This story is a sequel in the Knee High To A Grasshopper series, featuring Melvin Meyers as Johnny’s biggest problem creator. Although it’s not a necessity to read the previous stories in this series first, it might help since there are references to things in them in this story.
I Didn’t See It Coming
Johnny hung up the phone in the dayroom and slumped against the wall, his right forearm resting on the shelf nearby. It had been three months since his unbelievable experience of being kidnapped and held prisoner in a basement of a house, while a chemist/fireman was expected to create a formula that could shrink people. It was so hard to believe that he would have that kind of a dilemma facing him, that Gage was sure it would never happen again. But another problem was surfacing, and once more the paramedic found himself trying to figure out a solution.
“I’ve seen that look before,” Roy said as he walked into the room. “Who was she?”
Gage slowly looked up at his partner. “Hmm? Oh, it’s not what you think. It wasn’t a she and I didn’t get dumped.”
The younger man shook his head, then ran a hand through his hair as he made his way over to the couch and plopped down next to Henry. “Nope. It was Melvin.”
“Yup. And he had some. . .uh. . .kind of bad news.”
“Well, you know those guys that kidnapped us a few months ago were sent to prison for at least five years. . .”
“Yeah. . .so?” Roy saw Johnny’s expression darken. “Don’t tell me they escaped.”
“No, worse. They’ve got a few ticked off relatives who apparently miss ‘em being at family outings and stuff. . .relatives who have friends that are willing to do them a favor and get revenge on the guys who put those idiots in prison.” He sighed and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, chin resting on his hands. “Melvin’s been getting phone calls that say just enough to convey a warning, then the person hangs up.”
Roy sat down at the table and processed the information. It seemed unreal that Meyers and Gage would have to deal with this now. They were just firefighters minding their own business. “Has he called the police?”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah, but they can’t do anything except drive by his apartment now and then. And stop by the station when he’s on duty. It’s because nothing’s really happened, so right now, these are being considered prank calls.”
“So these callers are just threatening him?”
The dark-haired man leaned back against the seat. “No, they mentioned my name to him today.” He shrugged, an unsure expression on his face. “I guess they want to get me, too. But figured they’d let Melvin relay it to me.” He stood up and paced over to the counter, then to the bulletin board. “Roy, what am I gonna do?” Johnny became animated, waving his arms for emphasis as he carried on. “I have no idea who these people are. . .where they live. . .if someone’s watching me or if they’re even gonna do anything or just try to scare us.”
DeSoto had turned in his seat to follow his partner’s movements. He now eyed the younger man with concern. “Call the police,” he said, offering the only advice he could think of. “And let Cap know when he gets back from their run. He’s gonna need to know something’s up.”
“Yeah, I know.” Gage was already over by the couch again. “Man, I can’t believe this. All because I broke my toe and Melvin decided to stop by my place on the way home from work. That’s all it took to mess my life up for who knows how long.”
“I think it started long before that.”
Johnny turned to face his partner, a puzzled expression on his face. “Whattaya’ mean?”
“Those times you disappeared . . .almost into thin air . . .Meyers was always involved. He may not have intended it this way, but I think he’s brought more trouble to your life than you’ll ever remember.”
“Well, whatever happened before is water under the bridge, ya know? The main thing now, is figuring out who these people are that’re mad at us, and letting the cops know if we do get our answer.”
“Whatever you do, don’t let Meyers talk you into any crazy schemes.”
Johnny splayed his hand on his chest and feigned a hurt look. “Roy, this is me. Johnny. I’m not gonna get involved in any crazy schemes.” He snorted.
“Well, just the same, if you need a place to go for awhile, the door’s always open at our house.”
“You’re still trying to get even with me for that time you stayed at my place in the chair bed, aren’t you?”
“Hey, if it opens the opportunity for that at the same time. . .” Roy trailed off.
The telephone ringing interrupted the conversation. Johnny picked up the receiver and placed it to his ear.
“Station 51, fireman Gage speaking.”
After listening for a few seconds, he hung up the phone and ran out the door. DeSoto was up in an instant, following behind his partner.
“What is it? Who called?” he hollered, as he saw Johnny head to the parking lot in the back. When Roy got outside, he stepped up beside Gage and stared at the site before them. All four of the tires on the Land Rover were slashed and flat.
“Have you checked your tires lately?” Johnny asked.
“Huh?” Roy looked towards his own car, when he realized that wasn’t what the younger man had meant.
“That’s all he said,” Gage explained. “The man on the phone just asked me if I’d checked my tires lately and hung up.”
The senior paramedic looked around uneasily. Where was the person now? When had they done this? “I’d say they’re watching you,” he said sullenly.
Johnny nodded. “Yeah. I guess so.”
“So that’s all the guy said?” Crockett asked, as he surveyed the damage to the tires.
“Yup. That’s all.” Johnny sighed and looked around at the others. He felt like a fool, but he could tell by the expressions on the others’ faces that they were taking this as serious. Chet didn’t even offer any jokes to lighten the situation.
“And you said you’d been on runs several times today, right?” Crockett asked, looking at Johnny.
“Yeah, we’ve been on a couple at the same time as the engine, too. Someone could’ve done it then. Hard to say since I haven’t been out here much today.”
“Okay, well, there’s not much we can do, except file a report. If any more direct actions are taken against you or you receive any threats of violence, then we can assign a cop to tail you for awhile. But I’m afraid until there’s more than one incident, I can’t justify tying up a cop twenty-four/seven on a ‘just in case’.”
“That’s understandable. Thanks anyway, Lieutenant,” the captain said. “We’ll be more observant of what goes on around here, and if we see anything out of the ordinary, you’ll hear from us.”
“Sounds good.” He glanced at his watch. “You mind if I use the phone in your office?”
Hank shook his head. “Not at all. Help yourself.”
As the lieutenant headed towards the building, Johnny looked around at his shiftmates. “You know, I’d rather have the Phantom’s water bombs all shift instead of this.”
They agreed and started into the apparatus bay. Gage quickly turned to face Chet. “But don’t let the Phantom get any ideas. Remember, I said ‘instead of’, not ‘along with’ what’s going on now.”
“The Phantom knows what you meant,” Kelly assured.
While the crew of A-shift played basketball in the back parking lot to ease a little tension, Johnny explained what Melvin had told him.
“These telephone calls have been coming for nearly two weeks, but that’s all they’ve been. Calls. He did ask to be moved to a different shift, hoping to throw who ever it is off. But who knows if that’ll help. If this person or people are watching me, then I’m sure that he’s being watched, too.”
“What shift is Meyers on now?” Roy wondered, as he took a shot at the basket.
“At least if someone were to try to set you guys up for something to happen on duty, there’s no way they can get the two of you together in one place,” Mike offered.
“Yeah, that’s true. And it’s more work to do it twice. . .more of a risk of being caught. . . so maybe that’ll help,” Johnny said, grabbing the basketball after it fell from the net above.
All motion stopped when the klaxons sounded.
“Squad 51, traffic accident with injuries, 2120 West Market Street, twenty-one twenty West Market Street, time out 15:52.”
Johnny tossed the ball to Chet. “Here, it’s all yours.”
