This story is a sequel to 'The Aroma of Love' and 'Obstacles and Affections'. It may help to read these stories first. . .
By Audrey W.
Chet Kelly waited in the apparatus bay when he saw John Gage go into the locker room to get ready for their shift on duty. The fireman had just been told a few minutes earlier by John’s partner, Roy Desoto, that things were getting more serious between Gage and his latest girlfriend. Chet wanted to find out just exactly how much more serious that was.
The news had come as a surprise to Chet, as Johnny had recently told him he was being cautious and taking things slow since his latest love interest wasn’t exactly the most stable girl he’d been out with. Her name was Lorraine and while she’d gotten over an obsession she had with rearranging furniture and cupboards, she’d moved on to vacuuming, then shopping for shoes, followed by baking everything and anything she could. It had gotten so Johnny never was sure which obsession was going to surface when or if another new one would develop.
Kelly glanced at his watch. It was only eight minutes till roll call. “C’mon, c’mon,” he said, looking at the door to the locker room. “Anytime now, Gage.”
After a few more minutes passed, the door swung open and Johnny came out. The paramedic looked with curiosity at Chet, who was now pretending to be wiping smudges off the rear of the engine.
As Gage walked by, Chet stopped what he was doing and stood up straight. “Well, look who’s here.”
Johnny glanced around to see who he’d apparently missed, then pointed to himself, eyebrows raised.
“Of course I mean you,” Kelly answered to the unspoken question. “You see anyone else in here?”
“We’re on duty in a few minutes, Chet. Where else would I be?”
The fireman frowned. “Okay, okay. So it wasn’t the brightest observation.” His expression then brightened. “So how was your day off? Do anything special?”
Johnny gave a suspicious look over his right shoulder as the two men headed for the dayroom. “Like whataya’ have in mind by ‘special’?”
“Oh, I don’ know. Maybe did ya spend some time with. . .oh. . .say with Lorraine?”
The paramedic stopped in mid-stride. “Did Roy say anything to you?”
“No,” came a quick reply. Man, Roy’ll kill me if I bring him in on this. “No, I was just curious since. . .well, since you’ve been seein’ the chick off and on for several months now.”
Johnny didn’t answer, but started for the dayroom again.
“If you have to know, yes, I had a date with Lorraine.”
Marco, Mike and Roy looked up from their seats around the table at the annoyed sound of Johnny’s voice.
“Already?” Roy asked. “The shift hasn’t even started yet.”
Two men from C-shift shook their heads. “Sounds like you guys are in for an interesting twenty-four hours,” one of them commented.
“You guys aren’t going to be at it that long, are you?” Marco wondered, hoping he was right.
“Only if Chet keeps it up.”
“What is it this time?” Mike asked.
“He’s being nosey about my relationship with Lorraine.”
Roy suddenly got a sinking feeling. Had Chet told Johnny that the senior paramedic filled him in on how things were going with the obsessive Lorraine? He regretted letting the Irish fireman pry it out of him just fifteen minutes earlier. But Chet was so good at digging for information, that before he knew it, Roy had said too much. However, the fact that Johnny hadn’t made a point of thanking him now for telling Chet was a good sign.
“So what’dya do?” Kelly went on. “I’m sure the guys would like to hear about it.”
“Weren’t you going to take her to a concert?”
Johnny looked to his partner and nodded. “I was.”
The klaxons sounded, interrupting the younger man. Since it was 8:00 and they were officially now on duty, the men from A-shift trotted out to the trucks while Hank Stanley took a slip of paper with the information on it from the captain of C-shift. Chet watched the scenery rush as they hurried to the scene, wondering what could have gone wrong for Johnny on his latest date.
“How do you do it?” Roy asked as he watched the traffic ahead.
Johnny glanced over in puzzlement. “Do what?”
“Reply to a question we all want to hear the answer to just in time for the klaxons to cut you off.”
“Sure seems like it,” he teased. “I’d say it happens eight times out of ten.”
“I don’ know. I guess I’ve got good timing. Turn left up there. . .” Johnny quieted as his partner navigated his way through an intersection and into a subdivision. “Do I really do that?”
