guys.”
Johnny snickered at the annoyed fireman.
But Chet got the last laugh when Captain Stanley came out of his office and suggested the paramedics work on the squad too.
Before Johnny and Roy finished drying their washed squad, the klaxon went off. Both they and the three engine crew members, who had just finished their task, paused briefly as Dispatch provided the information.
“Station 51, Engine 18, structure fire, 2583 West Orange Grove Avenue, two five eight three West Orange Grove Avenue, time out 15:30.
“Station 51, KMG 365,” the Captain acknowledged over the radio at the podium in the bay. He jotted down the type of call and address as the other crew members got situated in their respective vehicles. Once Roy got the small piece of paper with the information on it from Hank, he waited as the captain trotted in front of the squad toward the engine. Roy then drove the rescue truck out into the street, the engine right behind.
The fire had been at a clothing store. Two male teenagers had decided to each smoke a cigarette while their girlfriends tried on clothes in dressing rooms nearby. The boys had hid between two dress racks since the store didn’t allow smoking inside.
Though the store wasn’t a total loss, there was a lot of structural and inventory damage due to the flames, smoke and water. Also a great deal of cleanup for the crew of Engine 51 afterward. John and Roy treated an employee for minor smoke inhalation before heading back to the station.
Not long after they were away from the store, Johnny remarked to Roy, “I guess that’s one way to get a girlfriend out of a dressing room.”
“Yeah, and one I’d never want to see as a trend.”
“Man, you got that right. I wonder what they were thinking?”
Johnny just nodded in agreement. They sure weren’t.
It wasn’t long after they got back to the station that the paramedics were once again at a scene where Vince Howard also was sent. It was a motor vehicle accident involving a bread truck and a station wagon. The occupants of both had escaped serious injury, though the driver of the station wagon would still require a trip to Rampart.
As soon as the ambulance with his partner and the injured victim left, Johnny turned to Vince, who was beside him.
“Any word on those girls who left the suicide note?”
He shook his head. “No, not yet. Not that I’m aware of anyway.”
Johnny looked at the ground and shook his head. “Poor Becky’s gotta be worried sick by now.”
“Her and their parents, if they know. Since they’re all over eighteen and on their own, we couldn’t really force her to contact the parents.”
“Well, I hope she did.”
The paramedic gave it more thought. “Maybe we oughta look at it as ‘no news is good news’. The fact neither one of us has heard anything, maybe that means they’re fine and back home.”
“Until we hear otherwise, anyway.”
Johnny nodded in agreement, his gaze again toward the ground. He then glanced in the direction the ambulance had just gone. “I’d better get to Rampart.”
“Okay, see you around.”
Each man headed for his respective vehicle, Johnny leaving without the emergency lights and siren in use; Vince reporting in that he’d need to be at the scene until a tow truck arrived to haul away the smaller of the vehicles.
That night, the firemen on duty at Station 51 settled in their beds after a day and evening of sporadic calls. They’d been asleep four hours when the lights in the dorm came on, along with the klaxon blaring.
Each crew member was awake and out of bed in an instant, pulling on turnout pants that were left on the floor beside each bed. All were ready to be sent out on a run.
“Station 51, possible suicide attempt, 3422 North Clemens Street, three four two two North Clemens Street, time out 2:15.”
Johnny looked at Roy.
“That’s the little motel we did an inspection on last week.”
The two quickly trotted out of the room and toward their squad. The engine crew scrambled for their vehicle as well, the captain first going to the podium near the dayroom to acknowledge the call.
Once in their truck, Johnny again looked at Roy.
“Whataya think the odds are this involves Becky’s roommates?”
“Let’s hope not very good.”
With that he drove the squad into the street after getting the slip of paper with the call information from Hank.
The motel was a two story building with twelve rooms on each floor, one on the ground being the office. Each had its own outside entrance. Various guests dressed in sleepwear, some with robes on as well, watched curiously from their doorways or windows downstairs. A few from rooms on the second floor stood near a railing looking down. The lights from the emergency vehicles flashed across the front of the building, illuminating the observers in red at regular intervals.