The two paramedics trotted for the squad, where Stanley handed Roy the slip of paper with the address on it. Lights flashing and siren blaring, DeSoto pulled the vehicle into the street and headed for the scene.
When the paramedics arrived at the accident, they got out of the squad and gathered their gear together from the compartments. The two then trotted towards the wrecked vehicles. It looked like a small sports car had pulled into the intersection to make a left turn at the same time a station wagon had tried to go straight across.
Johnny shoved his current problems to the side momentarily as he and Roy surveyed the damage and began to assess the victims who were already out of their car. DeSoto caught himself glancing at the crowd of onlookers on occasion, wondering if any were there to keep an eye on his partner.
Once they had the two victims ready to transport, the senior paramedic directed Gage to go in the ambulance with them.
“Roy, I can take the squad in.”
“Humor me, then. Just ride in with any patients on the next few runs we get.” Roy shrugged. “After it’s been awhile, we’ll go back to alternating.” His hopes were that if anyone were watching Gage, they’d get the idea he wasn’t going to be accessible on any runs and would back off for the time being.
“Okay,” Gage said, holding his hands up in surrender. He climbed into the ambulance and gave a slight smile as his partner closed the doors.
After a quick stop on the way out of Rampart to replenish supplies, Gage and DeSoto were on their way to the station. Johnny stared out the passenger window, chewing his lower lip in thought. After a short while, he glanced over at Roy.
“You know, I’ve been thinking . . .”
“I don’t think anything else is gonna happen, except for a few more prank calls.”
“What makes you say that?”
Johnny shifted in his seat and faced his partner. “Think about it, Roy. If these people were going to do anything serious. . .I mean really serious . . .they’d want to catch Melvin and I off guard, right?”
Roy nodded. “You’d think so. It makes sense.”
Gage sighed and faced forward again, a satisfied grin on his face when he realized Roy thought he was onto something. “It does make sense, doesn’t it? I think they’re just trying to make our lives miserable for awhile. . .kind of have Melvin and I looking over our shoulders, so to speak. I’ll bet after time passes, they’ll get bored and move on.”
“Maybe? Roy, that’s gotta be it!”
“Just the same, keep your eyes open for anything unusual and let everyone else answer the phone if it rings.” He shrugged. “Can’t hurt.”
“I will,” Johnny promised. “I will.” He looked out the window again and watched the scenery pass by.
Roy glanced over. “Don’t forget, you’ve still got four flat tires you’re gonna have to replace.”
“Don’t remind me,” he moaned. “That’s gonna take a chunk out of my savings.”
“Might be a good time to start carpooling with some of us.”
“Nah, the Land Rover would still be a sitting duck at my apartment. I’ll manage.”
As they pulled into the station, Johnny looked at his watch. It was almost six o’clock. Maybe he could go to bed right after dinner and with a little luck, sleep through the rest of the shift. After he called for a tow truck to take his Land Rover to a nearby gas station to replace the tires.
The rest of the shift went without incident. When it was time to get off, Johnny got a ride from Roy to go pick up his Land Rover. Since all four of his tires had been slashed, a flatbed truck was brought over the evening before to pick up the vehicle. Gage had watched sullenly as his car was taken away. The only good part about it was the reassurance he’d gotten from the gas station owner that it would be ready for him to pick up soon after he was off duty.
“You want to come over for breakfast?” Roy asked as they pulled out of the parking lot at the station.
Johnny shook his head. “I promised Melvin I’d stop by as soon as I had wheels again. We’re gonna try to think of a strategy.”
“So that’s what that conversation on the phone was after dinner.” The thought of his partner and Meyers working together on the situation had the senior paramedic imagining all that could go wrong. “Just remember, no crazy schemes.”
“No crazy schemes.”
DeSoto was glad to hear the words, but somehow was having a hard time feeling reassured by them.
“You want Spiderman or Batman?” Melvin asked.
Johnny gave him a puzzled expression from his seat at the kitchen table. “Huh?”
“In the bottom of your cereal.” He held up two bowls, showing pictures that were on the inside bottom of each. One was of Batman and Robin standing together, their capes flowing behind them; the other was of Spiderman holding out his hand in a gesture to lend some help.
The dark-haired paramedic shrugged. “I don’t care. . .Batman, I guess.” When he saw a look of disappointment on his friend’s face, he quickly added, “Or Spiderman would be good. . .yeah, give me Spiderman.” I can’t believe this guy sometimes.
Melvin poured the cereal for both of them and placed a bowl in front of Johnny. He then set a carton of milk on the table and sat down with his own breakfast in front of him.
“So what’re we gonna do?”
“I’m not sure there’s much we can do,” Gage said as he picked up the milk carton and began to pour the liquid over his cereal. “I guess just keep an eye out for anything suspicious. And be wary when answering the phone.”
“Did you get anymore calls after the one about your tires?”
Johnny shook his head. “Not a one.”
“I didn’t get any after yesterday morning. Maybe this is all these guys wanna do. Maybe slashing your tires was the ‘big stunt’ they wanted to pull and they’re done.”
“I don’t think so.”
Melvin nodded in agreement. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” Both men looked at each other when the telephone rang. “Somehow I get the feeling you are right.”
Meyers pushed back his chair and stepped over the telephone on the wall, as Johnny sat back in his chair and waited. When the fireman hung up without saying anything, his guest raised an eyebrow.
“So? Was it another threat?”
“No. . .not exactly.”
“Well, what was it? What’d the caller say?”
“He said it was good to see us in one place again. That we’re gonna make it easier on him this way.”
Johnny set down his spoon and got up from the table, heading for the livingroom. He stood at the window and peered out at the parking lot. The person calling had to have been there just a few minutes before. . .unless they followed him from the fire station to the gas station, and then saw him pull into the lot at Meyer’s apartment complex. Then they could be calling from anywhere by now. It didn’t matter, really. Bottom line was, he and Melvin were going to have to get the upper hand on the situation. But how could they turn the tables? Crockett had already made it clear that unless there was more than empty verbal threats or a few slashed tires, there wasn’t much he could do. For now, it was an open file on his desk, waiting for more to occur so he could make it into a full investigation. Only problem with that was, what would that incident be? Johnny glanced at Meyers as the fireman stepped up to the window.
“Whataya say we put this meeting off until we have a few ideas to toss around,” Gage suggested. “As soon as either of us has a good way to get control on the situation and put these guys in their place, we’ll talk.”
Meyers rubbed his chin in thought. “Yeah, I think that’d be a good idea.”
Johnny pulled his keys out of his pocket and opened the front door. “See ya later.”
“Okay!” Melvin watched his friend go out to the Land Rover. As Gage pulled away, the fireman shut his door and plopped on the couch. There had to be something he could do that would throw the harassers off.
Johnny wasn’t home but for five minutes when his phone rang. Ignoring it, he went down the short hallway to his bathroom to take a shower. With the door open, he could still hear the faint ringing of the telephone over the rush of the water.
Man, sooner or later they’ve gotta give up.
Fifteen minutes later, he was in his bedroom getting dressed when he heard a knock at the front door. Johnny pulled his grey sweatpants up and slipped a navy blue t-shirt on over his head. He cautiously headed for the livingroom as he tugged the shirt edge down and into place. Unfortunately for Gage, there wasn’t a peep hole in the door, so he had to be obvious in peeking out the front window to see who was on the second floor walkway and at his door. Either way, the paramedic planned on confronting the person. He just wanted to be prepared. Taking a deep breath, he carefully parted the curtains.