Again, Roy nodded, then quickly dropped the subject as he pulled the squad to the side of the road in front of a ranch style house where a teenage girl was waiting. The engine was right behind.
The paramedics got out of the squad as Captain Stanley and the other three engine crew members climbed down off their vehicle.
“I don’t see any smoke,” Hank commented to his men.
“There’s no fire,” the girl explained. “My sister and I smelled smoke. Our brother left a cigarette on the livingroom couch early this morning and it was smoldering. But we got it out.”
“Where’re your parents?” The captain wondered.
“Well, you may have taken care of it, but I want my men to make sure. Can you show’em where the couch is?”
She shrugged. “Sure.”
As he watched Chet and Marco follow the teen into the house, Hank addressed the paramedics. “I guess we can count this one as a blessing. . .kids home alone. . .could’ve been disastrous.”
Roy and Johnny agreed, then Gage elbowed his partner in the arm to bring his attention to the boy lighting up a cigarette just outside the house. The blond kid was only ten years old.
Hank noticed the lad and shook his head. “These kids could use a little more supervision.”
When a patrol car pulled up to the scene, the boy was suddenly gone from sight; Marco and Chet came out of the house where the kid had been standing and met up with the others.
“How’s it look?”
“It’s definitely not smoldering anymore, Cap,” Chet replied.
Marco nodded. “Yeah, they just have to hope they can explain to their parents why the couch and part of the rug are soaked with water. . .they pulled the garden hose inside and kept the water going until a couple of minutes before we got here.”
Chet looked to Johnny. “Now that’s a couch I’d like to see Lorraine try to move.”
“She’s not rearrang — oh forget it.” The dark-haired paramedic waved him off and started for the squad. “Man, a guy dates a girl. . .” the rest went unheard as Johnny got in the passenger side of the truck and shut the door, still mumbling to himself.
Roy rolled his eyes and shook his head, then joined his partner in the squad; the engine crew climbed back on their vehicle after the captain briefed the officer on the situation with the kids. Both the paramedics and firemen called in as available.
Gage looked out the window as DeSoto pulled the squad away from the sidewalk and into the street.
“Don’t look so bummed. It’s just Chet being Chet.”
“Yeah? Well, ‘Chet being Chet’ can get annoying real fast.”
“Just ignore ‘im. I’m sure he’ll let the stuff about Lorraine drop soon enough.” After a couple of minutes of silence, Roy spoke again. “So, what happened with the concert?”
“Oh yeah,” Johnny turned slightly in his seat. “You aren’t gonna belie--” Once again he was interrupted as the tones sounded, this time over the radio.
“See? You did it again.” Roy flipped on the lights and siren, then put on his helmet as his bewildered partner acknowledged the call. Johnny put on his helmet and adjusted the strap.
How *do* I do that?
Roy brought the squad to a stop at the scene of the latest call. It was another residential area. This time a young girl and a little boy were sitting on the sidewalk, a small blue pickup truck pulled over beside them, the driver’s side door open. A man who looked to be in his forties was kneeling down in front of the two children. Several people who lived nearby stood here and there observing.
The man got to his feet as the paramedics got out of their truck. “It wasn’t my fault. She just ran out from between those parked cars.” He pointed to two vehicles that were now partially hidden behind the squad.
“What happened?” Johnny asked as he and Roy looked at the kids. Neither appeared to be hurt.
“She ran out into the street and my side mirror hit her in the face.”
Roy immediately went to get the supplies out of the squad as Johnny stepped over and knelt down by the ten-year-old girl. He gently palpated the right side of her face, where he could see a light red mark near her mouth. “Well, you couldn’ta’ been goin’ very fast.”
The man shook his head. “No, sir. I never go more than fifteen miles an hour through here when the kids are out of school. And I did hit my brakes as soon as I saw her.”
Roy set the drug box and biophone down. “How’s it look?”
“Not bad.” Gage was peering into the girl’s mouth to check for any possible tooth damage. Since there was no blood present, he didn’t expect to find anything. He flicked off his penlight and sat back on his heels. “She seems okay.” He then looked to the little boy who appeared to be no more than four years old. “Did he get hit?”
