The Collector



By Audrey W.




“Gage, taking pictures is boring…what you really need to do is start a collection,” Chet said, as he pulled out a chair and sat at the table

in the dayroom.


Johnny looked up from his layout of pictures on the table. He yanked a photo away from Chet, a look of disgust on his face, as the fireman

was about to utilize it as a coaster.


“I suppose collecting barbed wire is an enthralling hobby?” Johnny snorted.


“Well, it’s a lot more interesting than dumb ol’ pictures of scenery and people you don’t even know.”


“Dumb? Dumb?” Johnny stood up and started to pick up his photos. “I’ll have you know people pay for these pictures. Bet no one’s

 offered you money for barbed wire lately.”


“No, but since when did you make money off a picture? I made money off a picture, remember?”


Johnny glared at Chet as he finished gathering up the pictures. Marco had been watching the exchanges with amusement from his seat

 on the couch.


“He’s got a point, you know,” Marco interjected. “That magazine bought the picture Chet took of us on that rescue.”


“Yeah, but he used my camera.”


“So?” Chet asked, grinning.


“So…I don’t know so,” Johnny replied, still annoyed. “Give me time to think of a good so.”


Unfortunately the tones didn’t give Johnny that time.


“Squad 51, child trapped, 2114 West Whipple Street, two one one four West Whipple Street, cross street Hillside, time out 11:15.”


“That address sounds familiar,” Johnny said as he climbed in the squad beside Roy. “Weren’t we there recently?”


Roy handed the slip of paper with the address to his partner and grinned. “That’s your little inch worm collecting girl.”


Johnny glanced at Roy, a concerned expression on his face. “Amanda? Oh man. They did say child trapped, huh? I hope she didn’t

get herself in a fix going after more bugs.”


“You mean you hope this call doesn’t involve rescuing a bug, too, don’t you?”


“Not another word about that, Roy…not another word.”




Amanda’s mother, Bonnie, opened the front door before the paramedics got up to the front porch of the house.


“Oh I’m so glad you’re here!”


“Where’s Amanda?” Johnny asked.


“She’s in the bathroom and can’t…uh…I can’t get her to come out,” Bonnie stepped back to allow the men to enter.

“Please, come in…right this way.”


Johnny went inside and followed the worried mother to the back part of the house, while Roy ran to the squad to get the pry bar. As

they came to the end of the hallway, Johnny saw a little blonde haired girl lying on the floor outside a door trying to look underneath.

The girl quickly got to her feet, her hands clasped behind her back.


“Tammy, what were you doing?” Bonnie asked the little girl.


“Nothin’, Mrs. Freeman. I was just tryin’ to see what Amanda was doin’.”


Bonnie tried to get her daughter to talk to them from her fortress in the bathroom.


“Amanda, honey, we’re going to get the door open so you can come out.”


“No!” a tiny muffled voice cried from inside the bathroom. “Don’t open the door!”


“Why did she shut herself in there?” Johnny asked, looking first at Bonnie, then Tammy.


“I don’t know,” Bonnie answered. “The girls were playing in the bedroom and when I came to check on them, Tammy was sitting

 alone outside the bathroom door.”


Johnny looked at Tammy for a response.


“I dunno, sir,” Tammy said, shrugging. 


Johnny looked suspiciously at Tammy. “Are you sure you don’t know why she locked herself in there?”


“Well, maybe it’s because of the Barbies,” Tammy said coyly as she shifted on her feet.




“Yes, sir. I told her I collected Barbies and she went in there.” Tammy pointed at the bathroom.


“And that’s all there is to it?”


“Yup!” The little girl grinned, thinking this would end the questions from the dark haired fireman. “That’s all.”


Johnny raised an eyebrow at the little girl. Man, this kid’s a miniature female version of Eddie Haskell.


“How long has she been in there?”


“I dunno. A long time.”


Roy came down the hallway with the pry bar in his hands. “Okay, we ready?”


Johnny motioned for Bonnie to step away from the door so Roy could get in to work. He then stepped up closer and began to talk

 to the little girl.


“Amanda, this is Johnny Gage…remember me? I rescued your inch worm.”


A gasp sounded, then “Oh, is it really you, Mister Fireman?”


Roy glanced at his partner and grinned. If there was anytime he wanted the Gage charm with the ladies to work, it was now.


“Yes, it’s really me. Listen, can you open the bathroom door for me, sweetheart?”


“Is she still there?” came a muffled reply.


“You mean Tammy?” Johnny glanced over at the little girl, his eyes narrowing.


“Yeah. Her.”


The three adults exchanged glances as Tammy suddenly wished she were invisible.


