This is another story in the Melvin/Johnny series. If you haven't read the previous ones, it might help to do so. These stories are all A/U. You can find them on the stories page with this one, in the same section.
This story is dedicated to Gayle S. :o)
By Audrey W.
John Gage placed the receiver back on the telephone cradle and peered at his alarm clock beside the bed with bleary eyes.
“It’s only a quarter after three?” He groaned. “I don’t believe this.”
Still lying on his stomach, he lifted his pillow off the mattress. Laying his head down, he pulled the pillow over his head.
Maybe this way I can get some sleep.
Just as he was dozing off again, Johnny heard the ringing of the telephone, muffled by the fluffy shield covering his head and ears.
“I’m not gonna answer it,” he mumbled to himself. “You may as well hang up, I’m not gonna pick up the phone.” Several more rings and Gage found himself giving in.
Oh, for pete’s sake. . .not again. . .
Roy DeSoto walked into the locker room ready to start another shift, when he caught his partner, John Gage, in a wide yawn.
“What’s the matter? Late night last night?”
Johnny shook his head. “No. I was woken up every ten minutes though.”
Roy had started to open his locker, but stopped midway at the answer he’d gotten. “How so?”
“The telephone kept ringing.” The younger man frowned. “For some odd reason, Melvin Meyers has apparently appointed himself my guardian angle or somethin’. He got word I was at Rampart the other night with smoke inhalation and hasn’t quit checkin’ up on me yet.”
“And he called you every ten minutes?”
“Well, that was an exaggeration. But it might as well’ve been every ten minutes. He interrupted my sleep quite a few times. . .let’s leave it at that.”
Roy grinned and continued with getting ready. “So did he call you on the bat phone, Robin?”
Johnny shot a scowl his way. “Roy! I’m serious. This could be a real problem if he keeps it up.”
“I think it’s kind of cute that Meyers is looking out for you.”
“Cute. . .yeah, well tell that to my eyes that feel like sandpaper.” He stepped out of his jeans and pulled on his uniform pants. “All night he called me, I tell ya. All night. What could possibly go wrong that he needed to check up on me all night long?”
“There could alwa--”
“You know, I thought datin’ Carla would change the guy,” Johnny interrupted. “But apparently he’s the same as always. Even worse since he became a paramedic.”
Roy tucked his shirt into his trousers. “I’m sure he means well.”
“Yeah, he might. But if he really wanted to do me a favor, he could at least let me get some sleep. That would be a welcome one.”
“Look at the bright side.”
“The bright side?”
“Yeah. You’ve been getting a lot of prank hang-up calls for the past few weeks, right?”
Johnny nodded, still waiting to hear the bright side.
“At least with Meyers, you know who you’re dealing with and you can talk to him about it.”
“That’s not bright enough, Roy.”
The senior paramedic grinned as his partner left the room. He wondered how long it would take before Johnny finally told Meyers he’d had enough.
Melvin Meyers sat in his livingroom, sleepy from being awake most of the night. His eyes too tired to endure contact lenses, he pushed up the black frame of his glasses as he watched the morning cartoons on television. Tilting his head against the back of the couch, he closed his eyes.
That hypnotic suggestion I gave John Gage last month about the sound of a telephone ringing erasing his memory has to still be with him. It *has* to be. I never took it away. But how many times can I ring his phone trying to get it to work? I’ve been trying for weeks. Why *hasn’t* it worked? What if it works at the wrong time again?
He brought his head upright and opened his eyes.
I’ve got to get him over here soon so I can remove that one and do it right. I’m running out of time before he recalls everything I’ve caused him to go through. . .
He started to give the problem more thought, but his head began to bob as he fought to stay awake. Meyers lost the battle and soon was snoring, his eyes not able to stay open any longer.
Johnny stood in line at roll call stifling a yawn. When he noticed Captain Stanley eyeing him, the paramedic quickly appeared more alert.
“Didn’t you get any sleep last night, John?”
“Yes, sir. Uh. . .some. I . . .uh. . .enough.”
Hank looked warily at the younger man. “You sure?”
Gage exchanged a glance with Roy as the others in line stared at the younger man. “Yeah, I’m okay, Cap. Just a few too many phone calls during the night. That’s all.”
“Girlfriend troubles, Gage?” Chet wondered.
“I wish it was. . .” Suddenly Johnny regretted his reply. He was going to have to explain himself. “It’s Meyers. . .Melvin Meyers. He’s. . . been calling me to see if. . .” he cleared his throat as he rocked on his feet. “If I’m . . .uh. . .doin’ okay. Since the smoke inhalation,” he added. Gage waited for the snickers from the others.
Fortunately, the look on Hank Stanley’s face kept the men silent, waiting patiently for the morning notes to be read off. The captain carried on with business. Once his men were dismissed to take care of morning chores, he pulled Johnny aside.
“Look, I know Meyers grates on your nerves. If he gets to be too much and won’t back off, let me know. I can talk to him, or have his captain give him a warning.”
“Thanks, Cap, but it’ll be okay. It’s just Melvin Meyers being. . .well. . . being Melvin Meyers.”
Hank watched as the younger man walked away. He hadn’t forgotten the wild searches he and Roy had been on when John had disappeared. A couple of times it happened was when Melvin was somehow nearby, but the causes remained a mystery.
I wonder if we’ll ever get the answers.
Later in the morning, Johnny picked up the telephone receiver at the desk in the dorm room and dialed Melvin’s number. As he waited for an answer, Roy came into the room from the latrine entrance.
“Calling him back to get even?”
“That would only work if it was the middle of the night so I could interrupt his sleep.”
“If he was up all night calling you, he may just be catching up on his sleep now.”
The younger man’s face brightened. “You know, you may be right. That would ex--” Johnny cut himself off when Melvin answered the phone. “Hey, Melvin. John Gage here. Listen, I need to talk to you.
“Oh.” Johnny held his hand over the mouth piece of the receiver as he relayed the answer to his partner. “He isn’t quite awake yet. He nearly dropped the phone.” He couldn’t help but grin as he removed his hand. Revenge is so sweet.
“Listen, Melvin. . .
“Are ya listening?
“Okay, look, I really appreciate your concern over my health.” Johnny shrugged when he saw Roy shaking his head.