The manager of the building was there, along with a police car that belonged to two officers who were on duty together. One was outside, having just come out when the firemen arrived.
“What’ve we got?” Captain Stanley asked after he’d climbed down from the engine.
“Suicide attempt. An eighteen year old girl inside slashed her wrists.”
That was all the paramedics needed to hear. They didn’t need to know why it happened or how it was discovered. With the necessary equipment from the squad compartments already in hand, they hurried into the motel room. Both still didn’t know if the incident was tied in with Becky’s roommates or not.
The captain followed, as well as Marco and Chet. The officer rushed alongside them as he explained, “Her boyfriend said she was upset and went in the bathroom with her purse. When she didn’t come out soon, he kicked in the door and found her sitting on the floor against the toilet, bloodied and with a shattered pocket mirror on the floor. A shard from it was on her lap.”
Marco and Chet stopped just outside the bathroom where Johnny and Roy were already at work on the teen. Hank stepped inside and watched, ready to give any assist needed.
Blood stained hand towels that had been wrapped around her wounded wrists by her boyfriend in an attempt to slow the bleeding lay discarded off to the side. They were replaced with sterile bandaging.
“Does anyone know what she was upset a*bout*?” the captain asked the other officer, who was beside him.
“Not yet. But I’m sure we’ll find out soon.”
Chet glanced over his shoulder at the boyfriend seated on the end of the bed. The policeman who’d come in with them was again questioning him. The guy had a very solemn expression on his face.
Chet also had to wonder what could’ve been said or done that would make a teenaged girl want to suddenly take her own life.
He peeked inside and eyed the girl who wouldn’t say anything to the paramedics taking care of her. Chet then looked back at the young man being questioned and noticed the officer write down something on his note pad, then close it up and make a quick move for the bathroom. Both Chet and Marco got out of the way to let him in.
“She’s about three months pregnant,” he informed the paramedics.
Johnny picked up the transmitter of the biophone. “Rampart, we’ve just been informed the victim is at the end of her first trimester of pregnancy.”
He and Roy exchanged grim glances as he waited for the response from the doctor on the other end of the line. The picture was becoming clearer, despite the lack of information.
Very shortly after they’d received the additional order from Rampart to closely monitor the patient and transport her as soon as possible, the paramedics had her ready and on the stretcher. Johnny followed alongside as they wheeled her out of the motel room, an IV bag for the girl in his hand.
The boyfriend jumped up off the bed and hurried over as the group headed for the doorway.
“I’m sorry, Tina! I’m sorry!”
But she just closed her eyes that were red and puffy from crying. The oxygen mask over her nose and mouth muffled her weak cry for him to go away.
Captain Stanley and one of the officers both pulled him back as the medical crew carried on.
Once Tina was in the ambulance and on her way, Roy climbed in the squad to follow. The captain came up to the driver’s side as soon as he closed the door.
Roy rolled the window down.
“I thought you should know, her boyfriend just told the police why she did it. I guess seeing her like she was got to him.”
Hank nodded. “They’re from up north. Left Frisco so her parents wouldn’t know she was pregnant. But he claims he’s not ready for fatherhood and told her she should get an abortion.”
“He brought her down here with no support and turned her world upside down.”
Roy just shook his head, a frown on his face. “I’ll let the doctor know.”
Hank watched as the squad pulled away, then looked over to where Tina’s boyfriend was still talking to the police and motel manager.
Hank joined his engine crew and they headed back to the station.
Once they had Tina in the care of the doctor on duty, Johnny and Roy stopped at the desk near the base station to get a refill of supplies. While the older nurse on duty gathered what was on their list, the two men discussed their latest run.
“The kid should’ve thought if he was ready for fatherhood before he went getting a girl pregnant.”
Roy nodded in agreement. “Unfortunately, you know, until it becomes a reality, sometimes it doesn’t sink in.”
“Yeah, I know. Poor girl. I sure hope she’ll give someone the information to get a hold of ‘er parents. And that they’ll be on ‘er side if she does.”
Between this couple, and the situation with Becky and her roommates, it was apparent some of the younger crowd was taking on more than they were prepared for; and looking for a desperate way out.