Johnny quickly opened the front door and greeted his partner with more enthusiasm than he even expected. The younger man had to admit to himself . . .he felt relieved not to have to deal with the unknown.
“Roy, c’mon in! What’re you doing here?”
“Just making sure you’re okay,” he explained as he stepped inside.
“But how. . .”
“I got Meyers' number from one of the guys at his station, and called.” When Roy saw Gage give him a suspicious look, he knew he’d better give the whole story. “I had a feeling on the way home that he was gonna talk you into a wild idea.”
Johnny’s mouth opened to comment, but Roy raised his hand and stopped him. “I know you said you weren’t going to go along with any crazy schemes, but you’ve gotta admit, you two have been in trouble enough. . .your track record leaves a lot to be desired.”
“Okay, I’ll give ya that one. But why not just call me?”
“I did call you. I let it ring and ring, but you never picked up. I thought something might’ve happened.”
“Oh. . .that was you, huh?” Gage said, slightly embarrassed.
Roy nodded, looking curiously next to his partner. “Uh huh.”
Johnny’s eyes followed Roy’s gaze and he suddenly realized he was still standing with the door open. As he started to close it, he noticed Chet was down in the parking lot, getting out of his car.
“You called Chet, too?” Gage asked, wincing.
“Well, when you didn’t. . .anything could have . . .reinforcements never hurt.”
“I guess you’re right. And I guess this goes to show, not answering the telephone isn’t the way to go.”
“No, it’s not.”
Chet reached the top of the stairs and hurried towards Johnny’s apartment. Slightly winded, he leaned against the doorframe. “Is. . .is everything okay?”
“Yes, Chet, everything’s fine.” Johnny said, motioning for the fireman to step inside. “And I appreciate you guys lookin out for me, but really . . . I can handle it . . .I’m fine.”
“But I thought Roy said--”
“It was a false alarm, Chet,” DeSoto admitted. “Johnny was just ignoring his phone.”
Gage slapped his hands together after he gave the door a shove to close it. “Well, since you guys are here, how about a game of cards?”
“This early in the morning?”
“Chet, it’s already after ten o’clock. Besides, what else do you have to do?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure I can think of plenty.”
“I’d stay, but I told Joanne I’d be right back if everything here was okay. There’s some things that need done around the house.”
“Maybe I’d be better off if I just disappeared,” Johnny said, pretending to be offended.
Roy shook his head. “With Meyers in the mix, don’t even think it.”
Gage grinned and opened the door again. “See you guys tomorrow.”
He watched as his friends walked down and out to their cars. Once they both had left the parking lot, he shut the door and went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and some toast, since he’d cut his other breakfast short.
As Johnny took a bite of the food, the telephone rang. Glancing at the clock, he figured it was possible Roy or Chet had made it home. . .or maybe it was Melvin. The paramedic took a swig of coffee to wash down the toast as he stood to go answer the call. Picking up the receiver of the telephone in the livingroom, he spoke.
(“Did you have a nice visit with your buddies?”)
“Who the hell is this?” He heard a click in the middle of his question. Johnny held out the receiver and stared at it, then placed it down firmly on the cradle. He was being watched all right. But by who? There had to be a way to draw them out.
Roy was working on a swing set in the backyard, trying to put Johnny’s current problem out of his mind. He knew he couldn’t stay over there. . .his responsibilities were more with his family, especially since the kids had been counting on him to get the new swing set and slide put up for the weekend ahead. No way did he want to disappoint them. But at the same time, he didn’t like leaving his partner alone the whole day. The only assuring thing was that Johnny hadn’t received any physical threats of bodily harm that Roy knew of and the tire slashing was a thing in the past. Maybe it was a one-time incident.
The blond paramedic stood up from his squatted position near the ground and started fastening one of the swing chains to the top of the framework.
I’ll give Johnny a call later.
Chet was pushing a cart in a grocery store when he thought back to the incident with Gage and Meyers being kidnapped. It seemed unreal now that it was in the past. . .like a bad dream. But he’d never forget what a shock it was to discover Johnny was missing. . .and he’d never forget that gorgeous blonde woman who lived in Gage’s apartment complex. . . .suddenly his shiftmate was out off his mind as thoughts of the blonde became his focus.
Johnny had come up with a plan to figure out who was following him. He’d decided to go on every errand he could possibly think of and make himself vulnerable by staying on his own. If he kept a watchful eye on his surroundings, a familiar person or car was bound to become obvious if the person or vehicle was at each and every place he went.
First he took his Land Rover to a car wash that required he get out of his vehicle and do it himself. He pulled into the covered stall that was one of six in a line. After putting two quarters in a slot to get the soapy water spray to come out of the hose, Johnny stepped over to his Land Rover and began to cover it in sudsy water. He glanced around, trying not to be too obvious. Nothing looked suspicious.
After several minutes, he was done with the wash, and pulled the vehicle over to a vacuum machine. He put the money in the slot to get it started, then proceeded to clean the entire interior. When the job was complete, he pulled out of the car wash lot and headed for a dry cleaners to drop off his uniforms. Once that was done and he walked out of the building, he got into his Land Rover and looked around before driving out of the parking lot. Still nothing looked suspicious and he couldn’t see anyone tailing him.
Johnny decided to stop at a camera shop to get a few roles of film. He had plenty at his apartment, but had planned it as an extra errand to keep himself visible. Again, nothing he could see around him looked like something was going on. And no familiar vehicles were present. What he didn’t know was that more than one person was tailing him. It was like a relay to them, and with each stop, the two would trade out on who was to follow closer.
The paramedic headed for a nearby grocery store to buy a few food items he needed. Once he was done there, he drove back to the apartment and carried his two bags of groceries inside. As he set them down on the table, the phone rang. Not wanting to worry anyone again, he answered it just in case it was Roy, Melvin or Chet. But as he picked up the receiver, a bad feeling washed over him and he didn’t say a word. After a minute of silence, the person on the other end of the line spoke.
(“Nice try today, but you aren’t going to figure it out . . .not before it’s too late.” )The phone clicked and a dial tone sounded.
Johnny hung up the receiver and sighed. He felt like a fish in a fishbowl. And it was getting more uncomfortable by the minute.
Melvin was still trying to figure out a solution, when there was a knock at the door. He looked out the peephole and saw Johnny standing outside, his hands in his pockets, as he nervously looked around. Meyers opened the door, letting the man in.
“I thought we were gonna wait till we had a solution,” the chemist-turned-fireman said. “Or did you come up with one?”
“No, I didn’t. Not really. I tried an experiment today, but it didn’t work.”
“What was it?”
“I tried to make myself as visible as possible and do a few errands. I was hoping the same person or car would be following me, but either they’re damn good at hiding in the process or there’s more than one at a time in different vehicles. And I was followed, because I got a call about it afterwards, when I got home.”
Melvin stood with his mouth open. “Wow. I wonder how they can do that?”
“I don’t know. But I think we’d better think of something quick. They told me I wouldn’t guess who they were until it was too late.”
“When do you go back on duty?”