“I know you mean well. But you can’t be checking up on me like that.
“Sure.” Johnny shrugged again. “And, hey. . .get some sleep.” He replaced the receiver on the cradle and leaned back in the chair, a smug expression on his face.
“Well. . .did it do any good?”
“I think so.”
“What did he say when you told him he can’t call like that?”
“That he understood and I was right.”
Roy couldn’t hide his look of surprise. “He said you were right? Just like that?”
“Yep. It was too easy.”
“Seems like it. Meyers usually gives you a little argument.”
“That’s why I agreed to go over and see ‘im tomorrow. We’ll both be off duty since he’s still on a three day break. I’m gonna talk to him about it to be sure I get it through his head.”
“Can’t say I blame you. Just hope it sinks in.”
“Oh, it’ll sink in alright. It’ll sink in. I’m not leavin’ his place till it does.”
Although Meyers had been woken up out of a sound slumber by Johnny’s phone call, the former chemist was finding it hard to get back to sleep. He couldn’t get his mind off the prospect of being able to set the hypnotic spell straight. It would all but guarantee him that Gage wouldn’t recall what they’d been through together. Such as the time he carjacked the paramedic and shrank him down to an inch, or when he made him invisible.
But how to get him to agree to it again. . .
Melvin headed for a spare room in his apartment where he kept many of the new formulas he was in the process of creating and testing. He couldn’t help himself. . .
Once a chemist, always a chemist.
Tinkering with formulas was still a favorite hobby for him. Opening the door, Meyers walked in the bare floored-room and looked around at the many jars of various chemicals he had. If the landlord ever found out, she’d have him evicted for sure. Luckily, his girlfriend Carla hadn’t given thought to why she’d never seen this particular room when she was over visiting.
With her ability to get into trouble, there’d be an explosion for sure. She even gives John a run for the money when it comes to getting injured or in a fix.
Meyers lifted one container on a card table and swirled the clear odorless, tasteless liquid.
I wonder if I could somehow get John to believe this is just plain water. It would make him loopy enough to be vulnerable to the hypnosis again without even realizing it. I know he won’t drink milk over here again.
He made up his mind. It would have to work. Sorry, John, but there’s no other way to do this.
Melvin carried the jar to the kitchen and put it in the refrigerator so that it would be cold like ice water when Gage arrived the next day. He quickly made his way back to the spare room to see what he could tinker with in the meantime. The chemist-turned-paramedic jumped when the telephone rang, startling him. He’d forgotten he recently had a second one mounted on the wall in that room for more convenience. It was only a few seconds before he ended the call.
Late morning the following day, Melvin’s telephone rang while he was sitting in his livingroom waiting for Gage to arrive. At first Meyers feared it would be Johnny calling to say he’d changed his mind. Instead it was Carla. She’d stumbled and fallen down a few steps while carrying a basket of dirty clothes to the laundry room at her apartment complex. Though she was okay except for a few bruises, she wondered if he’d come over to help make her feel better.
Melvin sighed. He’d worked so hard to get things lined up with John. But how could he turn down the love of his life when she needed him?
Maybe if I spend a little while over there, then tell her I have to do something and I’ll be right back. . .then John’ll only have to wait maybe fifteen minutes at the most. . .and when we’re done here, I’ll go back to see Carla. . .
“I’ll be right there.”
After he was off the telephone, he quickly jotted down a note explaining to Johnny what had happened and to wait there; he’d return shortly.
Meyers taped the note on a wall across from the doorway where it would be easily seen. He decided it would be best if he left the door unlocked and Gage found the note inside rather than on the outside of the door. The latter would most likely cause John to go straight home instead of going in the apartment to make sure all was okay.
Satisfied that the plan was salvageable, Melvin left with a bounce in his step.
Johnny knocked several times, waiting a few seconds in between for an answer. When Melvin didn’t come to the door, the paramedic tried the knob. It wasn’t like Meyers to not be where he said he would be.
Sure enough, the door was unlocked. Gage figured that meant his friend had to be home. He opened the door and stepped inside.
“Meyers? Melvin?” Johnny looked around the nearby livingroom as he made his way farther inside. He was about to head for the kitchen in search of his friend when he noticed a piece of paper on the wall across from where he’d come in. He took it off and read it. Oh great. He glanced at his watch. I’ll give him twenty minutes and I’m outta here.
With time to kill, Johnny stepped into the livingroom, balling up Melvin’s note and tossing it on the coffee table. Glancing around, he had to smile at the large poster of Batman and Robin that was taped up on one of the walls. But Roy’s comment from the day before in which he referred to his partner as Robin came to mind, causing the paramedic to frown. Real funny, Roy.
Gage shook his head when he saw a Batman mug identical to the one Melvin had once given him sitting on the coffee table, a small plate with crumbs on it to the side. Suddenly Johnny noticed the cage with a mouse in it, the critter busy running in the wheel. The paramedic walked over to it and leaned forward to peer closer.
“Well, I see he’s left you alone. I can actually see you this time.” Johnny’s words surprised himself. A sudden flashback to the wheel going around with no mouse in it came to his mind. He stared a moment, a shudder running down his spine. He quickly dismissed the image and stepped away. That’s impossible.
He sat down on the couch to wait, shoving the thoughts of an invisible mouse aside. But another flashback came to him as he looked around the room. Johnny recalled being on the couch, then standing up to take a step towards Meyers and having his friend vanish right before his eyes. It has to be a dream. But why would I dream about Melvin Meyers? No way, man. The guy is like a thorn in the side.
The paramedic got to his feet and started for the front door. He was feeling uncomfortable now. Too many things that he didn’t exactly remember, but that seemed real, were appearing in his mind. Meyers the size of a giant and searching for him as Johnny watched out of a hole of some kind; driving with Melvin’s voice behind him, then the man holding a water gun on him outside of the car; and a male nurse at Rampart named ‘Bob’ who’d brought food in to Johnny at one time and bore a striking resemblance to Meyers.
Oh, man. . .what’s going on? I’ve gotta tell Roy!
A couple of feet from his destination, Johnny stopped.
*What* am I *doing*? This is my chance to try to find some answers. *Then* I can tell Roy.
Exploring a little, he started down the short hallway to a closed door on the right. Johnny slowly opened it and peered inside.
