The Talker

By Audrey W.





John Gage cringed as he and his partner Roy DeSoto walked up to the base station at Rampart.


“Man, you got anything for a sore shoulder?” He asked their favorite head nurse Dixie McCall.


She eyed the young dark-haired paramedic. His cringe had turned into a lasting grimace.


“What happened to you? Rough rescue?”


Roy beat Gage to the answer.


“He’s got a new girlfriend.”


Dixie raised her eyebrows in surprise and question, which brought on more of an explanation, this time from Johnny.


“She uh. . .she tends to talk a lot. . .and with her hands. I pulled back kinda awkward when her reach went a little far.” He glanced at Roy, who was still enjoying the situation too much. A quick glare and Johnny finished with, “Guess I musta moved wrong and a little too fast.”   


“Put a heating pad on it.”


“I don’ know, Dix. That might be a little awkward and I really don't want the other guys at the station to see me with one.”


“Well, I know a doctor who--”


He quickly put his hands up in front of his chest, as if to push the idea away. “Ooooh nooo.  On second thought I think I’ll be juuuust fine.”


“I already suggested that,” Roy commented to Dixie. “He didn’t like it from me either.”


“I’ll never hear the end of it if a date I had puts me in front of a doctor. Nope, I’ll just hafta work it out, that’s all.”


Roy shook his head. He hoped that would do the trick. Johnny wasn’t in a good mood because of his sore shoulder and he wasn’t thrilled about having to listen to him complain.


“You ready?” Johnny asked his partner.


“Sure.” Roy gave a quick wave to Dixie. “See ya later.”


Johnny waved with his good arm, then headed toward the exit alongside Roy.


Dixie grinned at the two, then went back to work on a paper in front of her, which was a proposed budget for the month.


“Well, they sure left in a hurry,” Kel Brackett said as he joined her. He’d seen the paramedics disappear around the corner just before the exit.


“I think Johnny was trying to get out of here before you showed up.”


The bewildered expression on his face brought a smile to hers.


“Nothing personal,” she assured. “He just didn’t want to be cornered.”


She then went on to explain the whole situation to the doctor.




On their way back to Station 51, the paramedics were still on the same subject as Dixie and Brackett.


“You know, it wouldn’t’ve hurt for you to see Brackett or Morton.”


“Roy. . .”


“I know. You’ll work it out.”


Johnny rubbed at his sore right shoulder. He sure hoped he could.




Roy watched Johnny favor his right arm as he climbed out of the squad once they were parked in the apparatus bay.


“You want me to take a look at your shoulder?”


You ?”


Roy leaned with his elbows on the hood of the squad and nodded.


Johnny scoffed at the idea. “Man, I’m a paramedic, too. What could you possibly do that I couldn’t on my own?”


“Give an honest evaluation.”


That led to a scowl from his partner, then a shake of his head. “No. Now look, I’m fine. I’ll be fine,” he assured.


“If you say so.”




Johnny hid his sore shoulder from the rest of the crew until Captain Stanley accidentally brought it to everyone’s attention.


“I’ve gotta give you guys a pat on the back,” he said as he voiced his admiration on the exceptional skill his paramedics displayed on an earlier rescue. It was the first time that the captain was able to talk to them since they’d saved an elderly lady and her small twelve-year-old dog a couple of rescues earlier.  The victims had been trapped in their car as it precariously balanced off the edge of a road, a guard rail the only thing keeping it from dropping a great distance off the edge. Their ability to keep both the woman and animal calm while the car was secured by the rest of the crew had been the key. Thanks to them, the woman trusted all the firemen completely and her dog seemed to sense her assured emotions.


When he literally gave Johnny a firm pat on the right shoulder, the dark-haired paramedic let out an involuntary gasp.


Hank stepped back and looked at his youngest crew member in concern.


“Are you okay, John?”


“Yeah. It’s no big deal, Cap.”


The captain looked to Roy. He was usually more willing to give an honest report on his partner’s well being than Gage himself was.