Meyers grinned. “The captain let me take a leave of absence for a couple of shifts, so I don’t go back for four more days.”
“That’s good, maybe we can get this solved before then.” Johnny glanced down and noticed a stack of comic books on the coffee table in front of the couch. “Melvin, I don’t think any wild tricks are gonna help us this time. Not unless you can build me a car that shoots out nails to flatten tires, silly string to cover the windshields of cars behind me and that kind of stuff,” he said, smiling.
“Oh, don’t worry. These were just to take my mind off the problem.” He gathered up the comics and put them in a drawer under the coffee table top. “I won’t try anything out of them.” Melvin held his right hand to the backside of his right thigh, his fingers crossed. He could say whatever he wanted now, and it wouldn’t be a lie.
“Good. What we need is to be able to give the police reason to arrest these guys. . .once we figure out who they are.”
“Okay. Well, if I come up with anything, I’ll call you.” He gave Johnny a downcast look. “I guess that’s not a good idea. You know, with all the harassing calls and all. The last thing you need is for the phone to be ringing more.”
“It’s fine. We’ve gotta still use our telephones. . .can’t let these idiots win.”
Meyers nodded and looked at the clock on the wall. It was seven thirty in the evening. “You want anything to eat?” he asked his guest.
Remembering the cartoon cereal bowls they’d used at breakfast, Johnny figured the dinner plates would have the same kind of designs. He wasn’t in the mood for looking at cartoon super heroes as he ate his food. The paramedic shook his head. “I’ll pick up something on the way home. . .a burger or somethin’”
“Okay, talk to you later then.”
When Gage stepped outside, he glanced around at the darkening surroundings. There wasn’t a car with headlights on, nor the sound of an engine running from anywhere nearby. If someone was waiting to follow him home, they were doing an awful good job of making themselves unnoticeable again.
Roy let the phone ring while he waited for his partner to pick up. C’mon. . .answer. He didn’t want to make another trip over to Johnny’s apartment, only to see all was okay again. Sooner or later, the younger man would give him a hard time about the ‘mother hen’ syndrome. After twelve rings, Johnny answered.
“It’s about time. Where were you?”
“I just got back. I went over to Melvin’s. . .” The silence that followed had Gage adding, “and, no, he didn’t talk me into any crazy schemes this time, either.”
“Good. So, anymore phone calls?”
“Just two. Nothing any different.”
Roy figured even if there had been any developments, unless there was something he could do about it, Johnny wouldn’t say much. It would only cause friends to worry more and that wasn’t his style.
“Are you writing down the time the calls come in so you can report them to the police?"
Johnny sighed. “Yes, I am. There’s really not much else I can do.”
“Got your door and windows locked?”
“I guess there is something else I can do,” the younger man said as he walked over to the front door and turned the deadbolt into the ‘locked’ position. “There. . .done.”
“Good. Better safe than sorry. Just be careful, huh? You just don’t know what these guys are about.”
“You got it. I’m not going anywhere else before work in the morning.”
“See you then. And, Johnny. . .”
“If you see anyone following you in the morning, let ‘em follow you right to a police station.”
Gage grinned. “I will.”
Roy hung up and stared at the telephone a few seconds before getting up to go help his wife tuck the kids in bed. He and Joanne had never been plagued with harassing calls. He could only imagine how angry it would make him if they were.
Most of the following day went routine for the guys of Station 51’s A-shift. The rescue calls were steady, but not excessive to where they couldn’t get time to relax in between. Johnny hadn’t received any prank or harassing telephone calls, nor had anything been vandalized at the station like on the previous shift. A police officer drove past a few times during the day as promised, but with nothing going on, he had continued on to other areas to patrol.
It was early evening when the klaxons sounded, sending the station on a run to a warehouse fire. Although no one could say for sure it was arson, the fact the building was supposed to be torn down in a few days led the police and other firemen at the scene to believe it was set intentionally.
Engine 51 and Squad 51 arrived at the location, taking in the scene. As Hank Stanley gathered information from a few bystanders and another captain, he waved his men over.
“Chet, Marco, get an inch and a half . . .go in on the east end. 110’s has the west end covered.”
The two firemen nodded and started off towards Mike, who was beside the engine.
“John, Roy, there’s a possibility some kids are in there. A lady over there saw them. . .” he trailed off when he noticed the woman was gone.
“What is it, Cap?” Johnny asked.
“She’s gone. The lady’s already gone.”
“Maybe she figured she’d done her part,” Gage shrugged.
“Yeah, maybe.” Hank looked at Roy. He had a feeling they were thinking the same thing. What if this was the set up of John that they were thinking might happen? Unfortunately, the only way to get an answer was to proceed as normal and send the paramedics in on a quick search of the building. “You two do a quick sweep through, and see if you can locate anyone. Don’t push it, though, if it seems to be empty. Remember, we’re not sure anyone is in there.” As they nodded and started to head for their gear, he called out, “And stick together as much as you can!”
Both waved in acknowledgement. Captain Stanley watched as the two men got their turnouts and SCBA on, and John slung a rope over his right shoulder. He hoped everything went routine on this one, and no one was inside. . .as a victim or waiting to ambush his paramedics.
Johnny and Roy made their way through the interior of the warehouse, floor by floor. There were three levels they needed to cover. Luckily the flames were being kept under control on the second floor of the building.
The smoke was making it difficult fir the paramedics to see. One often put his hand on the shoulder of the other as they walked swiftly through the rooms. When they reached the west end of the third floor, the men had made a complete sweep and hadn’t found a sign of anyone.
“Let’s get back down and out of here!” Roy’s muffled voice said.
Johnny nodded and followed behind his partner. As they reached the steps to go to the next floor down, the younger man thought he heard someone call out. He tried to let Roy know, but the blond paramedic was already on his way down the steps. Figuring he’d just be a minute, Gage hurried back to where he thought the sound had come from.
When he reached the bottom of the steps, Roy turned around and was stunned not to see Johnny behind him. He called out a few times for his partner, but received no answer in return. Pulling up his mask, he called again, hoping the clearer voice would help. But the smoke was too thick, so he replaced the mask quickly and started back up the steps.
“Johnny! Johnny, can you hear me?”
Panic was about to set in when Gage stepped around a corner carrying a scared cat tightly in his arms. Roy could see the cat had its claws dug into the dark-haired man’s turnout coat.
“What in the hell were you thinking?” Roy asked, angrier than he had intended.
“I heard a noise. . .I tried to tell you.” Johnny paused. “What’s the big deal, anyway?”
“Never mind. Let’s get out of here.”
“Sure. This poor cat is gonna need fresh air quick! It’s not breathin’ good.”
Roy turned to look back at the cat in Gage’s arms. He gestured for Johnny to get in front of him. “I’ll follow you two down. If you need any help with it, you’ll be in sight.”
As they neared the bottom of the last steps, Johnny took off his air mask and placed it over the cat’s face. He knew he didn’t need it as much now and the animal did. The two paramedics ran out with their ‘victim’. Running to the squad, Roy pulled out the oxygen, as Johnny laid the cat down. The two men went to work on the cat until it was breathing better. Captain Stanley stood over them and shook his head.
“Well, at least you didn’t go in there for nothing. Any problems along the way?”