What in the world. . .?
What he found inside were a half dozen jars lined up neatly on shelves, with the various colors of liquids in them. A table was in the middle of the room and had a type of device on it that almost resemble a still. Johnny was intrigued. He walked over to the table and gently ran his hand over the contraption, then continued on to the shelves where he lifted a jar to get a closer look and read the label.
“Elbisivni. . ..” Huh?
He stared at the jar and swirled the liquid inside. Looking at the label again, it dawned on him the word was spelled in reverse.
“Invisible. . .”
The first jar still in his left hand, he then lifted another that read Snivlem Repus Terces Tcejorp
The paramedic carefully studied the words to read them backwards to himself. He was so involved looking at the label, that he didn’t hear someone come in from behind. Suddenly a cloth was over his face, covering his mouth and nose, and blocking out his vision as well. The paramedic dropped the jars in surprise. They shattered on the floor as he stumbled backwards, both he and his attacker struggling. Johnny made a blind reach for anything nearby, knocking the telephone receiver off the hook where the phone was mounted on the wall.
Both Gage and the other man fell to the floor, Johnny taking the wind out of his assailant as they hit the hard surface. But the man held on with the chloroform covered cloth against his target’s face.
Johnny barely was aware of the sound of the telephone receiver hitting against the wall as it dangled on its cord. As the chemical took its final hold, his body went limp and the man underneath him released his grasp.
“Okay, let’s get him out of here,” came another man’s voice.
“This Meyers guy. . . better be able to. . . do somethin’ for us,” Johnny’s attacker said, shoving his unconscious victim aside and getting to his feet. The paramedic lay on his side, unaware of the situation he was about to get into.
“Let’s go, Wally.”
“Okay. Help me get him off the floor and into the cart.”
Ted and Wally got Johnny situated with either of them on each side propping him up under the arms and half dragged the paramedic toward the livingroom.
“You know, I hope we don’t get caught. Three years in prison for holding-up two convenience stores was enough for me.”
“Yeah, but think about it, Wally. If we hadn’t gotten caught, we never would have met Brett, Scott and Jack. Which means we’d have never heard of Melvin Meyers and we wouldn’t be about to get rich now.”
“If we can get him to cooperate.”
“Oh, he’ll cooperate, alright. We’re going to be tough on him, unlike our victims in the hold-ups. Plus we aren’t going to make the same error those guys did and kidnap his friend too. That was their biggest mistake. The two outsmarted them somehow.”
“So we really going to split the money we get with them?”
Ted shook his head. “By the time they get out, we’ll be long gone. . .and so will he,” he said, indicating Johnny with a nod.
“What do you mean? He’s coming with us?”
Wally sighed. “You know, my mother keeps asking me why two-well educated guys in their twenties like us can’t land an important job in a big corporation.”
“What do you tell her?”
“Well, not the truth – that we’d rather make a quick and dishonest living. I tell her my time’s coming.”
“And it is, Wally. . .it is, thanks to Meyers here.”
Once in the livingroom, Ted and Wally dragged the paramedic over to where a large canvas laundry cart was sitting. The two men lifted him up and awkwardly slid him inside.
“He’s too tall. He needs to be down farther,” Ted stated.
The assailants leaned over the edge and maneuvered Johnny’s limp body until he was lying in his side in a fetal position. Having that problem solved, they tossed in a couple of full-sized sheets they’d brought with them and covered the still unconscious man. Ted also carefully set a few of the jars of chemicals in the cart beside their victim. Wally and Ted wheeled the laundry cart toward the front door when suddenly Wally stopped and reached out for something on a table. “Hey, he may need these glasses to read.” He slipped the black-framed item into his shirt pocket and continued to help push the cart.
“I hope no one questions what we’re doing here.”
Ted stopped and turned to face his partner. “Relax, Wally. They’ll think this Meyers guy is using a laundry service. From what Scott and Brett said in jail, this guy is a real eccentric. Very intelligent, but he goes to the beat of a different drum than most.”
Wally eyed Ted warily. “What makes you so sure we’ll get anywhere with Meyers? Brett, Scott and Jack failed.”
“Yup. But they made the mistake of taking this guy’s buddy with them. We, on the other hand, aren’t even going to bother with the other one. We’ve got who we want. Now, c’mon. Let’s get him out of here or he’ll be waking up while we’re still in route.”
Wally nodded and the two culprits pushed the cart outside, closing the door behind them. They then wheeled it to their white van in the parking lot. The washer and dryer pictures with the words Linwood’s Laundry across them for logos on the sides and rear of the vehicle made it appear to belong to a professional business.
The cart with the paramedic in it was lifted into the rear and the doors secured. Wally and Ted climbed into the front, the latter getting into the driver’s seat. Wally made his way to the back section with two short ropes. Leaning over the cart, he pulled back the sheets and proceeded to tie first Gage’s hands, then his feet together.
You better do this for us.
Meyers glanced at the clock in his car as he drove back towards his home. He’d run several minutes later than expected and was now having to force himself to drive the speed limit and not speed.
The last thing I’d need is for a policeman to pull me over. I sure hope John didn’t give up on me.
The fireman noticed a white van belonging to a laundry service pass him from the other direction.
Now there’s an idea. . ..
The thought left as quickly as it had come when worries of how he was going to re-hypnotize Gage came to mind. The white van was forgotten.
Wally and Ted exchanged a surprised glance when they heard a moan from the back of the van.
“He can’t be waking up already.”
Ted motioned toward the rear of the van with his head. “Go check on him.”
“Right.” Wally squeezed between the front bucket seats and into the back portion of the vehicle. Johnny’s eyes were shut, his breathing deep. “He’s sleeping like a baby.”
“Okay. But just in case, how about you ride back there with him.”
“Sure.” Wally sat on the indoor/outdoor carpet lined floor of the van and leaned against the side. When he saw that Ted had his attention intently on the road, he relaxed with his eyes closed.
Meyers smiled when he pulled into the parking lot at the apartments and noticed John Gage’s Land Rover was there.
Alright! He didn’t give up on me after all. The eccentric fireman figured his worries would soon be over.
He parked his car, then hurried to his apartment. Pushing the door open as he rushed in, he started to speak, assuming Johnny would be in the livingroom waiting for him.