“No,” the girl said.
Roy handed the bp cuff to his partner. “I’ll get Rampart on the horn in case they wanta see her.”
Johnny nodded and reached for the girl’s slim arm. “I hope this thing isn’t too big to get a reading. What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Shelly. And he’s my brother Dale,” she said, indicating the little boy with her free arm.
“Where’re your parents, Shelly?” Roy wondered.
“Daddy doesn’t live here anymore and Mommy’s at work.”
Gage frowned. These kids are too young to be alone.
A siren could be heard as a patrol car arrived on the scene. Johnny gave the BP reading to his partner, and then stood as the officer approached them.
The man who had hit the girl explained the situation again. Afterwards, Gage gave Vince the information on the victim.
“She’s okay. No sign of serious injuries, her BP is normal. We talked to a doctor at the hospital and he just recommended a parent take her to their family doctor for a follow up.”
Officer Vince Howard nodded. “Where are the parents?”
Finished with closing up the equipment that was now in his hands, Roy answered. “She said her dad doesn’t live here anymore and her mom is at work.” He motioned with an elbow to the little boy. “That’s her brother.”
“Okay, we’ll get in touch with the mom,” Vince said. As the paramedics left, he went on with the business at hand.
“Now that was a lucky kid,” Johnny remarked as Roy drove the squad back toward the station.
“I’ll say. If that guy had been going any faster. . .”
“She’da’ been missin’ a few teeth, or have to have her jaw wired shut.” Gage looked out the windshield and shook his head. “You know, some of these kids are too young to be left alone. I don’t get it.”
“Well, in this case we apparently have a single working mom who may not be able to afford a sitter. Maybe the girl is normally more responsible than that.”
The younger man glanced at his partner, an eyebrow raised. “Would you leave Chris alone to look after Jennifer?”
“No. But I know my kid isn’t ready for the responsibility.”
Johnny looked out the passenger window, his hair blowing slightly as he rolled the window down.
“Are you going to tell me about the concert before we get back to the station so Chet doesn’t have to hear about it too?”
“No?” Roy was surprised. “You want Chet to be around when you talk about it?”
“No, but I don’t wanna get toned out right away again.” The younger man glanced over when his reply was met with silence. He saw a confused expression on his partner’s face. “Roy, if I try to tell you now, we might get another run. You said it yourself. When I try to explain somethin’, we get a call. I’m just not taking any chances. . .yet.”
“I don’t believe anything did happen at the concert.”
“Oh, you’re right about that,” Johnny snorted. “We didn’t even make it to the coliseum.”
Gage shook his head. “I had to give the tickets away to a couple at a store we’d stopped in to kill some time.”
“I made the mistake of--”
The paramedic was once again interrupted by the tones coming over the radio.
“The mistake of trying to answer your questions!”
The older man was already putting his helmet on after turning on the siren and lights. “I know. . .and here I thought I was only kidding.”
After two more calls, one involving a water rescue with the Coast Guard, the paramedics finally made their way back to the station. Johnny jumped out of the squad as Roy brought it to a stop.
“Man, I can’t believe this day so far,” Gage said as he met up with his partner near the doorway to the dayroom.
“Well, you know, you can’t blame that last rescue on your answer theory. We weren’t even talking when that call came over the radio.”
“No, but I was thinkin’ about what happened with Lorraine.”
DeSoto rolled his eyes.
“Look, I know it’s all just coincidence,” Johnny explained as they walked into the dayroom. “No one can really make these things happen just by talkin’. But, you’ve gotta admit, it’s strange how it’s been happening.”
“What’s strange?” Mike asked.
Suddenly remembering the rest of the crew was in the room, Johnny looked around to see Mike on the couch, Chet at the table and Marco in front of the bulletin board. By luck, Captain Stanley was in his office. Roy did the explaining while his partner stood still, not sure what to say.
“Uh. . .the fact that when ever Johnny tries to answer a question, we get toned out.”
“Roy. . .ixnay on the problem-ay,” Gage said under his breath. “You wanna get them going?”
But he soon found out it was too late to prevent it.
“Whataya mean?” Chet wondered.