The senior paramedic hesitantly explained the situation, much to Johnny’s disapproval. Hank Stanley was somewhat sympathetic, but the rest of the crew saw opportunity since it wasn’t anything serious.


“Wow, Gage, I gotta ‘hand’ it to ya. You really know how to pick ‘em.”




“All the stuff you do on the job and one__ date with this girl is all it takes?”


Johnny groaned. “Marco, you too?” He looked at Mike Stoker, waiting for another remark.


However Mike just shrugged. “There’s nothing to add to that.”


“Just be glad she’s not a close talker,” Hank put in. “You’d be laid out on the floor in no time.”


Johnny leaned his backside against the counter near the stove and gave a pained look at his partner. Roy did all he could to avoid eye contact.




“So, how’s the shoulder?” Dixie asked when Roy and Johnny stopped by Rampart later in the afternoon. With Johnny needing a break from more teasing remarks at the station, they’d decided to make a run for supplies.


He gave a brief frown. “The shoulder’s fine, but my fun meter’s pegged out.”


Roy offered to her puzzled expression, “The guys are having a field day with it. Especially Chet.”


“Ahhh,” she said with a nod. "So they found out afterall."


“Well, I didn’t expect to see you two here,” Doctor Brackett said as he came up to the paramedics. “How’s the shoulder, Johnny?”


Gage looked from Roy, to Dixie. “Word sure gets around.” He then eyed the doctor. “It’s fine.” To prove his point, he rotated his arm again. “See?”


Brackett nodded, a slight twitch to the corner of his mouth. . “I have to hand it--”


He broke off in mid sentence when Gage held up a hand to stop him.


“Already heard it?”


Johnny gave one firm nod. “Let me put it this way, Doc. If I hear one more hand joke, I will need your services, ‘cause I’m gonna be sick of ‘em.”


His three friends had to grin. Gage sure had a knack for being in these situations.




Johnny held his own the remainder of the time on duty. Even when they had to repel down the face of a rocky cliff to rescue a man who’d fallen, Gage didn’t complain about it hurting his shoulder, nor did he let it slow him down. An occasional wince was the only way to tell it bothered him at all. 


But by the end of the shift, he really had seemed to have worked it out.


The dark-haired paramedic beamed as he and Roy headed for their vehicles in the rear lot of the station.


“I told ya I’d be fine.”


“You sure did. I’m glad you were right. This time.”


Johnny stopped in mid step. “What’s that s’posed ta mean?”


“Nothing. Just that when we evaluate ourselves, we aren’t always very objective.” He shrugged. “We’re all guilty of minimizing the situation now and then when we’re the ones hurt. Comes with the profession I guess.”


“I guess so. But sometimes we just know our bodies bettern’ anyone else.”


Roy nodded slightly. That was true, too.


“You wanna come over to the house for breakfast? Joanne’s making omelets.”


“Thanks, but I’ve gotta get cleaned up an’ ready for a date.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Robin an’ I are goin’ out for brunch.”




“Yeah, you know. A late breakfast and early lunch combined.”


“I know what it is. You just never struck me as the ‘brunch’ type.”


He held out his arms and shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, with a girl like Robin, I’ll be any type she wants.”


Roy grinned as his partner then headed for his Land Rover. Gage’s answer certainly didn’t surprise him.




At the beginning of the next shift, Roy came into the locker room a little early to change into his uniform and saw that Johnny was nearly ready for work himself.


“Good morning.”




Roy had a hard time hearing the reply. Gage didn’t turn around or even so much as glance over his shoulder when he gave it.


“You’re certainly here early,” the senior paramedic commented as he continued onto his own locker, two down from his partner’s.


“So are you.”


Roy detected a defensive tone in the voice.


“What’s wrong?”


Johnny shrugged, but kept his face inside his locker as he buttoned his shirt. “Nothin’.”


“Nothing at all or nothing you want to talk about?”




This time there was a hint of annoyance in his voice. But it was soon replaced with a sigh of resignation.


“Alright. You’re gonna find out anyway.”