Johnny was too busy keeping the cat reassured to listen to what was being said. But Roy picked up on what Hank was referring to.
“No, not any problems at all.” No one needed to know about the slight scare he had when Johnny disappeared. It was over and done with, and had ended well.
A police officer took the cat to his squad car after offering to take it to an animal shelter to be checked out better. Gage and DeSoto watched as the car pulled away.
“You know, Roy. Times like this make it all worth while.”
The senior paramedic nodded. “Yeah, I love happy endings. . .for everyone.”
When the fire was out and it was decided the crew from Engine 110 would stay for the ‘mop up’, Hank gathered his men together. They all headed for the station in their respective vehicles, Roy and Captain Stanley being very relieved their suspicions hadn’t come true.
When the shift was over, Johnny once again headed for Melvin’s. The chemist/fireman had called early in the morning to let his friend know he had come up with a solution. Gage had to reassure Roy three times over that he wasn’t going to let Meyers lead him into any crazy plan. He made a point of telling his partner that Melvin had even promised not to let the comic books influence him with any ideas.
Johnny knocked on Melvin’s door and waited for the man to answer. When he did, the paramedic quickly stepped in as his co-conspirator shut the door.
“So? What’s the plan?”
“Just a minute,” Meyers said, going to the kitchen. “You want something to drink?”
“Sure.” Johnny sat down on the couch and waited.
When Melvin came back into the room, he handed a glass to Gage and kept one for himself. He took a few swallows of the beverage, then sat down in a chair across the room.
Johnny took a sip from the glass. It had a tangy lemony taste, but was pretty good. He looked over at Melvin. “This isn’t too bad. What is it?”
The man shrugged. “Just something I mixed up.”
“Oh yeah? I’ll have to have you make some extra for me sometime. I like it,” he said, as he put the glass to his mouth. Gage gulped the rest down, then smacked his lips. “Has plenty of zip to it, that’s for sure. So what’s this plan?”
“Well, you know how these people have been so hard to see anywhere . . .”
Johnny nodded, then glanced at a movement he caught out of the corner of his eye. A mouse wheel in a cage was going around and around. . .without the mouse in it.
“Uh. . .what’s making that wheel move? Melvin, you didn’t give me a hallucinogenic, did you?”
“No, I. . .”
“Well, how’s it moving? It looks like a mouse should be running in it.”
“A mouse is.”
“No it’s not. The wheel’s empty.”
Melvin shook his head, his eyes averted to the floor.
“Yes, it is. It’s empty.” Johnny stood up and walked over to the cage. “When did you get a mouse, anyway?”
“Yesterday. I needed it for an experiment.”
“To test my invisible man drink.” He got to his feet, but decided not to go near the paramedic until the news had sunk in.
Johnny cocked an eyebrow. “Your invisi. .ble. . .man . . .dri--” Looking at the empty wheel moving, and the empty glass in his hand, it dawned on Gage what he had just drank. “You gave me an ‘invisible man’ drink?”
Melvin nodded slowly, not sure he should’ve given the drink without a fair warning first. “Well, they’ve been almost invisible to us . . .somehow. . .so it only stood to reason that if we were invisible. . .”
The paramedic stepped over towards his friend, angry and stunned, but not sure what he wanted to do. As he reached the man, Melvin faded from sight. His eyes and mouth wide open in shock, Johnny looked down at himself, only to see his own body fade away as well. Only his shoes remained in sight.
“Oh this is great!” stated Gage’s voice out of thin air. “Oh man, how are we gonna get out of this one?”
Melvin shrugged, forgetting he couldn’t be seen anyway. “Look at the bright side.”
“And what would that be?”
“They can’t follow us now.”
Johnny went over and plopped down on the couch, his forehead resting on his hands, elbows on his knees. How in the hell am I gonna explain this to Roy?
Roy had a feeling he should go to Meyers’ apartment. The fact the fireman had actually come up with a plan had him worried.
What kind of mess can he get Johnny into now?
He stared at the telephone on the end table beside the couch in the livingroom.
I could at least call. . .
Roy decided he was better off minding his own business for now. He had to give Johnny the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn’t get caught up in another problem with Melvin. And if DeSoto called the men or showed up at the place, and everything was okay. . .well, Johnny wouldn’t let him hear the end of it for sure.
Johnny pulled his hands away from his forehead and stared down towards his invisible legs. He could still see his shoes, but. . .
My pants. . ..shouldn’t they still be visible?
Not knowing exactly where Melvin was, he looked to the spot near the chair where the man had last been. “Shouldn’t our clothing still be visible? I mean, the Invisible Man used cloth bandages to wrap himself up to be seen.”
Melvin’s voice came from beside the couch. “If we change clothes, then that’ll work. But as long as we have these same ones on. . . no. It’s something to do with the way our system absorbed the chemical.” Johnny felt the couch cushion beside him move slightly and saw it indent when his friend sat down. “You noticed how quick it worked.”
“Yeah, I’d say so. What was it? A concentrated dose?”
“Yes, I had to make it so it would work fast enough to do us some good. I guess our bodies absorbed it so quickly, it seeped out of our pores and affected our clothing, too. Of course, I was barefoot, so my feet don’t show. You’re gonna have to take your shoes off, or you’ll give us away.”
“Why didn’t it make my shoes disappear?”
“Too thick of a material, I think.”
“Ah man,” Gage said, running a hand through his hair. He looked beside him where the cushion was still indented. “How long is this gonna last?”
Again Melvin gave an unseen shrug. “I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve done this. But Frederick’s been invisible since about four o’clock this morning.”
“So over four hours so far.”
“I thought you said you weren’t gonna use any ideas out of your comic books,” Johnny reminded. “You promised.”
“I had my fingers crossed. It didn’t count.”
The paramedic gave and exasperated sigh. I can’t believe this! Well, I didn’t let him talk me into any wild ideas. . .yet. But somehow I ended up in one. Dammit.
“Whatta we do now?” Johnny asked. “Just sit here until we reappear? What’s the point?”
“No, we don’t just sit here. We get outta here, scott free. And we leave them watching the place, thinking we’re still inside here. Then later we come back and we watch them. When they get tired of waiting and go up to my apartment to see what’s going on, we see who they are and nab ‘em.”
“How do we get out of here? They’ll notice the door open and close, and the Land Rover drive away.”
The indent in the cushion disappeared as Melvin got to his feet. “No. . .see we open the door and close it behind us. . .we’re invisible, so they’ll think we’re still inside. Only we’re really outside, and all we have to do is walk down the street to my car. . .I parked it away from here yesterday so we’d be ready. They won’t be expecting my car to go anywhere. So we leave for about forty-five minutes, then come back and watch from a distance, outside of the car.
“You know what’s scary?”
“It sounds like it could work.”
“John, it will work! It will!”
Roy’s words echoed in Johnny’s invisible head. ‘Don’t let Meyers talk you into any crazy schemes.’ But this actually makes sense, he reasoned.
“Okay,” Gage said, standing up. Let’s go.”
Melvin stared at Johnny’s feet. “Your shoes. . .they have to come off.”