“Sorry I ran late, but Carla--” Melvin cut himself off when he saw that no one in the room. “John?” He first looked at the wall where the note had been. It was no longer up there.
Meyers made his way to the kitchen, calling out for his friend. “John?”
With no sign of his guest yet, Melvin had a sudden dread wash over him as he thought about his secret room.
Oh no! Please don’t be in there. . .
He charged out of the kitchen, through the livingroom and took two long strides in the hall when he noticed the door slightly open. Melvin’s heart was beating a mile a minute as he desperately tried to think of what he’d say to John.
C’mon, an excuse, an excuse. . .think. . .
With nothing coming to mind, he’d have to wing it. He took a deep breath, composed himself and slowly eased the door open more, stepping into the room.
“I see you found my. . .” Melvin’s mouth dropped open, but no sound would come when he realized that two of the jars on the shelves were no longer there and had shattered on the floor. John was no where in sight. The scene was such a big scare to Meyers that he didn’t take notice of a few other empty spaces on the shelves where some chemicals had previously been. He rushed forward to the light yellow and baby blue mess on the floor, the two colors forming a greenish tint where they mixed.
The invisible and shrinking formulas. . .
Melvin looked around the room when he took notice of a familiar beeping sound. It was then he saw the telephone receiver dangling against the wall.
Invisible, shrinking, telephone ringing. . .no John. . .the Land Rover outside. . .He *has* to be here!
After placing the receiver back on the phone cradle, Meyers quickly searched through the room looking closely at the floor. He opened the closet door and took out the odds and ends he’d had on piled in it, hoping to find Johnny hiding. With no luck in finding his friend, Melvin went on to search the remainder of the apartment, all the while calling out the missing man’s name. “John! John!”
When he came up empty after checking his entire home, Melvin went into the livingroom and sat on the couch, his face buried in his hands. What have I done? He peered through his fingers at the balled up paper on the coffee table. Opening it up, he read his own note.
Melvin tossed the paper aside and sat a moment, trying to think. He wasn’t sure the new shrinking formula worked. He hadn’t had a chance to try it on anything yet. And normally the invisible one had to be consumed.
Could the invisible potion work when it wasn’t swallowed, but splashed on something as well? Is John invisible and watching me right now? Or is he . . .
Melvin slowly examined the bottom of his shoes. Relief washed over him that he at least hadn’t stepped on his friend. Not unless he was an invisible blob on the bottom. He ran his hands over both soles, but felt nothing out of the ordinary.
Maybe he’s the size of a marble and wandering around the apartment . . . or maybe the phone rang and he forgot who he was. He could be wandering the street somewhere. . . A horrified feeling came over him. What if it’s all three?
Meyers was at a loss. . .he rubbed at his forehead, a massive ache coming on.
If John doesn’t turn up in less than twenty-four hours, I’m going to have to tell Roy and Captain Stanley everything. They’re gonna notice Gage isn’t there when the shift starts tomorrow. He rested his head back and stared at the ceiling. *How* am I going to explain this?
He could only imagine the reaction he’d get. For now, he’d try to find the dark-haired man. Melvin grabbed his keys and headed out the door for his car. He hoped for the least disastrous scenario possible.
Maybe he’s just wandering around the streets nearby and he can’t remember who he is.
Ted brought the white van to a stop in a remote area off the main highway several miles outside of Carson. He got out and opened the rear doors.
Wally stood and bending over in the low space inside, pushed the cart toward his partner. Ted grabbed the end of it and the two men lowered it to the ground, Wally jumping down to the ground as they did so.
The kidnappers moved the wheeled cart over to a red Ford Thunderbird. After the right rear door was opened, they both bent over the cart and attempted to lift Johnny out but the paramedic’s dead weight was proving to be a challenge.
“You know, it was a lot easier getting him in than it is getting him out,” Wally grunted.
Ted let go of their victim and sighed. “Let’s get these jars out, then just tip the thing up on end and dump him on the ground.”
The two carried out the plan and smiled when they were met with success. With only minor effort, Johnny was partially on the side of the cart, his upper body in the dirt. The men picked him up under the shoulders and by the feet, and clumsily got him onto the back seat of the car in a lying down position. Ted grabbed one of the sheets and covered Gage.
The two had worn gloves to pull off the crime, thus there was no worry about leaving fingerprints in the abandoned van.
Wally grinned as they headed to their next destination.
Melvin returned to his apartment after not seeing Johnny on the streets anywhere nearby.
If he got on a bus, he could be anywhere. I wonder if he had money on him?
Still the self-proclaimed chemist couldn’t shake the feeling that Johnny wouldn’t be found out on the streets. Gut instinct told him there was going to be a lot more to his whereabouts and finding him wasn’t going to be easy. Melvin so wanted to call Roy for help, but he knew it would only land him in a heap of trouble. He sat back down on his couch and looked over at the poster of Batman and Robin.
What should I do?
If ever he wanted to actually meet into a super hero, it was now. Another sinking feeling came over Meyers when he remembered he would have to pull a twenty-four hour shift at Station 18 the following morning. And he’d have to cancel a dinner date he’d made with Carla to make amends for leaving so soon.
I hope John shows up soon.
He got down on his hands and knees and looked under the couch.
Rats, not there either.
Melvin headed for his make-shift lab to get a magnifying glass.
“Don’t worry, John. I’ll find you somehow, if it’s the last thing I do. And this’ll be the last thing I did if Roy finds out I lost you.”
Ted and Wally headed back toward town, Johnny still unconscious in the rear seat.
“How long you think he’ll be out?” Wally asked, glancing at Gage’s sleeping form.
“Should be long enough for us to get him settled in. We’ll be at the house soon.”
“What if Meyers doesn’t cooperate with us?”
Ted grinned. “He’ll have forty-eight hours to come up with something or we kill him.”
“And if he does invent a money-making deal for us?”
“We kill him anyway. But he doesn’t have to know that.”
Wally glanced over his shoulder again. “Hope you’re enjoying the nap, Meyers. It’s probably the last peaceful rest you’ll ever have.”
Melvin sat back on his heels after going over the entire floor of his apartment with the magnifying glass with no sign of John Gage anywhere.
Not even an indent in the carpet where an invisible little man might be sitting.
“Where are you?”