Roy stopped in mid-unbutton of his own shirt when Johnny closed his locker door and made eye contact. One of those eyes had black and blue bruising, with a hint of yellow, around it.


What happened?”


Another sigh. “Brunch.”


“You mean. . .?”


“Uh huh,” he said with a nod. “Robin.”


Roy finally was able to close his mouth to ask another question.


“What’d you do? Forget your wallet and stick her with the bill?”


“Ho, very funny. Roy, this is no laughing matter.”


“Who’s laughing?” He couldn’t help but wince at the wound. Whatever the reason, Robin had clearly walloped Gage good. “So what happened?”


“Well, we went to Pete’s Pancake House to eat. An’ you know how it’s really popular. Always busy and ya hafta wait for a table.”


Roy nodded. He’d taken his family there several times over the past few years and they’d waited awhile each time.


“While we were waiting, I glanced around ta see if anyone looked like they might be about done. When I turned and kinda leaned over to let Robin know I thought a couple was gettin’ ready to leave, she just happened ta be tellin’ me the same thing. . .the back of her right hand . . .which was almost a fist since she was also pointin’ with one finger. . .caught me right in the left eye. I guess between me movin’ one direction, and her the other, it made it that much worse.”


“Boy, she really swings ‘em, huh?”


“She was excited,” Johnny deadpanned.


Roy buttoned his uniform shirt, then reached for his uniform trousers still in his locker.


“Does it hurt as much as it looks like it does?”


Johnny shook his head. “Nah. It did the first day. Watered a lot too. Now it only hurts if I press on it. The problem is gonna be the guys. They aren’t gonna let this one go. Ever.”


Roy grinned slightly. “Probably not.”


As if on cue, the swinging door to the locker room opened, and Marco and Chet walked in. Johnny slammed his locker shut and headed right out of the room through the exit that led to the dorm room. It was beside his locker and was the only temporary solution to his upcoming problem.


“What’s he in a hurry for?” Chet wondered as he opened his locker.




It was the only answer Roy could think of off hand. He’d let Gage handle it when they saw what was really going on. For now all he could do was mentally wish the younger man luck. He was going to need it.




 When the others arrived in the dayroom, Johnny was seated at the table, a newspaper up in front of his face. Kirk, an engine crew member from B-shift, was seated at the end of the table, to the side of him. He glanced anxiously at the new arrivals, his mouth held purposely shut.


“Not a word,” Johnny mumbled from behind his paper. “Or I’ll never cover for ya again.”


Kirk directed his attention to the back of the paper, to avoid eye contact with the others.


“How’d it go?” Chet asked as he took a seat across from Johnny.


“You talking to me or him?” Kirk wondered, with a nod toward Gage.


Unseen by Chet, Johnny’s mouth dropped open as he jerked his head around to face Kirk. He’d moved the paper just enough for the b-shifter to see his shocked and displeased expression.






It was a short, but typical answer. Kirk just wanted Chet, or anyone else, to ask Johnny how his time since their last shift had been. As far as he knew, none of them were aware of the black eye.


Johnny gave a nod of approval to Kirk.


“Hey, where’s the coffee?” Marco wondered after he looked in the open sauce pan on the stove and saw it was empty. It was the pot they always used to make coffee in.


“The can of grounds is in the cupboard to your left,” Kirk offered.


“I think he’s looking for the coffee Johnny was in such a hurry for.”


Chet had eyed Mike while he made his comment. He then shifted his gaze to the table that was visible below the edge of the paper. There was no cup and both the dark-haired paramedic’s hands were on the paper.


“Yeah,” the mustached fireman said. “How come you didn’t make any coffee if you were in such a hurry for it?”


Puzzled by the words, Johnny absently let the paper down and gave Chet a baffled look. “What’re you talkin’ about?”


Chet’s mouth dropped open. At the same time, Roy turned his back toward Gage, as he was sure the next explanation offered was going to draw him into the conversation.


After a few seconds of a slack jaw, Kelly found his voice. “What happened to you now?”


Maybe not, Roy thought. For now, he was off the hook.