By the time Johnny and Roy got back to the station, the rest of A-shift’s crew were in their beds. However no one had gotten to sleep.
“How is she?” Hank asked as the paramedics headed for their beds in the darkened room.
“No change, Cap,” Johnny answered. “Hopefully she’ll come around and talk to someone.”
The captain wondered how he’d take the news if he ever got a phone call in the night informing him his daughter was pregnant and had attempted suicide. He hoped to never find out.
Once they were in their beds, neither paramedic could get to sleep right away. Roy found himself lying on his left side, staring at the brick divider between his and the captain’s bed.
Johnny lay on his back, hands behind his head, his gaze upward. After a brief time, he rolled over onto his left side and, propped up on his elbow, opened his mouth to quietly call out Roy’s name. But the dark-haired paramedic changed his mind. If his partner was asleep, he sure didn’t want to disturb him. He returned to his back, then brought his left forearm up and across his eyes.
Before too long, John Gage was asleep, as well as the others.
Though they never got their answer on Becky’s roommates, and Tina certainly wasn’t forgotten, the paramedics knew when it was time for their shift to end, they had to let what was out of their control go. As the two headed for their cars in the parking lot just after eight o’clock in the morning, they kept the conversation light. Then each went their own way until the next time they’d be on shift, which would be two days later.
Johnny held up two fingers as he passed by a group of youngsters waiting for their school bus at a stop. Four of them had flashed the peace sign to the few cars before his, and kept their fingers up for him as well. Apparently the other occupants hadn’t responded, at least not to the kids’ liking. The three boys and one girl jumped up and down, all smiles after he’d gone by. Johnny glanced in his left side mirror and could see them pointing toward his vehicle as they chatted, still smiling.
It was good to see the innocence of grade-schoolers just having fun. If only they could hang onto it in their teen years. Unfortunately, the newer generation seemed to have more and more peer pressure with issues such as drugs, alcohol and sex.
Thoughts of Tina ran through his mind. He wished she could get some of that childhood innocence back. But after all she’d been through, there obviously wasn’t a chance.
A brief time into their next shift, Johnny and Roy were sent out on a rescue concerning a store clerk who’d had a bunch of boxes from a pallet fall onto him. The boxes contained various items of merchandise that was stocked in the convenience store, including small appliances, toys and cleaning supplies. Unfortunately, they were stacked over six feet high on the square wooden pallet and they’d nearly buried the short, light-weight employee.
He was taken to Rampart with a slight concussion and possible cracked ribs. Once the paramedics had left him in the care of Doctor Morton, they stopped by the desk near the base station to restock on supplies. It was then a very unhappy Doctor Brackett joined them.
“What’s wrong, Doc?” Johnny wondered as he and Roy waited for a young nurse on duty to get their stuff gathered together.
Brackett folded his arms across his chest, and one corner of his mouth twitched slightly before he answered with, “Oh, we had a girl fifteen years old come in about thirty minutes ago. Her mother brought her in with razor blade cuts on her upper back near the shoulders and then on her lower back, too.”
The doctor looked at Roy. “She was going to go to school and turn her parents in for child abuse, claim that her dad beat her with a leather strap. Only her mother walked in on her while she was getting dressed and saw what she’d done___to herself___with the blade.” He glanced toward the door to Treatment Room Two. “Dix is in there with her and her mom now.” He glanced at the floor and shook his head, then returned his gaze to the firemen, his brows furrowed. “It’s really a shame to see a girl go to that much trouble, mutilating her body in the process, to get her folks in trouble over nothing while the ones who really are abused and could use our help try to hide it and struggle through it on their own.”
Both listeners nodded, solemn expressions on their faces.
“What sparked it?” Roy asked. “Anything in particular?”
“According to her mother, last night they told her she couldn’t have a car when she turned sixteen unless she agreed to get a part-time job to help pay for it.”
Johnny just shook his head. What were some of these teenagers of the 1970s thinking? Then the exchange he and Roy had about the same subject during the previous shift came to mind.