The man complied, shaking his head in disbelief at what he was about to do. The two invisible friends opened the door and stepped out, closing the door behind them as planned. So far there was no indication anyone in the area knew what was going on. The escapees trotted down the sidewalk to the street, and on down to Melvin’s car. Getting in, Meyers started the engine and pulled away. As they turned the first corner, one of the individuals that had been following them recognized the car from his view outside a local restaurant. Johnny and Melvin didn’t notice the car pull out of the parking lot and follow them.
As Melvin drove his car down a busy street, he and Johnny noticed the strange looks they were getting as cars passed by from the other direction.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” Johnny groaned. “Someone’s gonna call the cops, we’re gonna get pulled over and . . .oh man, I can just see us. . .” He stopped, remembering no one could see them. “I can just imagine what the Cap. . .no, what the chief is gonna say. Oh man.”
“Relax. I’ve got an idea. . .”
Although it wouldn’t be noticed, Gage glared at Meyers. He’d had enough of the fireman’s ideas. Why did he agree to going out in public invisible? What was he thinking?
Melvin continued explaining as he headed out of town. “We’ll go to a secluded area outside of Carson. You know, off on a dirt road somewhere that doesn’t get much traffic. We can park and sit there until it’s time to go back. That’ll make our contact with others minimal.”
Again it sounded like a reasonable idea to Johnny. And at the moment he couldn’t think of anything better to do. They certainly couldn’t get a hold of anyone they knew. Not looking like they did now. . .or rather not looking like anything at all. “Okay, we’ve gotta do somethin’.”
The car following the men backed off when the driver saw where they were headed. He hadn’t gotten close enough to see that the car looked empty. All he knew was that once there was time for Melvin to get a fair distance away from the city, he would speed to catch up. . .and take care of the fireman somehow.
DeSoto couldn’t hold off contacting his partner any longer. He couldn’t shake the feeling that Meyers had gotten himself and Johnny into another mess. He picked up the telephone receiver in the kitchen and dialed Johnny’s number. Not getting an answer after several rings, Roy hung up and tried Melvin’s place. There was no answer there, either. He hung up the receiver and leaned against the wall, chewing his lower lip in thought.
The senior paramedic grabbed his car keys off the key rack near the kitchen door and hollered to his wife in the next room, “I’ll be right back!”
After getting an acknowledgement that she heard him, Roy headed out the door, determined to find out what Johnny and Melvin were up to.
Melvin had driven three miles on the deserted dirt road when he and Johnny noticed a car catching up to them, traveling at an unusually fast rate of speed.
“What’s that guy’s problem?” Johnny wondered.
“I don’t know, but I hope he sees us. . .” Melvin trailed off, sensing he was getting a glare from Gage. “Well, you know. . .sees the car. . .” Still sensing he had an unhappy passenger, Meyers tried again. “I hope he doesn’t lose control of the car on the dirt surface.”
The words were no sooner out and Melvin’s blue Buick Skylark was hit as the speeding car came up along side it. When the driver of the other vehicle had seen that no one was inside the Skylark, he did a double take and stared, causing him to drive where he was looking. . .into the blue car.
Melvin tried to maintain control, but he had his hands full as well. The two cars separated, then came together a second time. The Skylark went off the side of the road, first sliding towards the right, then nosing into a ditch, while the other car rolled over three times landing on it’s roof two hundred feet away in a field.
Roy had gone to Johnny’s apartment and now was at Melvin’s. Just the opposite of the last time the two men had vanished, Johnny’s Land Rover was in Meyers’ parking lot. But it was a dejavu, still the same. Only thing was, where was the Buick Skylark?
By luck the policeman who was assigned to patrol around the area to make sure Melvin was okay, came by and saw Roy standing near the apartment door. He parked the squad car and got out to check the blond paramedic’s ID. Once it was verified he was on the up-and-up, Roy explained his concerns to the officer. Together they went to the apartment manager’s office and got the key to check out Melvin’s place.
As Roy and the policeman entered, they noticed Johnny’s shoes on the floor near the doorway. DeSoto noticed the mouse cage; unfortunately, Frederick had worn himself out running in his wheel and was asleep in the cage.
After not finding a sign of Johnny or Melvin, and not seeing the Buick Skylark anywhere in the vicinity, the cop put out an APB as a precaution. He and Roy waited for word, keeping an eye on the building and parking lot from near the street in the police cruiser, hoping the two missing men would show up unharmed.
Johnny slowly opened his eyes and glanced around the wrecked car. The windshield had a crack running across it, and the passenger window was spider-webbed in a small circle area. Johnny guessed by the way he felt, that’s where he hit the right side of his head. His right arm was sore to move and his right knee throbbed with pain. As he started to move around, he realized he was still buckled in. Releasing the seatbelt, a wave a pain shot through his med-section.
Oh shit. What. . .? Melvin!
The paramedic hadn’t heard a word from his friend. He looked over at the driver’s seat, and could see that the seatbelt was still fastened and extended out as if around something. That meant that Melvin was still in his seat. Johnny couldn’t be sure if the man was okay or not. Without being able to see him, there was no way to assess his injuries right away. Even if the guy were bleeding, it wouldn’t show up. Gage’s own blood wasn’t visible anywhere, although he could feel something trickling down the right side of his face.
Johnny shifted slightly and winced from the pain it caused. “Melvin? You okay?” When he didn’t get an answer, he tried again. “Can you hear me?”
Good, at least he’s alive. “I said, are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine.” The seatbelt unfastened and the driver’s door opened up. Johnny watched as the seat creaked slightly from Melvin’s weight shifting on it as he got out. Suddenly there was a small poof of dirt from the driver’s side of the car as Melvin fell flat on his stomach.
Gage sighed, having guessed what happened. “Hang on. I’ll be right over there.” He had to work to get his own door open. Then he eased himself out, biting back the pain it caused, and kept his left hand on the car as he limped his way over to the other side. When Johnny reached his destination, he slowly and carefully sat down on the ground, extending his sore knee out straight. He felt beside him for Meyers. Indeed, he could feel a person laying prone on the ground. Gage ran his hands over the legs and arms in practiced speed. He figured the left arm was broken. Once he knew where the chest was, he forced himself into a squat and slowly turned Meyers over, checking his respirations. He then checked the man's abdomen for any sign of rigidness.
Trying to block out the pain his current position was causing, Johnny felt Meyers’ head. He couldn’t see it, but there was no doubt something sticky was on the man’s left temple. Being that the guy had collapsed in the dirt, told Gage it was almost a given there was a concussion. He looked around the area, wondering what the chances of help coming by were.
Doesn’t look promising.
The paramedic noticed the upside-down vehicle two hundred feet away.
Oh man, I hope everyone in that car’s okay.
Being that he hadn’t seen any movement from it, he had his doubts. He looked down at the spot where his invisible friend lay. There wasn’t much he could do for him, and the injuries didn’t seem to be life threatening from what he could tell. After he managed to get Melvin’s fractured arm tucked inside the fireman’s shirt front, Johnny decided to make his way over to the other wrecked car to see what he could do there.
Johnny could feel his body wet with sweat from his efforts to get to the other vehicle. He swiped at his forehead as the salty substance started to trickle down. From his view, he could only see the passenger side of the car he was limping to. But it looked like the driver’s door was probably open on the other side. Once he was closer, Gage could see that a man was lying supine on the ground near the overturned car. He increased his pace as much as he could, then once again ignored the pain it caused to squat down to examine the victim.