Suddenly realizing what he’d just done, Johnny glanced around to see the others’ reactions. Kirk was the only one grinning. The rest all appeared to be surprised.


“Oh man. . .” he groaned.


“You didn’t tell us what happened,” Mike reminded him.


“Nothin’. It’s just a small bruise.”


“Yeah, which no one gets there unless. . .” Chet trailed off. “Robin?”


“Brunch,” Johnny firmly stated.




“That’s what I said, Marco.”


“Strange name for a girl.”


“Mike, brunch isn’t ‘er name. It’s not ‘er name. It’s where we were. What we were doin’.”


“Since when do you have ‘brunch’, John?” Chet questioned. “Isn’t that for rich old ladies?”


“Maybe that’s who he’s dating,” Kirk joked.


Johnny pursed his lips. He knew it was inevitable that the guys would see his black eye. He’d tried to think of as many comebacks as he could to various remarks he’d expected. But these weren’t the ones he’d planned on.


“All right, look,” he said, again glancing around at his audience. “Do you want an explanation or not?”


“I do,” Marco admitted.


The others nodded. Except Roy, who already knew of course.


Johnny went on to tell the guys how Robin had accidentally hit him while they were waiting to get a table.


“And that’s all there is to it,” he finished as he sat back in his chair.


After a moment of silence, Kirk asked, “So what did you eat?”


Johnny just looked at him in disbelief.




Gage had to explain his black eye a third time when Captain Stanley saw it during roll call. Afterward, he and Roy worked together to inventory the squad.


“Ya know, if I hafta tell that story one__more__time. . .I tell ya. . .”




“Well, I think I’ll change it up some, so it’s at least interesting for me, too.”


Roy grinned as he placed the drug box back in its compartment in the squad.


“Better start thinking of what you want to say then. I’m sure you’ll get your share if inquiries at Rampart.”


“Oh man. . .”


Roy was right. Everyone was going to take notice and wonder what happened. He figured he could sure use the help of those models who’d recently been at the station for a photo shoot. The pretty ladies had first posed with him, then when it was determined he didn’t ‘look’ like a fire fighter, Roy was photographed with them and those pictures were used. The memory brought a brief scowl to Gage’s face, till he shoved that part aside and returned to his original train of thought. He’d cut himself shaving and one of the models had applied a touch of makeup to cover the small wound.


What was it she used? Oh yeah, pancake makeup!


“Hey, Roy. . .”




“Man, I’m glad it was easy to find,” Johnny said as he and Roy headed for the cash registers at the front of a local drug store. They’d made up an excuse that they were going to Rampart for supplies, but really Roy had agreed to drive to a store in search of the pancake makeup. Anything to make the shift easier on his partner, which would also make it easier on him as well.


“I sure didn’t wanna spend so long searchin’ for this stuff that someone saw us that we didn’t want to see us.” Johnny held up the small compact of makeup in his right hand. “Is this what Joanne uses?”


Roy shook his head. “I don’t think she uses the same stuff. I’ve heard her mention foundation before. But I don’t recall pancake makeup.”


“What’s the difference?”


Roy shrugged. “How should I know? She wears it, not me.”


“Good point,” Gage acknowledged with a slight grin.


As they neared the checkout area, Johnny handed the compact to Roy, who absently accepted it, a baffled expression on his face.


“Why’re you giving it to me?”


“Because. You have a reason to be buyin’ makeup. I don’t.”


Roy stopped walking and faced the younger man beside him, who’d stopped as well.


“You’re the one who is buying it. For a black eye.”


“Shhh,” Gage urged as he glanced nervously around. “You know, you don’t hafta announce it all over the store.”


“All anyone has to do is look.”


“Roy, c’mon, man. Just ‘cause I have a black eye doesn’t mean they’re gonna expect me ta buy this stuff. Especially for myself. You, on the other hand, are wearing a wedding ring. You could be buyin’ it for Joanne.”


“Why would I be doing that if we just clarified she doesn’t wear it?”