As they left Rampart, the paramedics were quiet. Neither said a word until they were out of the parking lot. Then Johnny rubbed his chin in thought and spoke out.
“You know, I can’t help but think about Becky’s roommates. What with Tina and now this other girl with a blade__ purposely slicing into herself__I gotta wonder what they ever did__or didn’t__ do.”
Roy took a quick glance at him, then returned his attention to what was in front of them.
“I know what you mean. When Brackett mentioned what that girl had done, Becky’s roommates came to my mind. But there hasn’t been anything on the news.” He sighed. “Makes you wonder even more if the note was just a stunt for attention like this girl, or the real deal, like Tina.”
Johnny didn’t respond, but rather looked out the passenger window as they continued on their way. He reminded himself of the ‘no news is good news’ adage. Also of another they tried to follow, which was ‘never get emotionally involved with a victim’.
“Man, I sure could use a cup of coffee,” Gage said as he and Roy headed for the dayroom after returning to the station.
“I think we’d better finish washing the dishes first,” Roy reminded. They’d been assigned the chore since C-Shift didn’t have time to clean up after themselves due to a rescue that kept them busy until a few minutes beyond the usual time for shift change.
“Maybe the ‘dish fairy’ did us a favor and finished ‘um for us.”
Johnny smiled when he saw that indeed, the dishes were done, the sink empty of water and the counter cleared.
“Well, I’ll be. . .”
“I don’t know if I’d be so happy. . .”
“Roy, why not? We can relax and grab a cup of coffee now.”
“Not so fast,” a familiar voice said behind them.
Both turned to see Captain Stanley in the doorway.
“Since Chet and Marco were so kind as to do your chore for you, I told them you’d do theirs.”
Johnny’s smile faded, Roy just waited. He’d had a feeling there was going to be a price for their job being done.
“The bedding in the dorm needs to be changed out.”
“Sure, Cap. We’ll get right on it,” Roy commented.
Gage agreed with a forced grin to hide his disappointment. The coffee would have to wait.
The two left for their newly assigned detail while the captain returned to his office.
The rest of the day went by quickly with enough calls to keep the men of Station 51 busy.
Johnny and Roy checked to see how Tina was doing each time they were at Rampart. She hadn’t lost her baby, and her parents were with her now. Her boyfriend had already headed back to San Francisco.
Johnny also thought more about Becky between runs. He reminded himself she did have their phone number if she needed to call for any reason. The fact she hadn’t called made him surmise that maybe things were okay now.
With a few hours of straight down-time in the evening, the six men were able to fix and eat dinner, then enjoy some television before it was time to turn in for the night.
Johnny was the last in bed and had no sooner placed his left forearm over his eyes when the telephone rang. Since he was closest to the desk in the dorm room the captain answered it.
“Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking.
“Uh, yes he is, just a moment.”
He stood up and looked across the brick dividers in the room.
“John, it’s for you.”
Johnny lifted his arm from his face, then pushed back his covers as he sat up.
“I wonder who that can be?” he mumbled to his partner in the bed beside his.
“Only one way to find out.”
Johnny nodded and swung his legs over the side of his bed. He got to his feet and, dressed in blue boxer shorts and a white undershirt, hurried toward the waiting superior officer in the darkened room.
“Make it quick,” Hank said as he handed Johnny the phone receiver.
Johnny sat in the chair at the desk as he spoke. “Fireman Gage.
“That’s okay, that’s all right.
“Don’t worry about it, I’m glad you called. Are you at home?
“Okay, what’s the address?”
He flicked on the desk lamp and quickly jotted down the information after asking some to be repeated. Once he had what he needed, he assured the caller they’d be right there, then replaced the receiver in its cradle and turned off the light.
“Cap, Roy an’ I have a still alarm.”
The captain got right out of bed again and put on his turnout pants while Johnny trotted to his bed to do the same. Roy had heard and was in the process of pulling his suspenders up in place, he turnout pants already on.
“That was Becky,” Gage informed him.
“Is it her roommates?” Roy wondered.
“One of ‘em, she hit her head. Becky said she’s got a big gash. There was a lot of noise in the background. Sounds like they’re at a party.”