Yet another sinking feeling came over Meyers.
The Land Rover. What am I going to do about the Land Rover in the parking lot?
Recalling when he drove the vehicle to a bar and left it another time he’d gotten John in a fix, Melvin felt a little relief.
It worked before. I can drive it across town and ditch it.
But that bit of relief faded for two reasons. One, he didn’t have the keys; two, he didn’t know John very well the first time it happened. Now he’d not only have to hot wire the Land Rover to move it, but he already had a guilty conscious just thinking about it.
Melvin slid off his heels and sat on the floor as he sighed. Truth was, he just wanted his role model and friend back.
Ted pulled the Ford Thunderbird into the single car garage at their destination.
Wally got out of the vehicle and closed the door while his partner checked on their back seat passenger.
“Help me get this Meyers guy in the house. He should be waking up anytime.”
“Where’re we putting him?”
“In the closet off the largest bedroom. It’s a walk-in, so it should be big enough. I cleared everything out of it.”
The two men slid Johnny part way by pulling on his legs. Once his lower body was out of the car, Ted leaned in and worked to get a grip under his arms as Wally continued to pull Gage’s legs. When they finally had him out of the car, they carried him into the house and to the empty dark closet, where they left him to sleep off the chloroform.
Johnny groaned slightly as he began to come around. The paramedic had no idea what was going on. He only knew that he couldn’t bring his arms forward, his legs were joined at the ankles, and his throat was dry. He struggled to open his eyes, but his lids were too heavy.
Gage still felt groggy from the chloroform. Unable to make sense of anything, he gave in to the drowsiness and drifted back to sleep.
Melvin stared out his livingroom window at Johnny’s Land Rover. He’d give anything to see Gage get in or out of it.
If he hasn’t shown up by tonight, I’ll try to move it. Good thing I called Carla and changed our date till night after tomorrow. Surely John’s got to turn up by then.
The fireman/paramedic wasn’t ready to give up on his friend yet.
Early afternoon, Roy came into his house after helping his son Chris carve a toy race car out of wood out on their back patio. The youth had made other similar projects while attending an Indian Guide group he and his dad belonged to. But the two had since dropped out and Chris was finding he missed the projects.
Roy glanced at the telephone on the kitchen wall. He was tempted to call his partner to see how the morning went with Melvin Meyers.
Admit it, he thought to himself. You want to make sure Meyers hasn’t gotten Johnny roped into another crazy situation.
He forced himself to ignore the nagging feeling inside that something would go wrong, and went about getting lemonade for he and Chris to drink.
Will you listen to yourself? Johnny was just going over there to get Melvin to quit calling him so much. What could possibly get either of them into trouble with that?
Roy headed out the back door, two glasses of the beverage in his hands.
Johnny lay still in the pitch dark room as he once again began to come around. He let out a slight grunt as he tried to move his arms again and met with resistance. Finally able to open his eyes to slits, he slowly looked around in the dark. He couldn’t see a thing.
Wha. . .? Where am I? Oh man, my shoulders hurt. . .why can’t I move my arms?
He opened his eyes wider, hoping they’d adjust to the lack of light and allow him to see anything that might give him a clue as to where he was. Gage tried to sit up, but he didn’t have any luck. He had been on his left side, but only managed to roll onto his back in the effort.
Suddenly the closet door flew open and bright light flooded the small room. Johnny instinctively squeezed his eyes closed to ward off the offending light, then managed to squint into the brightness, hoping to see who was in front of him.
“So, you finally woke up, sleepy head.”
A haunting dejavu’ came over the paramedic. Where have I heard that before? A basement and being tied to a pole came to mind. Tied up. . .my arms and legs. . .Man, no. . .it can’t be happening again . . .
“Who are you?” Johnny asked, his voice raspy from the dryness of his throat. The grogginess also still hung in his words. “Wha. . .what’s goin’ on?”
“Who I am depends on you. I can either be your best friend or your worst enemy.”
“You heard me.”
“Man, what’s with the cryptic words? Just tell me who you are. And why am I here?” He looked around at the bare shelves on the wall to his left, and an empty long metal rod going horizontally from one end of the room to the other on his right, above him. Oh man, I’m in a closet. This can’t be good.
“C’mon. You like figuring out puzzles like your caped crusader hero, don’t you?”
Johnny struggled to sit, but was still too woozy to succeed. He stared up at his captor. “Caped crusader? What are you. . .” His words trailed off as the paramedic recalled where he was when someone had put a cloth over his face. Melvin’s place. . .? Did he set this up? Is that where I am? Nah, he wouldn’t be that stupid. . .he can be annoying, but overall he’s not such a bad guy.
The man shook his head. “Playing dumb isn’t going to help. We took you for your smarts, so you better use them.”
“My smarts? Man, would you just say what you want and get it over with? Do you need a paramedic for something?” My smarts. . .?
“You might by the time we’re done with you if you don’t cooperate.”
Johnny had had enough of this guy avoiding a direct explanation. It was time to get answers. Ignoring the fact he was at the man’s mercy, Gage got angry.
“Look, I don’t know what’s going on here or why. . .all’s I know is that I woke up in a closet I’ve never seen before, with my hands and feet tied. And as if that isn’t enough, you’re standing there giving me non-answers to my questions, and I don’t even know who you are!”
He waited for a reply as another man came up behind the other. Johnny looked from one to the other, realizing for the first time just how much danger he was in.
Oh shit. They didn’t worry about a blindfold to keep me from seeing their faces. . .
“You want answers?” the first man asked. “I’ll give you answers.”
The other man tapped his partner on the shoulder. “How much you going to tell him?”
“Enough to keep our guest happy. After all, he’s going to be with us for awhile, and we don’t want an unhappy tenant.” He grinned at the wary expression on Johnny’s face. “You, my friend, are going to create an invention that’s going to make us rich.”
“I am? How do you figure that?”
“We met some old acquaintances of yours in prison. They told us what you can do. We want an invention that we can sell.”
“I think you have me confused with someone else. I don’t know anyone in prison.”
“Yes you do,” the second man put in. “You and that other guy they kidnapped with you foiled their plans, but they haven’t given up. They filled us in on everything.”
Johnny stared in disbelief at the two men. It was happening again. Only this time he was going to have to meet the demands.