“Man, would ya quit kidding around and jus’ pay for it?”


“Wait, why am I--”


Johnny pulled his wallet out of his back pant pocket and opened it up. He took out a couple of dollars and handed them to Roy.


“I didn’t mean literally.”


Roy rolled his eyes as he took the money and makeup to the young female cashier that wasn’t busy at the moment. As he checked out, Johnny made sure to mention__twice__ how much Joanne was going to appreciate her husband getting the stuff for her.


But he found out it was going to cost him a little extra when Roy kept the change, with the comment, “To ‘make up’ for my pain and suffering.”


“Right,” Gage said with a wry grin.




“How’s it look?”


Roy glanced up from where he was seated on the bench in the locker room. With the engine out on a run, the paramedics had headed straight for the room with a mirror over the sinks so that Johnny could put the makeup on with no one hassling him.


“It’s a little obvious. Maybe you need to rub it in more or wipe off a little excess.”


Johnny faced the mirror again and frowned. “I think you’re right. Man, how do chics do this every day?”




Gage grabbed a paper towel and gently wiped off some of the pancake substance. He then turned toward his partner again.


“How about now?”




Johnny gave a lopsided grin. “I thought so, too. Good deal, then. Now I don’t hafta worry about anyone else askin’ me about it.”


“I’m not so sure I’d be willing to bet on that.”


Roy got to his feet as Gage stared at him with a puzzled expression. So the older man offered an explanation.


“The guys are at a fire with two other stations. What makes you think when it’s time to clean up, none of them are going to mention your eye to the others?”


A stunned John Gage slowly lowered himself onto the bench.


“Man. . .why’d ya hafta pick this shift to be so right, Roy? Why?”




Gage and DeSoto hadn’t been back long before they were once again toned out, this time along with Engine 18. The call was for a possible drug overdose. When they arrived at the scene, they saw their ‘drug overdose’ was a young long-haired shirtless man clad in bell bottom denims and up on the roof of a two story house.


The captain from Station 18 came over to the squad as soon as the paramedics climbed out of it. He and his crew had arrived just moments earlier.


“You can get to the balcony on the second floor from inside the house. One of my men will pass a ladder up to you once you get there, that way you can get to the roof.”


“How’d he get up there?” Johnny asked.


“The tree.”


The paramedics looked at the large oak near the house. In order to have gotten to the roof, the man would have had to’ve jumped a space of four feet.


“What’s he on?” Johnny wondered as he looked up at the now ranting man. Nothing he was saying seemed to make sense.


“LSD. He’s tripping out pretty bad.”


As the three trotted toward the house, Roy asked, “How long’s he been up there?”


“His friends said about fifteen minutes.  They tried to talk him down before they called for us. I just radioed for police backup.”


“They sure it’s an overdose?”


The captain shook his head. “I doubt it. They aren’t exactly ‘with it’ right now themselves. I'm really surprised they'd even thought to call for help.”




After getting the victim’s name, Johnny and Roy headed inside, while the captain went back to his men to supervise the rescue.





By the time the paramedics were on the roof, a squad car with two police officers pulled up to the scene. They immediately got out of their car and were briefed by the fire captain.


The men then watched as Johnny and Roy attempted to help the confused and wounded man.




“Just take it easy, Rick,” Johnny said when the hallucinating hippie backed fearfully away from he and Roy. “We’re not here ta hurt ya. We wanna help ya.”


“That’s right. We’re on your side, Rick” Roy assured. He hesitantly held out a hand.


Rick looked anxiously from one paramedic to the other, then let out a wail as he charged toward Johnny, randomly swinging his fists.


Gage didn’t have much time to react on the slanted roof, other than to duck the first couple of close hits. But the third one caught him in the already blackened eye, with a force he surely hadn’t felt from Robin. 


Next thing Johnny knew, he was kneeling on the roof near the edge and Roy was calling from a short distance away.


“Johnny! You okay?”