As the three headed out of the dorm, the captain to let headquarters know the paramedics were going out on a still alarm, Johnny informed him, “Cap, it sounds like we may need an ambulance. Better have one sent there just in case.”
It was a given that a police officer would be dispatched as well. That was required for the paramedic’s safety after nightfall.
Very shortly, Gage and DeSoto were on their way.
When they arrived at the apartment complex, Johnny and Roy heard a mixture of Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin music coming from within a few apartments on the second floor. Young adults were milling around outside open doors where the various tunes were playing. Laughter and boisterous conversation could be heard as well.
“Sounds like they’re having a real good time,” Roy remarked to his partner as they got out of the squad.
Johnny was already opening one of the compartment doors as Roy hurried around the front end of the truck.
“Sure confirms what I said about the noise on the phone,” Gage commented.
No one even seemed to notice a squad from the fire department had just arrived.
A police car pulled up to the scene as the paramedics started toward the cement covered courtyard with a swimming pool in the center, steps just inside the courtyard leading up to the second floor. They stopped to explain to the officer what they knew before the threesome headed up to the apartment number Becky had given Johnny.
The men had to squeeze their way through and past the partiers gathered here and there on the upper walkway to get to apartment 221. Once there, it became apparent the ones out front were oblivious to any trouble, but recognized who had arrived on scene by the tan turnout pants, navy blue jackets and helmets they wore.
“Hey, man, where’s’ the fire?” one obviously drunk long-haired guy asked. He held up his beer. “Wanna put it out with this?” He said with a slight slur.
“Eddie,” a girl giggled and she pushed his arm down.
“They’re kind of cute,” another girl said as she eyed the paramedics.
Johnny looked at Roy and the two rolled their eyes.
The group shut up when they noticed the police officer follow directly behind the medics.
Once inside, Johnny spotted Becky. She was headed toward them from the doorway of another room.
“There she is,” he told Roy and the two started in her direction, the police officer still with them as he glanced around at the young partiers gathered in the apartment. He wondered if any weren’t even the legal age to be drinking.
Even more than that, he was suspicious of what brought on a couple of sudden toilet flushes that could be heard from the opened-doored bathroom. If he had to guess, there was more than just alcohol at the party.
“This way, hurry,” Becky said as she pointed to the room she’d come from.
The threesome followed behind her.
The first thing they saw when they entered the room was blood. It was on the green shag carpet and the patchwork print bedspread, as well as the damp washcloth another young woman held over the cut on Karen’s forehead. Both were seated on the floor at the foot of the bed.
Roy squatted down and had the other girl remove the cloth. Johnny immediately checked Karen’s vital signs.
“How’d this happen?” Roy wondered as he examined the deep one-inch gash. Johnny handed him a sterile pressure bandage still sealed in its protective paper cover and the gauze to wrap it in place.
“She fell,” Becky supplied. “She stumbled and fell against the edge of the dresser.”
“How much have you had to drink?” Roy asked.
Karen looked at him with glassy green eyes. “Juz’ a few. 3.2 percent. . . beer. Hey, I’m old unuf,” she added with her gaze then on the officer.
“That’s not why he asked,” the policeman explained.
She returned her woozy attention to Roy, who was in the process of securing the bandage on her head.
“Drugs and alcohol don’t mix. That’s including something a doctor might prescribe for pain once you get examined at the hospital. So I need to know how much alcohol you’ve consumed this evening.”
“Four,” Becky quickly supplied. “Well, three and a half,” she corrected, and picked up the fourth can that had spilled when Karen dropped it as she hit the dresser. “She hasn’t eaten much today, is that important?”
“When it comes to alcohol consumption it is.” Johnny reported the vitals and other information to Rampart over the biophone. He then glanced at Becky.
“How long have you guys been here, anyway?”
But it was the other girl, a blonde who’d introduced herself as Laurie, Becky’s other roommate, who answered. “Only a coupla hours.”
The paramedic shook his head. No wonder 3.2 percent beer had gotten Karen loopy enough to stumble around. An empty stomach and not much time between beers.
Suddenly there was a scream from the other room, followed by a yell, “He’s dead!”