At least this one is visible.
The man’s right lower leg was at an awkward angle, obviously fractured. Luckily the bone hadn’t penetrated the skin, as there was no sign of blood on his pants. As Gage continued to check over the injured man, he found that nothing else seemed to be broken. Next he looked for any sign of a head injury. Sure enough, there was a large bump on the back of the victim’s head. The man started to groan as he slowly came around.
“Easy, there buddy,” Johnny said, keeping the man still. “You’re gonna be okay.”
“I’m?. . .what. ..? What happened?” The man asked, his eyes still closed.
“You’ve been in a car accident and were ejected. But you’re lucky,” Johnny explained. “You don’t seem to be hurt too seriously.”
“I. . .my leg! My leg. . .ah shit, it hurts!” His eyes shot open as he suddenly became aware of the pain. There was no one around. Who was talking to me? Did I imagine it?
“Just take it easy. . .don’t move, or you’re gonna make it worse.”
“Don’t moo. . .who are you?” He could feel slight pressure, as if unseen hands were holding him in place. “Where are you? What’s going on here?”
Johnny remembered the man couldn’t see him. Not wanting a frantic and even more confused victim on his hands, he quickly tried to cover for his lack of visual presence.
“It’s okay. Now, you’ve got a head injury. . .it’s probably affecting your vision.”
“Bu. . .but. . .how come I can still see. . . everything else?” the man asked, looking at his immediate surroundings and still trying to move away from the bodiless voice.
“Uh. . .I don’t know. . .what do I look like, an exp. . .” recalling the discussion was on how the guy couldn’t see him to begin with, Johnny stopped. “Look, I’m no expert. But head injuries can do strange things.” There. . .maybe that was enough to explain his being invisible.
The man eyed him suspiciously. “I . . .I don’ know. I never heard--” He was interrupted by a gasp from his mysterious helper. “What? What is it? Is it my leg?”
“No, it’s nothing.” Johnny lied, not wanting to worry the guy. But he was starting to feel the effects of his own injuries. His head ached, his arm was even more sore after moving it to check Melvin and this man; his stomach was hurting and his injured knee was making its presence known from the squatting he’d been doing. The paramedic eased himself onto his bottom and once again extended his sore leg as he sat beside the victim. “I’m gonna have to go over and see how my friend’s doing, but I want you to lay still.”
“Your friend. . .?” The man looked over at the other wrecked car. Suddenly it came back to him what happened. “Wait, I was following that car,” he said, breathing hard from the pain his leg was causing. “But there was no one . . .driving it!”
This revelation shed some light on the situation for Gage. This was one of the men who had been tailing him and Melvin. Both men recognized each other at the same time.
“I know your voice!” They said simultaneously.
“You’ve called me a couple of times,” Johnny said, at the same time the man said, “I’ve called you a couple of times.”
The exchange was followed by silence, Johnny staring at the individual on the ground beside him and the harasser staring at the empty air where the voice had come from. Neither knew what to do next.
With the patrol car sitting on the edge of the parking lot at Melvin’s apartment complex, the two men who had been waiting in a pickup truck for Gage to come out and leave, didn’t dare make a move. But when they had seen the cop and Roy go into the apartment, they figured something was definitely up anyway. Gage and Meyers must have called the police and a friend, the men surmised. They could sit there all day. . .they had no where either of them had to be. The policeman, however, most likely was allotted a certain amount of time to be off his patrol, then he’d soon be back on the street again. Now if their buddy that was supposed to be getting them a carry out breakfast from a local restaurant would just get back with the food, things would be perfect.
“It was you?” Johnny asked, shocked to have found the culprit of the strange calls in such a bizarre way. “Are you the one who slashed my tires, too?”
“Uh. . .no. . .no. That was someone else.” God, if I admit it, he may leave me here. . .
“But it was you who called and asked if I’d checked my tires lately. . .”
“Well. . .yeah. . .I did. But--” Wanting to end the conversation before he totally sank himself, the man grabbed towards his injured leg. “Ah, my leg . . .my leg hurts!”
The paramedic in Johnny took over as he shoved the remaining questions aside. Fact was, this guy was in need of medical help. The sooner his leg got taken care of properly, the better. He wanted to splint the man’s leg, but hadn’t see anything readily available that would work. If he could just keep the guy from moving. “I know it hurts. . .but there’s nothing I can do for that. Just lay as still as possible, and don’t aggravate it.”
When he got a nod in response, Johnny struggled to get to his feet again. He still needed to check on Melvin. The fact he couldn’t see his friend from where he was made him feel uneasy. He didn’t like leaving a victim alone. As he slowly limped back over to the Buick Skylark, Johnny realized that one and a half trips across the field and his sock covered feet were starting to hurt as much as everything else. He began to wish he would pass out from his head injury. At least he’d be out of his misery for awhile. But reality was, the two other men needed him to keep an eye on them and that increased his determination to stay as alert as possible. When he reached the Skylark, he stepped over to where Melvin had been sprawled out on the ground. Johnny reached down to tap him on the shoulder and was met by empty space.
Where did he go?
“I’m right here,” came a voice from inside the car.
Johnny jumped as he was startled. “How’d you. . .? But you were. . .When did you. . .?”
“I thought you left me. I thought you went to get help.”
Gage shook his head, forgetting his physical response wouldn’t be seen anyway. “I had to go check out the other victim. Are you okay?” He hated not being able to do a better job of examining Meyers’ injuries. He had no idea if the chemist-turned-fireman was doing better or if he was barely hanging on to consciousness. He got his answer when Melvin fell out of the car, knocking Johnny onto his back. His head hit the ground hard and white dots flashed before his eyes. Johnny lay still, stunned a moment. He hated to think of how bad he was going to be hurting now. And Melvin was still across his ankles. Johnny pulled his feet clear and rolled onto his side, taking a few deep breaths. When he felt like he could sit up without falling over, the paramedic crawled to his friend, again checking the vital signs. Other than being unconscious like before, he seemed to be holding his own. His broken arm was still tucked in his shirt, and he had fallen onto his back. Johnny took off his own shirt and balled it up, this time tucking it under Melvin’s head and turning his face to the side. If he vomited while he was out, his chances of aspirating would be less. Gage berated himself for not doing this sooner. But then again, how clearly was he thinking, he wondered. Between being invisible and injured in a car accident, he wasn’t quite himself.
A yell from the other man had the paramedic ready to ignore his own pain and sprint across the field.
Just as soon as I think I can make it, Johnny thought, leaning over the hood of the Skylark.
The sound of a car approaching from the west got the paramedic’s attention. It was still quite a distance away. If he could wave to get the driver’s attention. . .
What am I thinking? I can’t wave ‘im down. . .I’m invisible! Oh man. . . He felt a wave of dizziness come over him and found himself suddenly sitting on the ground. The last thing Johnny saw before his vision closed in on him was a station wagon pulling over to the side of the road nearby.
The radio in the squad car clicked as a message started to come across. The officer and Roy listened to the report of the missing Buick Skylark having been located. When they heard it had been involved in a serious accident, Roy sighed. He thought back to the other problems Johnny had gotten into because of Melvin.
He did it again.