“Yeah. . .yeah, I’m. . .I’m alright,” he assured as he got to his feet, his legs a bit wobbly. He wanted to glance behind him to see just how close he’d come to falling off the roof, but figured as woozy as he momentarily was, it might not be such a good idea.


Roy was still eyeing him with concern, his gaze shifting often between Rick and Johnny.


“Can you hang in there?”


He hoped so, but there was no sense in letting pride put his partner in further danger, not to mention himself.


“I don’ know.”


Roy looked down at the others. “We’re gonna need help!”


The police officer and another fire fighter ran into the house and soon were up on the roof.


After another twenty minutes of Roy and the policeman dodging fists and more senseless ranting, they finally had Rick down on the roof’s surface and restrained. .


The captain had gotten Rampart General on the biophone and let them know the situation. Doctor Brackett directed that Roy administer Rick a sedative to calm him down for everyone’s safety, including Rick’s himself. They’d need to monitor his vitals closely during transport to the hospital.


The drug box was handed up to the paramedics. Johnny had his wits about him again and was able to help more, though he was still a bit shaky.


Once they were on the ground and Rick was in the ambulance, Roy turned to his partner. Gage had a couple of butterfly bandages over a small split on his cheek, just below his slightly swollen eye. The front of his uniform was stained with droplets of blood.


“You wanna ride in with him?”


“Sure. It’s not like he can do anymore damage than he already has,” Johnny said as he gently touched the bandages with his fingertips.


Roy winced slightly. Though not bruised anymore than before yet, the eye previously wounded by Robin looked much worse now. Gage’s eye itself was watery off and on. The already bruised skin was puffier, with redness in and around it. He wondered if his partner even realized just how bad his eye was going to be looking after awhile.


Johnny climbed up inside the ambulance and sat on the bench seat.  Before Roy shut the door, the older paramedic commented, “Just so you know, he smeared your makeup.”


He closed the door to an open-mouthed but speechless Gage.




When they got to Rampart, Johnny hurried alongside the stretcher as the entourage, including two orderlies, headed for one of the treatment rooms. The drugged man was very groggy and the ride in had been uneventful, just as he’d expected.


Roy arrived in the squad right after the ambulance, and quickly climbed out of the truck. He came around the corner just inside the emergency entrance in time to see his partner go into a treatment room a few doors down. Roy followed suit.




Johnny held Rick’s IV bag while the orderlies transferred him to the exam table. The paramedic then hung the bag on an IV pole nearby.


Doctor Brackett glanced at his eye and cheek. “That from him?”


The dark-haired paramedic once again lightly touched the sore area with his finger tips. “Not all of it.”


“You’re going to have one heck of a black eye if it’s already bruising.”


Brackett continued on with his assessment of the patient, Roy filling him in on more details, while Johnny’s thoughts remained on his eye.


At least it wasn’t a *girl* who hit me this time. . . He paused a moment when that  thought sank in.  It wasn’t a girl!


Even better, the damage Robin had inadvertently caused was apparently going to be more than covered over by the second blow. Hers wouldn’t even count anymore. For the first time ever, Johnny found himself kind of glad for a little misfortune on a rescue.




Johnny was still reflecting on what he considered his luck as Roy drove the squad back to the station.  Now he didn’t even need to worry about hiding the injury to his eye since he could credit a violent drugged out hippie. There was no shame in that. It could’ve happened to anyone if they’d been dispatched to the call.


Since he didn’t have to hide it anymore, that meant one thing.


Goodbye, pancake makeup!


Maybe he could offer the rest to Roy for Joanne.




Once the paramedics and engine crew were all back at the station, Johnny decided to see how correct Roy had been about how fast word about his eye would travel. He’d already had to explain to the others what had made his eye even worse. Maybe that would spread through gossip, too.


“So, Marco,” he asked since the usual talker, Chet, was out of the room at the moment. “Did you guys. . .uh. . .say anything about. . .you know. . .to any of the other engine crews?”


“About what?” he innocently asked.


Marco and Roy were seated at the table in the dayroom, while Johnny had taken a seat on the leather couch under a window. He was holding an ice pack over his left eye in hopes of keeping it from swelling much more.