Johnny and the police officer quickly looked at one another and shot out of the room as soon as Johnny was standing with the biophone box in hand. Becky was right behind them.
“He’s not dead!”
The words that came from a male within the crowded livingroom were frantic, though who ever it was denied the situation was as bad as first thought.
“Man, he’s not!”
“Let me through,” Johnny said as he shouldered his way between some of the bystanders. “I’m a paramedic.”
The policeman tried to get people to move aside, but they were slow to respond. Becky stayed directly behind Johnny and followed through the gaps that were made for him.
As soon as he was in the clear, Johnny knelt down beside the young man who had collapsed on the carpeted floor in a heap.
“What’s wrong with him?” the officer asked as he squatted down on the other side of the victim.
“I don’ know.” The paramedic looked up at the crowd still standing around them. “What’s his name?”
“Billy,” one girl supplied. “Billy Wilson.”
Johnny returned his attention to the passed out man. “Billy! Billy, can you hear me?”
“He just threw up twice over there,” another person volunteered as he pointed toward a corner of the room.
Johnny took in the information as he checked the victim’s vital signs.
“Breaths are irregular. . .”
Suddenly Billy went into a seizure and it took both rescuers to hold him down. They then had to turn him on his side as he once again vomited, still unconscious.
“How much has he had to drink?” Johnny asked the group as he quickly set up the biophone. The question was only met with silence.
“Well?” the policeman prodded.
“Look, I need to know,” the paramedic emphasized.
“Some beers. . .some whiskey and Seven-Ups. They were heavy on the whiskey, too. He’s been drinking since sometime in the afternoon.”
Johnny reported the information to Rampart, along with the vitals he had. The doctor on the other end suspected alcohol poisoning and directed they get the victim to the hospital asap.”
With the ambulance crew there and waiting, the orders were complied with. Billy was quickly placed on the stretcher and wheeled toward the open doorway that led outside. Another ambulance was already on the way for Karen.
As Johnny hurried out with the stretcher carrying Billy, a drunk girl with a trash can lid over her head came stumbling up to him. Her face was sticking out in front of the normally free-swinging flap, which was now firmly against the back of her head.
“Hey, can ya. . .ah. . . hel. . .help m-me?” She slurred.
Johnny just shook his head. The officer indicated he’d do the honors.
Becky took the few seconds of distraction to ask Johnny if Billy would be okay.
“I don’ know.”
He then solemnly continued on with a trot to catch up with the ambulance attendants and stretcher. When they got to the vehicles, Johnny took a brief glance up at the apartment. He wondered if it was cruel to leave Becky with those words. But he didn’t really have much choice.
When he came out of Treatment Room Four, Johnny scanned the corridor for his partner. Roy had just come in with Karen. A nurse held the door to Treatment Room Two open.
“In here,” she directed.
Johnny was about to follow in behind the others when he saw Becky looking around not far from the ER entrance.
“There’s a waiting area over there,” he said with a nod toward his right as he approached. “You can have a seat while they stitch Karen up.”
He peered over her shoulder at the automatic doors that were still closed. “Where’s Laurie?”
“She wasn’t ready to leave yet. . .there’s a guy she likes that was at the party,” she added.
So much for loyalty to friends, Johnny thought.
The two walked over to the waiting area and sat down beside each other.
“So what happened after they left that note the day you called us? Did they come back soon after we left or what?”
“They. . .uhm. . .came home the next morning. Said it was just a joke.”
She nodded. “A prank. It’s okay. It’s just how they are sometimes.”
Johnny shook his head in disbelief as he looked down at the floor. He then returned his gaze to her.
“You might wanna reconsider who ya live or hang out with. They seem pretty self-centered if ya ask me. And careless.”
“It’s not like they’re always like that.”
“Maybe not. But it only takes one slip up to get in trouble. Trust me, we see it a lot in our line of work. Not everyone is careless, some are being sincere and just make mistakes or something goes very wrong unexpectedly. But there are those who pull some stunts and could’ve avoided needing us if they’d just been more responsible.”