But why me? Where’s Melvin? “What’ve you done with Melvin Meyers? Is he okay?”
Both kidnappers remained silent, then glanced at one another and broke into laughter. The one who’d spoke to Johnny first shook his head. “Nice try.” He turned off the light and started to close the door. “We’ll give you time to think about what you want to create.”
“Wait a minute, man.”
The man paused, the door partway open. “What now?”
“You think I’m Melvin Meyers?”
“Not think. We know. Everything fits. . .you were at the address the guys in prison gave us, you’ve got dark hair, we found your eyeglasses in your apartment. . .” He shook his head. “You’re him, no doubt about it.”
Johnny was stunned. Man, I don’t believe this. I don’t even *wear* glasses, so how can. . .that’s right! I don’t! “Hey! I don’t even wear glasses! I’m not--”
“Nice try, but they were in your livingroom. You wear glasses.”
“No, man, I mean I don’t wear ‘em because I’m not Melvin. You’ve got this all wrong. I’m John Gage. Heck, I can’t even stand Melvin Meyers. He’s nothin’ but trouble for me.” Boy is *that* an understatement now. . . “Heck, I’d be relieved if you could get the guy out of my life.”
The kidnapper looked to the other. “You believe him?”
“Me either.” He shifted his gaze to Johnny. “Sorry, Meyers. But you can’t pull one over on us.”
“Look in my wallet; you’ll see who I am.”
“You don’t have a wallet.”
“I do. . .” The paramedic suddenly became aware that he couldn’t feel the wallet pressing against his right butt cheek from in his jean pocket. He thought back to when he was leaving his own apartment. He’d grabbed his wallet and stuck it in his the pocket. . .or had he? Now that Johnny gave it more thought, he couldn’t remember taking it out of his uniform pocket. He’d been too tired from the lack of sleep the night before when Melvin had kept calling him. By the time he got off shift, he didn’t feel like doing anything but changing into a pair of sweatpants and sacking out on the couch. Johnny then had woken up just in time to get dressed and head over to Meyer’s place. Oh shit. I *don’t* have it. “You’re right, I don’t have it. I left it at home. But that proves right there I am who I say I am.”
“How do you figure that?”
“Because only I’m gonna know where I left it.” Pathetic, Gage, pathetic. I hope he buys it.
The man had to think a minute before replying. “That doesn’t prove anything.” He shook his head. “Nope, doesn’t prove anything at all, ‘cept you, Melvin Meyers, forgot your wallet.”
“But--” Johnny stopped when the door closed, leaving him in pitch darkness again. Oh man, how am I gonna get out of this mess? He went to rub at his forehead when it dawned on him he was still tied up. The paramedic groaned and rested the back of his head on the floor, staring up toward the ceiling. Now I’ve gotta depend on Melvin Meyers to figure out what happened to me. . .. This is great, just great.
Melvin was getting more and more nervous as time went on without a sign of Gage. He’d searched through the apartment looking for a miniature John several times, but still he’d had no luck. With evening fast approaching, Meyers decided it was time to see if he could hotwire the Land Rover. As soon as he got inside the car, he felt a wave of guilt wash over him.
Maybe I should just tell Roy now and get it over with. But if I do, my life as I know it *will* be over with. I just need to buy a little more time. . .
After several minutes he was met with success and drove the vehicle a few miles away. Melvin parked it near a camera store, then walked a few blocks to a pay phone to call for a taxi.
When he arrived back at his apartment complex, the chemist was approached by a man who lived two doors down from him.
“Hey Meyers! I see you must be doing pretty well as a paramedic, huh?”
“Yes, I guess so. My captain says I’m doing a good job.”
“No, I mean money-wise. Even moved up to using a laundry service, I noticed.”
“Oh c’mon. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I saw the guys come out of your place today.”
“You sure it was my place they came out of?”
“Yep. I’m sure.”
Suddenly the white laundry service van he’d passed came to Melvin’s mind. Was it possible that was the same one that had been at his place? And if so, was his missing friend inside of it?
But why would anyone kidnap John from *my* apartment?
“What was the name of the laundry service? Did you notice?”
“Let’s see.” The man rubbed his chin in thought. “I believe it was Linwood’s Laundry. Yep, that was it. Linwood’s. They wheeled a big laundry cart out of your place.”
Meyers felt nauseated at the mention of the familiar name. It was likely the van he passed was the one that had been at his apartment. And if they had a large cart, it would have been possible to smuggle a person out and no one would be the wiser.
If John was inside when it passed me. . . He glanced at his watch. It’s been hours since then. Where would someone have taken him? And why? He groaned inwardly. If only I’d have known. Now I’ve got to explain why John *and* his Land Rover are gone. I guess I can blame the missing truck on the kidnapper. But then how can I say John was taken from here if his Land Rover was supposedly already gone?
There was only one answer. He would have to take a cab and drive the truck back.
Johnny lay on the floor in the dark, wondering what he could do to get out of the situation he was in.
Maybe I should just play along until I get a chance to make a break for it. Oh man, but how am I gonna invent something? Why couldn’t these guys have just taken whatever that was in those jars? And what *was* all that stuff? What’s Melvin been up to? I gotta get outta here to let someone know he’s got another side to ‘im.
More images of past encounters flashed through his mind.
Man, he’s not only a nuisance, he’s *nuts*. I’ve just got one question I’d like to ask him. . .why *me*?
Wally pulled into the parking lot of Melvin’s apartment complex and looked around for a white Land Rover. Although he and Ted doubted their prisoner’s words, the other man had sent him over to see if there was any possible truth to what had been said.
“Just like we thought. It’s not here. Melvin Meyers was lying.”
He turned the car around in the lot and headed back toward the house to deliver the news to Ted. With his attention solely on what lay ahead, Wally didn’t see the real Melvin Meyers drive Johnny’s Land Rover into the entrance of the parking lot.
Now we’ve got proof he’s our man. Wonder what excuse the guy’ll try next?
Melvin parked the Land Rover in a spot that was almost in the center of the lot. The fireman/medic had worried about his friend the entire time he was on his way to pick up the vehicle and as he drove it back.
I still can’t figure out why anyone would kidnap John, if they did. Was he followed to my place? Could I have stopped it if I’d have been here?