“You know. . .”


Marco shifted his gaze to Roy for a possible hint. Roy pointed to his own eye, then gave a nod toward his partner.


“Oh that,” Marco said.


“Yeah, that.” Gage stood up in frustration, the ice pack still in place. He walked over and took a seat across from Marco. Leaning forward with an elbow on the table, he prodded. “So? Did anyone?”


“Chet might’ve mentioned it to a couple of guys.”


“How many is a couple?”


“Usually that’s two,” Roy put in.


I know that. But we’re talkin’ Chet here.” Johnny once again looked at Marco as he waited for an answer. “How many, Marco?”


“That I know of?”


Gage’s good eye narrowed and he nodded.


“Maybe about five. . .six,” he shrugged.


The ice pack dropped onto the table and Gage sat back. “Maybe five or six,” he echoed. “Ah man,” he groaned.




Johnny didn’t have much more time to question his engine crew shiftmates due to the tones interrupting the conversation. The squad was dispatched out for another rescue involving a male victim.


This time it was an elderly man who’d fallen down a couple of cement steps outside his home. His legs were banged up, his hands scraped and a couple of fingers broken. But luckily he didn’t have more serious injuries. The fall could have been devastating.


After a brief time on the scene, the paramedics had him in an ambulance and on his way to Rampart, Roy along with him.


Gage had noticed the onlookers staring at his face during the rescue. One lady kept wiping her eyes since they watered every time she looked at him. The victim himself even made the comment once that the paramedic appeared in need of a little medical care, too.


Johnny was glad he just had to hang in there until the next morning, when they’d be off duty for four days. Time passed would make his wound so much less obvious.




As Johnny and Roy headed for the exit at Rampart after leaving the elderly man in a doctor’s care, they ran into two paramedics from another station who were bringing in a victim from a golfing accident.


“Hey, Gage,” one called out as they passed each other by, “We heard you got hit by a girl.” He gave a low whistle. “She really nailed ya, huh?”


“But it wasn’t--” Johnny began before cutting himself off. They were already out of earshot unless he shouted. “Oh man. . .”


“I guess you didn’t count on a misunderstanding like that,” Roy said with a half grin.


Johnny looked at him with his one good eye and partially bad one. “Man, can you believe that? They think Robin did this,” he pointed to the injury with his left index finger. “Jus’ when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. . .”


“Well, look at it this way.”


“Go on,” he prodded reluctantly. 


“Rick could’ve knocked you off the roof and put you in a body cast. Just think of the rumors that would’ve started.”


“That isn’t very helpful, Roy,” Gage grumbled as they walked out to the squad. “That isn’t very helpful at all.”




Captain Stanley stopped on his way back to his office, a cup of coffee in his hand, when he met into John and Roy. They’d climbed out of the squad and were just outside the dayroom.


“Please tell me that isn’t our dinner,” the captain said 


Roy smirked, but Gage was too involved in his problem to catch exactly what was said.




He looked from the captain to Roy, a medium-sized raw piece of steak held on his injured eye with his left hand.


“The steak,” Roy clarified.




DeSoto then explained to the captain, “Johnny decided to try the ol’ fashioned way to clear up some of the discoloration around his eye.”


“Ah, I see. Well, just be sure that steak doesn’t end up in a frying pan if it doesn’t work. . .or even if it does.”




Hank continued on his way, but the paramedics didn’t move. Johnny had stopped Roy as soon as he’d started to step toward the dayroom.


“I can’t go in there. Not with this.”


“C’mon, they’ll probably just make a couple of jokes and be done. You know how they are.”


“Yeah, I sure do. That’s exactly why I think I’ll go sit in the dorm awhile.”


“But you’re forgetting. They know it wasn’t Robin who made your eye that bad.”


“But they’ll know I’ve got a piece of meat over it.”


“Okay. But what do you want me to tell them?”


“I’m tired,” Johnny dryly stated.


The senior paramedic watched as his partner turned around and walked in front of the squad, then disappeared around the front of the engine, the steak still over his eye.