The officer acknowledged the information and pulled out of the apartment complex parking lot, heading for the outskirts of town, his lights flashing and siren on. The two men who had been waiting for the policeman to leave followed as best they could. They knew they could hook up with Gage later if need be. But for now, curiosity was getting the best of them.
When Roy and the police officer arrived at the scene, paramedics were already working on the various victims. Melvin was being lifted onto a stretcher and Johnny was lying on a yellow blanket on the ground. His partner knelt down nearby.
“You’re sure a sight for sore eyes. How’re you feeling?”
Johnny squinted, rubbing forehead his head with his left hand. “You can see me, too?”
“Well, yes, of course. . .”
“What about. . .Melvin. You saw him?”
Roy nodded, then looked at the other rescue personnel and law enforcement officials who were in the immediate vicinity, a puzzled expression on his face. Charlie Dwyer from 51’s was the first to answer. He stepped close to Roy as the paramedic from A-shift stood up.
“He keeps talking about being invisible,” Dwyer explained in a hushed tone. “Something about a mouse in a wheel, and a drink that made him disappear. And his shoes needing to come off so ‘they’ wouldn’t see him. But the people who spotted the cars said all three men were here, plain as day, when they came up on the scene.”
DeSoto glanced at the younger dark-haired paramedic, then back to Charlie. “How bad of a head injury does he have?”
“It doesn’t seem that bad as far as his vitals go.” He paused, then continued. “Do you know what he’s talking about?”
“I know his shoes are in Meyers’ apartment. But that’s all I know.”
A truck pulled up near the accident scene and two men got out. As the third victim was brought over in a stokes, he waved to the men. “Hey. . .how’d you guys know. . .I was here?”
Johnny lifted his head slightly and saw the man who had admitted to being one of the callers lying nearby him. “Roy. . .it’s him. . .” he weakly lifted his right hand. “One of the guys. . .who’s been . . .calling me.”
DeSoto was shocked. He stared at his partner a few seconds, then to the other man. “He. . .? He is?” the blond paramedic asked, pointing a finger as the words came out of his mouth.
“Yeah. . .don’t. . .don’t let ‘um get. . .away.” Johnny’s eyelids lowered to halfway.
“Is this true?”
The police standing in the area shrugged. This was the first they had heard about it.
“No. . .no, it’s not!” the accused man insisted, momentarily blocking out the pain his injuries were causing him. He had more important things on his somewhat hazy mind. Like staying out of jail. “He’s got a. . .a . . . head injury. They can do strange things, you know. They can even make. . .make a person not be able to see other people for awhile.”
Roy was processing the facts as best he could but nothing made sense. Johnny’s shoes were at Melvin’s, there was an empty mouse cage there, and Gage thought he was invisible. Now this man swore head injuries made people disappear from sight. The pieces of the puzzle made no sense, but they were pieces nonetheless.
The injured caller yelled as his friends took off at a run for their truck. “Hey, where. . .where are you guys goin’? What happened to partnership?”
Realizing Johnny may be telling the partial truth, four police on the scene went after and stopped the suspicious acting men. Once they had them in custody, they ran quick records checks on them. All three had open warrants for crimes of harassment.
Roy knelt down beside Johnny as he was lifted onto a stretcher. “You got them, Junior.” Roy grinned. “I don’t know how you did it, but it looks like you got your pranksters.”
“I. . .I did?” The younger man forced a tired smile. “Hey, Roy?”
“I don’t ever want to be. . .invisible again.”
The senior paramedic patted his left shoulder. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
Once Dwyer was in the ambulance with Johnny and the third victim, and the ambulance was pulling away, DeSoto looked over the wrecked Buick Skylark and the other car across the field. Gut feeling told him no one would ever know exactly what transpired there before help had arrived.
Several weeks later, everything was back to normal. Johnny and Melvin were both back to work on their regular shifts, and the men who had brought them so many hassles were awaiting trial on the multitude of harassment charges against them. Although the chemist-turned-fireman was aware of what had really happened to him and Gage, he decided not to discuss it with the paramedic. If Johnny didn’t mention it, then he most likely had forgotten.
Roy still believed that it was the head injury that caused Johnny to think he had been invisible and neither man involved in the incident wanted to try to convince DeSoto otherwise. It was a whole lot easier to go along with his theory for now. Melvin was just relieved that his concoction didn’t last as long on them as it did on Frederick the mouse, or they might not have been found soon enough.
Since he was off duty, Meyers had stopped by Station 51 to visit with the man who he considered his best friend, John Gage. The paramedic saw Melvin more as a thorn in his side, but he didn’t have the heart to be anything but nice to the eccentric guy. The chemist/fireman was giving Johnny a Batman mug from his collection, when Chet walked into the dayroom.
“Hey, nice cup,” the stocky fireman said.
Johnny quickly held it down by his side.
“I got something for you, too,” Chet continued.
Gage and Meyers both stared at the man, waiting.
He pulled a roll of bandaging out from behind his back. “This!” he said, tossing it to Johnny.
The paramedic caught it in his free hand. He gave the cup back to Melvin and turned the bandaging over a couple of times, examining it for a planted prank. It looked to be okay. “What’s your point?”
“Well, I figured the next time you want to play invisible, you’re gonna need that to be able to come to work. I can see it now, ‘The Invisible Paramedic Saves The Day’.”
“Chet!” Johnny snapped.
“ ’Course, you night be mistaken for a victim and hauled off in an ambulance by mistake.”
“Get out of here,” Gage said, tossing the bandaging back.
“Try to be helpful. . .” the fireman mumbled as he turned and wandered out of the room.
Johnny sighed. “He’s never gonna let me live that down. I’m not sure if it was Roy or Dwyer that blabbed, but one of ‘em did.” He gave the matter more thought again. He wanted to ask Meyers if he remembered them being invisible. But since the fireman never mentioned it, he figured he was best off not bringing it up.
Melvin would tell me if he was aware of it. He’d be promoting it on the Mike Douglas Show, too. If they allowed him back after the last fiasco, when Mr. Douglas’s show had to be pulled off the air.
In a studio dressing room somewhere in Hollywood, Merv Griffin was getting ready to do his next show when a prop man brought in a small cage.
“Oh, some guy dropped this off awhile ago. Said he’s got an invisible mouse and would like to be on the show tomorrow.” He set it on a table.
Both men stared at the cage a moment.
“Where is it?”
“The mouse,” Merv said.
“I don’t know. How do you tell if an invisible mouse is real if you can’t see it?”
“It’s probably a hoax. Get a hold of him and tell him thanks, but no thanks. He can come pick up the cage.”
The prop man left, muttering about useless pranks and everyone wanting a brush with fame. As the door closed, the television show host looked closer at the cage as the empty wheel began to go around and around on it’s own. Even more to his surprise, when the wheel stopped, little bubbles appeared in the water bottle that hung down on the side, as if being drank from. Then all activity stopped.
Merv Griffin looked at the door his prop man had just gone out of, then back to the empty cage. He thought again about what he’d just seen.
“Nah, no one can make a mouse invisible.”
He turned off the light as he closed the door. A piece of Cheerio cereal in the cage slowly disappeared as it was munched by the unseen critter.
Thanks for the beta read, Kenda! Any errors are mine. :o) Also, Merv Griffin doesn’t belong to me. I just liked his show.