He thought back to another time when he and John were abducted together. They had been at Gage’s apartment when two men pretending to be police officers took them to a house, insisting Meyers create an invention to make them wealthy. John had been held in the basement as insurance of sorts while Melvin was locked upstairs in a room.
Are they going to ask a trade of John for me? But those guys are still in prison. Maybe the stuff *did* get on him and someone waiting for me to come home saw and took him. Or what if the phone rang, he forgot who he was and went with them? If it was a ‘them’.
Meyers went into his apartment, still trying to figure out the logic of the situation.
Or maybe whoever it was wanted *me* and grabbed John by mistake. . .
He leaned against the wall just inside the doorway. That’s got to be it. Oh no. I wasn’t even here and I did it again. John’s going to kill me. What am I *thinking*? Roy’s going to do it before John ever has a chance to.
Gage listened to his kidnappers just outside the closet door. He couldn’t believe they were discussing the situation in such close proximity. Do they *want* me to hear all this? Maybe they don’t realize I can. . .he lay still, his attention fully on their hushed voices.
“Don’t worry, Wally. Someone’ll find the van abandoned and if police suspect anything once people mention maybe seeing a white laundry van near Meyers’ apartment, they’ll think who ever dumped it is heading north. No one will ever suspect he’s being held right under their noses in Carson.”
“Good thing your sister had this rental house empty. It was pretty decent of her to let you live here till you get back on your feet.”
“Yeah, that’s Beth for you. Always taking care of little brother Ted. Good thing she lives in San Francisco. That way we don’t have to worry about her dropping by.”
Johnny could hear the floor creak as the men walked toward the closet. He shut his eyes in an attempt to appear to be sleeping. If they figure out I know their names, I’m *really* never gonna see the light of day again.
The paramedic lay still when once again the closet door was opened and the light above turned on.
Ted stood looking down at the paramedic, Wally behind him.
When Johnny didn’t move, Ted gave him a quick kick in the legs to get his attention.
“Okay, Meyers, no more lies.”
Johnny pretended to be groggy. “Hmm? Wha. . .” He forced a yawn, then continued. “Lies? I didn--” Gage stopped in mid-sentence, his voice hoarse from his extremely dry throat.
“We checked for the white Land Rover at your apartment. It wasn’t there.”
“It has to be,” he croaked. The paramedic was stunned. Not only because they actually took the time to look for the vehicle, but also because of the fact her knew where he’d left it and sure as hell hadn’t driven it away.
Who did? Why would they? Wait. . .I have the keys. . .so how. . .? Did the cops tow it as evidence? Has Melvin figured out what happened to me? For now he only had one thing to ask his assailants. “Are you sure you went back to the right place?”
Ted glanced over his shoulder at Wally, who answered, “’Course I did.”
Both looked at Johnny as Ted spoke. “So now we know you’re stories don’t add up, how about we get down to business?”
Still dumbfounded by the revelation and feeling trapped, Johnny gave in. I guess it’s better I play along anyway. They find out I’m not really Melvin now, on top of the fact I’ve seen their faces and know their names, who knows *what* they’ll do to me.
Roy and Joanne sat in their livingroom watching the early evening news. Chris and Jennifer, their young son and daughter, were both lying on the floor playing with Hot Wheels toys. Joanne was just about to make a comment about a housewife probably being the one who stole a missing laundry service van they’d just heard about when the phone rang.
Roy put up the foot rest on his recliner and listened to the next story on the news while Joanne reached across from her seat on the couch and picked up the receiver.
“Yes, he’s right here.
“Sure, hold on.”
Joanne put her hand over the mouthpiece of the receiver. “Roy, it’s Melvin Meyers. He says it’s important.”
Sensing the call had to be about something that involved Johnny if Meyers was calling him, Roy quickly kicked down the footrest and hurried to the phone.
“I’ll be right over.”
He hung up, and started for the kitchen.
“What is it, Roy?”
The husband glanced over his shoulder as he continued on, “I’m not sure, but Meyers said something went wrong in his meeting with Johnny. He’s going to explain it better once I get there.”
“Where’s Johnny? Why wouldn’t he call?”
“I’m not sure, but I get the feeling he’s not where he should be.”
She watched as he walked out of the room. I wonder what happened this time?
Johnny sat leaning against the back wall of the closet, finally getting a much needed drink of water. After taking several large sips, he watched as Wally pulled the nearly empty glass away from him. “Thanks.” His voice sounded much clearer. The paramedic looked down at his stomach when he heard and felt it rumble. Man, I’m starvin’. “Don’t you guys think I’ll be a little sharper with what I’m doin’ if I get some food in my stomach?”
“We’re taking care of that. Don’t expect a full meal, though. Ted says a snack’ll do.”
“Yeah, well Ted’s not the one with his abdomen touching his spine either,” Johnny mumbled.
Wally reached up to turn off the light.
“When are you guys gonna untie me?” Getting an annoyed stare from his captor, Johnny quickly went on, “You’re gonna hafta if you want me to do anything.” Not to mention, it’s gonna take a week for my shoulders to recover. . .. It had been so long with his arms behind his back that he wondered if he would even be able to move them forward for awhile.
“You’re getting to be a real nuisance. Ted’s taking care of things, then you’ll have the answer to both questions.” With that he turned out the light and closed the door.
Johnny sat staring ahead, his eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness again. Man, I’ve gotta get out of this mess. But how? These guys are smarter than the others. . .except for confusing me with Melvin. He frowned when he heard footsteps already approaching. Just as soon as his eyes had adjusted, the door was opened again, the light turned on. Johnny again squinted at the sudden brightness.
Ted stepped over and untied Johnny’s legs, then helped him up. “I hear you’re hungry. Let’s go.”
Gage felt unsteady on his feet. Having been tied up for so long and after sitting on his bottom part of the time, a familiar numbness had set in. He hoped he didn’t take an awkward step and trip. With his arms still tied behind his back, there would be no way of catching himself.
Wally came into the room with a handgun and pointed it at the paramedic. “Don’t try anything stupid.”
Johnny realized why the gun was suddenly put into play when he felt Ted release the ropes from his wrists. He slowly brought his arms forward, his shoulders aching and protesting the change in direction. Johnny rubbed his wrists, noting some rope burn on them. His shoulders were too sore and tired for his arms to make much movement.