He wondered which was bruised the most: Johnny’s eye or his ego.




When dinner time came, the men gathered around the table to eat fried chicken, mashed potatoes, salad and dinner rolls. Captain Stanley was grateful it hadn’t been steak. Even though he’d have known it wasn’t Johnny’s, he just wasn’t in the mood to eat the stuff.


Johnny put his steak in a paper bag, then in the refrigerator with his name written on the sack. He was going to throw it away in the morning, but had worked through the possibility of getting playfully harassed by his fellow crew members and figured he’d  apply it some more after they ate.


He’d examined his eye in the mirror over the sinks in the locker room prior to dinner. There wasn’t much of a change at all yet.


“So, you going out with Robin while we’re off?” Chet wondered as he took a bite of his chicken.


“I don’ know. Maybe, unless she has to work.”


“Where does she work?”


Johnny glanced at Marco. He hadn’t told them up to this point and for the moment, he wasn’t sure he wanted to. But when he saw them all looking expectantly at him, he figured he wasn’t going to be able to get out of it.


“She. . . uh. . .she does__ stuff__here and there.”


The captain smiled, not looking at Johnny, as he buttered a roll. “Oh? What kind of ‘stuff’?”


He wasn’t going to be able to hide a thing.  Johnny shifted uncomfortably in his chair, cleared his throat slightly, then offered, “She’s a mime.”


 The sound of silverware clattering on plates filled the room.




“So tell me again. . .” Chet began as he and Marco washed the dishes, the others seated in front of the television to watch the evening news. “What does a talkative mime say when they aren’t working?”


“Would ya let it go, Chet?”


The fireman shook his head. “No.”


Johnny sighed with a glance at his partner, with his one eye that wasn’t covered again by the steak. He then turned in his seat to face the dishwashers.


“Look, she’s a mime while she’s working. When she’s off, she’s just a regular chic.”


“At least we all know now why she ‘throws punches’ when she talks.”


“She doesn’t --- oh forget it. . .”


Johnny turned to face the TV again, wishing Chet was a mime at the moment.


Marco and Chet traded grins, then continued on with their chore.




It had been a quiet night, no rescues for Station 51. The men were awakened by the routine morning tones at seven o’clock. Hank immediately got out of bed and stepped over to the desk near it, where another radio used for communications was at.  He picked up the mic.


“Station 51, KMG365.”


Some of the crew headed for the locker room and bathroom. Roy and Mike went straight for the dayroom after stepping into their turnout pants and pulling them up, securing them with the suspenders.




Johnny examined his black eye in the mirror over the sinks while he waited for his turn to use the bathroom. It didn’t look much better. Of course, he still had the pancake makeup as an option. But it would take a lot more to cover up what was there. And there was no hiding the cut.


I’m glad we’re almost outta here. . .


He really didn’t want to see Robin until he looked a little less battered. Johnny figured maybe it would be better if he called her and asked her out for a date after the next shift. That way nothing more could be added to his misery for sure.


He felt a squeeze on his shoulder as Captain Stanley came up beside him.


“Take care of that eye while we’re off.”


“Don’t worry. I will.”


When Chet came out of the bathroom and the captain went in, the fireman sat on the bench with Marco and watched as Johnny looked at his eye from one angle to another in the mirror.


“So how did you meet Robin the mime anyway?”


“She was doin’ a routine on the sidewalk in front of a grocery store, Chet. An’ she framed me.”


Framed you?”


“Yeah, you know, she moved her hands around to make it like I was in a picture frame.”


“Sounds like a good reason to date a girl to me,” came a sarcastic reply.





With not a lot planned, the four days off went slowly for Johnny. He was anxious to get back to work. It also helped that he’d gone bowling with a few paramedic and firemen friends who were now aware of the whole story behind his black eye. He no longer should have to deal with ribbing about his girlfriend wounding him.


Robin had agreed to a date with him after he was done with this next shift.


It sure seemed to Johnny that all was finally right again in his world.





Part 2