“Well, yeah…she’s here. What happened?”



“Never mind…just don’t make me open the door!”


Johnny sighed and walked over to Tammy. He put his hands on his hips as he stood in front of her. “Okay, spill it, kid. What’s this all about?”


“I…I,” Tammy’s bottom lip quivered as the little girl began to cry, squeezing her eyes shut tight so that what little tears there were would run

down her cheeks.


“Oh for petes sake,” Johnny said, “look, Tammy, that’s not gonna work on me.”


“Who’s Pete?” Tammy sniffled, wiping her eyes.


“Huh? Oh. Pete’s not a who…it’s an expression. A saying,” he sighed realizing he was being purposely steered from the subject. “Never mind, it’s not important.” Johnny waved off the idea. “But it is important you tell me everything you know as to why Amanda is locked in a bathroom.”


“I did, sir. I promise, I did.”


Suddenly the door flew open as Roy broke the frame where the lock had been. Johnny turned around to see, then glanced back at Tammy

just in time to see her running down the hallway towards the front door.


Ah ha! She must be guilty of something.


Bonnie took in part of the conversation between Johnny and Tammy, but her concern had been on the locked door and her daughter inside.


Bonnie stepped into the doorway and looked over Roy’s shoulder. They exchanged a curious glance at the actions of the little girl. She was stashing Barbie dolls here, there and anywhere in the bathroom she could.


“Amanda what are you doing?” Bonnie asked.


Roy stepped aside to let his partner in since Amanda seemed to take a shine to him before. Johnny walked over and squatted down by the girl.


“What’s this all about, sweetheart?” Johnny began checking for any signs of injuries.


“I’m trying to save my Barbies,” Amanda explained. She looked towards the hallway. “Is she still out there?”


Johnny looked over towards where Amanda was watching.


“You mean Tammy?”


Amanda nodded.


“No…I think she knew better than to stick around for the finale,” Johnny grinned. “Now what happened? What’s with the dolls stuck everywhere?”


“She said she collects Barbies so I better not play with mine. I had to carry ‘em all in here and hide ‘em.”


“Well, just because she collects them doesn’t mean you have to. I think that’s up to your mom, not Tammy.”


Amanda shook her head as she began to cry. “No…you don’t understand. She collects Barbies. She said if we played with mine she couldn’t help it.”


“Help what?” Johnny was confused.


Bonnie looked over her shoulder to the hallway where Tammy had run out. Just wait till I see your mother, Tammy Carlton.


“She said she would have to collect mine if we played with ‘em…she can’t help it.”


“You mean she steals them?”


Amanda nodded, sniffing.


Johnny stood up, giving Bonnie a reassuring grin. “She looks to be fine.”


 He walked over to Roy as Bonnie kneeled by her young daughter. 


“Roy, Tammy’s a Barbie kleptomaniac,” he said in wonderment.


 “Either that or she really doesn’t want to play Barbies and made up an elaborate excuse,” Roy offered.


“Maybe.” Johnny shook his head. “Kids…man, they never cease to amaze me.”


“Tell me about it. I have two of my own amazing kids, don’t forget.”




Johnny waved to Amanda as they left after they had explained to her the dangers of locking oneself in the bathroom. She waved back, a big 

 smile on her face.


“You know you really have an admirer there,” Roy teased. “Too bad you don’t have that much devotion from the more mature ladies.”


“Oh, be quiet.” Johnny stuck a gift Amanda had given him in his pocket.


“You gonna keep that?” Roy asked, glancing over at his partner.


“I don’t know…it’s almost like the kid will know if I don’t.”


Roy shook his head. Another call came over the radio summoning the squad and Engine 51 to a motor vehicle accident.





Later, the paramedics returned to the station after taking three victims from the accident to Rampart. Johnny climbed out of the squad, exhausted

 from a harrowing experience getting the two of the victims out of a car that had been teetering on the edge of an embankment.

 Roy followed behind as they made their way to the dayroom.


Johnny sat in a chair across from Chet and leaned his head back, closing his eyes. When he felt something hit his hand, Johnny opened his

 eyes and looked at the Little Kiddle doll lying in front of him on the table. A sudden hue of red colored his face.


“That fell out of your pocket at the accident scene,” Chet explained. “So that’s your choice for a new hobby? Collecting dolls?”


“Chet, a little girl gave me that for lu--”


“Honestly Gage, if your gonna go this route, by all means…take up photography again. It’s a lot better for your image.”








Author’s note: The character of Amanda first appeared in Unknown Rescue.



Thank you, Kenda, for the beta read! :o)  This story was inspired by a conversation I had with my daughter concerning one of her friends.