“C’mon. You’ve got work to do.” Ted motioned for Gage to follow him. “And you’d better deliver.”
Wally walked behind their prisoner, the gun close to Johnny’s back.
Roy stood staring at Melvin Meyers as the man explained that he’d left to see Carla, but had intended to return soon after to meet up with Johnny. He showed him the note he’d left that ended up on the coffee table and told him about the mysterious laundry service van.
“That note’s the only evidence I have that John was in here,” Melvin lied, not wanting to get into any more trouble with Roy than he already was. “But with the Land Rover still being here and not him, and then what ever that van was here for. . .I think they took John.”
DeSoto felt an ill feeling come over him at the mention of the laundry service van. Melvin had confirmed the name on it, and both figured it was the stolen one mentioned on the news. Who took it and what do they want with Johnny? Did they follow him here? Or. . . Roy looked at Meyers, scrutinizing the man.
“What?” The expression on his guest’s face had Melvin worried. “You don’t think I had anything to do with this. . .do you?”
“Maybe not directly. But the last time you guys were kidnapped, wasn’t it you they wanted for the most part? Johnny just happened to be in the way, right? So maybe it’s the same way now.”
“But those guys are in prison. Roy, I swear, I don’t have anyone after me.” He noticed the senior paramedic glancing at the Batman poster on his wall. “What are you thinking?”
“Batman had more than one enemy. Maybe you do too.”
“Oh, that’s a low blow.”
Roy ignored the comment. “Did you call the police?”
“No, I can’t.”
“Can’t? Look, Meyers, Johnny’s missing. We can’t play detective here. We need to let the authorities know.” Roy reached for the telephone.
“Wait! There’s more.”
Roy stopped and turned around, an incredulous look on his face. “More?” He took two steps toward Melvin. “Like what?”
“Like. . .like the fact I did try to play detective and searched his Land Rover,” he lied again. “My finger prints are all over it. They’ll think I was in on his disappearance.”
“We can explain that.”
“I’m calling the police. I’ll back you up on your story about searching his Rover, okay? So you don’t have anything to worry about. But we have to call and report this.”
Melvin nodded, giving in. He didn’t want Roy to know he wasn’t just worried about John. He was also worried about the spare room being searched. Although he’d cleaned it up and hid everything in the closet, he knew the cops would be thorough in going over the apartment. Now the part-time chemist could only hope they didn’t find reason to tear his place apart.
Roy got off the line with the police and sighed. “They’ll be here soon.”
Meyers sat down on his couch and rested his elbows on his knees, his hands over his face. Things had been going good; he had a girlfriend who liked him, a job just like John and a place to fiddle with his chemicals. But his fear over John recalling too many things that would take it all away had put things in motion to do just that regardless. Why didn’t I leave well enough alone?
Gage tried to hide his nervousness as he walked between Wally and Ted. With the gun poking him in the back, he was constantly reminded these two men meant business.
Man, what if I *can’t* deliver? He sighed. What am I *thinking*? Of course I can’t. I have no idea what I’m doing.
When Ted stopped in the kitchen, Johnny did the same and looked around. It was surprisingly well-kept. He noticed by a crack between the kitchen curtains that it was still light outside, though a slight orange hue indicated it was sunset. Ted motioned toward the table.
Johnny glanced over his shoulder at Wally, then did as he was told. Ted then tied the paramedic’s left hand to the back of the chair where it joined the seat, and set a plate with a ham sandwich on it in front of him.
“Eat. You’ve got ten minutes.”
“What happens after then?”
“Never mind. Just eat.”
The paramedic scowled. He at least should be given a little heads up as to what he’d be doing next. Johnny picked up the sandwich and took a small bite. It was then he realized that as hungry was he’d been, his appetite was gone.
Melvin stared at the floor of his apartment, still stunned at the events of the day. It was only when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye that he looked up. Roy was reaching for the telephone again.
“Who’re you calling now?”
“Cap. He’s gonna have to know something happened to Johnny,”
“Captain Stanley? Do you have to?”
“Yes, I have to.”
Melvin slumped on the sofa. I’m doomed.
“Yeah, it’s me. I’ve got some news to give you about Johnny.”
“He didn’t let Meyers drag him into anything did he?”
“No. Actually, I don’t know what he’s up to. Neither does Melvin.”
“Whataya mean? Where is John?”
“That’s just it, Cap. We don’t know. He disappeared from Meyers’ apartment while he was alone. His Land Rover is still here, but that’s it.”
Hank Stanley was quiet a moment as the shocking news processed. He then spoke into the receiver. “I’m coming over. Where is the apartment located?”
Roy gave the directions, then hung up and sighed. “Well, that went smoother than I expected.”
Melvin just shook his head. Things wouldn’t be going smoothly for him when the captain arrived.
Ted and Wally watched as Johnny sat, his sandwich on the plate with only a couple of bites out of it.
“You were complaining about being hungry. Eat!”
The paramedic held back his anger as he answered. “I guess I’m not as hungry as I thought.”
Ted picked up the plate and carried it to the sink. “Suit yourself.”
“So what happens now?”
The two crooks each pulled out a chair and sat at the table across from Johnny.
“We need you to invent something that we can sell and get rich.”
“You what? What can I invent?”
Ted continued, “I don’t know, but you’d better think of something. It’s your only ticket out of here.”
Johnny shook his head. “I’m not buying that; I’ve seen your faces so you won’t let me go anyway. You’ll take what I make and kill me.”
Wally looked to Ted and waited for his reply to their prisoner.
“No, we won’t kill you. We’ll let you go as soon as we get money in our hands. We’re going to flee the country where no one can find us. You’ll be free.”
The dark-haired paramedic gave his captors a wary look. It was possible Ted was telling him the truth, though doubtful. But his chances weren’t any better if he didn’t cooperate.
Maybe I can think of a way to get help through this without them knowing. . . Suddenly an idea came to mind.
“We’ve got a few of your chemicals you had handy.”
Johnny shook his head at Wally’s statement. “I won’t need ‘em.”
“You won’t? Well, how are you going to make something?”
Ted nodded in agreement. “Yeah? What else would you use?”
Gage grinned. “I have an idea. . .” And I hope it doesn’t back-fire. . .