She eyed him, then cautiously asked, “Didn’t you play pranks and drink when you were younger?”
“Well, to tell ya the truth. . .I’m not all that old now,” he said with a smile. “But as far as pranks go, just a coupla prank calls when I was a teenager that my aunt put an end to as soon as she found out. As far as drinking enough to get drunk? No.”
“Oh. . .”
Just then Roy came out of the treatment room. He saw Johnny and Becky, then came down the corridor to tell the girl Karen would be released as soon as the stitches were in.
“Where’s your other roommate?” he asked looking around.
Johnny got to his feet. “She’s. . .uh. . .still at the party. With a guy she likes there.”
“Oh. Well, I guess with friends like that—”
“Exactly,” Johnny agreed before he finished the sentence.
Becky frowned. She liked the paramedics, but she sure didn’t appreciate their attitudes. What did they know? Even if they weren’t all that old, they still didn’t fully understand the younger generation. She was certain of that.
Two months later, Johnny and Roy rarely gave Becky and her friends a thought. They hadn’t been called out for anymore rescues involving the girls. Johnny hoped it meant Becky took his advice and found herself more responsible and considerate roommates.
Near the end of another shift, Johnny and Roy talked over coffee while they waited for their relief to come in. B-shift would be on duty next.
“So you and Chet still going bowling this evening?”
“Yep. Looks like Lefler, Martin, Wilson and Dwyer’s younger brother Charlie from Station 36 are gonna go too. Should be interestin’. Whoever gets the highest score gets five bucks from each of the other players.”
“Which’ll be me,” Chet added, as he walked into the dayroom.
Johnny gave Roy a ‘yeah right’ look, then turned to face the mustached fireman. “I don’ know, Chet. I think you may just find you’ve met your match tonight.” He flashed a smug crooked grin.
“Really? Far out, I hope so. I hope she’s a real looker, too.”
Gage frowned. “Not that kinda match. Oh you know what I mean.”
Chet waggled his eyebrows as he traded grins with Roy.
Roy just had to wonder if the bowling alley would survive the two competitors.
John Gage headed home after the late night of bowling, wondering how he was going to put up with Chet Kelly reminding him their entire next shift how he outscored the paramedic. Lefler had won the money, but it didn’t stop Chet from already rubbing in the other fact before they all parted ways after the game was done.
Johnny hoped he could forget the image of Chet’s gloating grin and get some sleep. It was nearly midnight and he was more than ready to put the night behind him.
Only a few blocks away from his apartment, it wouldn’t be long till he could do just that.
A somewhat intoxicated Karen glanced in the rearview mirror at the passenger in the back seat of her red car. Becky was trying to get the nerve up to smoke a joint that Laurie had handed her from the front passenger seat. The girls had all been at another party and were on their way home.
“C’mon,” Karen giggled. “You can do it.”
Suddenly Laurie gave Karen’s right shoulder a nudge and once she had her attention, pointed to the driver’s side window. The guy she liked was the passenger in a blue T-Bird that had pulled up alongside them, in the lane that belonged to oncoming traffic.
Karen giggled again, then stepped on the gas and sped away.
“What’re you doing?” Laurie cried out. “You left ‘um!”
“I just wanna see if they’ll catch up.”
Laurie breathed a sigh of relief when they did. The game wasn’t over. No one gave thought to the fact they were going 70 mph in a 45 mph zone, the guys still in the wrong direction.
The male driver shot a stunned look of surprise over when Karen had to slam on the brakes in an effort to avoid rear ending another car stopped ahead. Her reflexes slowed by alcohol, she didn’t succeed. The young men sped on through the red light, the driver’s attention only brought to another vehicle crossing the intersection as they collided with it.
The blue T-Bird plowed into the left rear side of the Land Rover, which sent the white vehicle into a wild spin across the intersection before it skidded off the side of the paved street. The tires spun over the change in surface, and the vehicle flipped. It rolled once before it finally landed hard on the driver’s side, the window open, and slid into a vacant lot amid a shower of dirt and debris.
The T-Bird came to a stop just outside the intersection, in the middle of the street. The front end was smashed, the horn blared with no let up.