Marco stepped closer. “Yeah, how can that happen every time?”
Gage sighed, giving in. “It’s true. . .ask me a question. . .anything. You’ll see.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. What’s your favorite color?”
“Chet, make it one that needs more than a one word reply.”
“Okay. When are you getting married?”
“Chet! I’m serious.”
“So am I.”
Johnny looked at him in confusion.
“Lorraine called earlier and when I asked her if she wanted you to call her back, she said no, because she was at the bridal shop.” Kelly shrugged. “So, when are ya getting married?”
“That’s to do with her sister’s wedding. Her sister’s gettin’ married next month.”
“Maybe you can make it a double ceremony.”
“Mike! You too?”
This time when the klaxons sounded, the squad was spared and the engine was toned out.
“Lunch is on the stove,” Marco said as he and the others trotted out of the room.
“Maybe our luck is changing,” Johnny muttered.
“They’re gone and we’re still here.”
“So you going to tell me--”
Gage lifted the lid off a pot on the stove where the leftovers from lunch were still inside. “Not on your life!” He interrupted as he dished out some still warm chili into a bowl. “I’m not saying a word about it until we’re off duty.”
Although no one, not even Johnny, really believed the younger paramedic’s attempts at answering questions could bring on more rescue calls for them, the men of A-shift did notice a decline in runs once he’d given up. Gage mainly kept the conversation on subjects such as which pro football team was going to be best when the season got started at the end of the summer, and which baseball teams should make it to the World Series.
Roy was surprised that his partner kept his word and managed not to talk about Lorraine for so long. But now that they were off duty and headed for their vehicles in the back lot, the senior paramedic didn’t want Johnny to forget that he still owed him an explanation.
“Okay, we’re on our own time and out of the building now,” Desoto said, stopping before they reached their automobiles. “What happened with Lorraine?”
Gage had stopped along with his partner. His back to the station, Johnny began his story.
“Okay, you know how I said Lorraine has gotten over some of her obsessions. . .”
Roy nodded, then slowly shook his head no when Johnny did the same. “You didn’t say that? I thought--”
“I did say that. But I was wrong.” He noticed he was getting an uncomprehending look and sighed. “Little did I know that a person who moves from one obsession to another is like a recovered alcoholic; like a person who quits smoking, but still longs for that one last drag.”
Roy stared at the younger man, wondering when he was ever going to get to the part about what happened before the concert.
Johnny continued. “When they get around the cause of the obsession again. . .bam,” he said as he smacked his hands together. “It’s right back to it again.”
“Well, you shoulda known that,” came a voice from behind.
Johnny turned, a surprised look on his face. “Chet, what’re you doing here?”
“Uh,” the fireman pointed to his VW Bus. “Going home. . .?”
“I know that. I mean. . .oh, never mind.”
“Sure, John. But I’ll say it again. You shoulda’ known obsessed people never quit obsessing.”
“In case you hadn’t noticed, your obsessive.”
“Chet. . .”
Roy looked at the ground, then up at the two men arguing. “I’m never gonna find out what happened, am I?”
“What happened where?” Chet wondered.
Johnny didn’t want to answer in front of Kelly, but it was looking like he had no choice. He knew the man wasn’t going to leave without hearing the story first. “At a store where we. . .Lorraine and I. . .stopped before we went to the Eagles concert. We had extra time, and she wanted to ‘window shop’, so to speak.”
Roy kept silent, figuring an interruption would throw Johnny off track again.
Gage nodded. “Uh huh. Only I made the mistake of agreeing to go down the vacuum aisle. You know, they actually hold seminars on those things?”
“You mean a demonstration?” DeSoto asked.
Johnny shook his head. “No, I mean a seminar. There was a woman there from Kirsty. You know, that brand that has the newest line out. . .”
Not being up on the appliances like their shiftmate, both Roy and Chet shook their heads.
“Oh. Well, anyway, this manufacturer’s vacuums have all the latest fancy gadgets and stuff. . .and you’d be amazed at just what can be added to a thing that’s sole purpose is to clean floors. So this lady who works for the Kirsty Company hands us tickets to a seminar being held in the evening at a building adjacent to the store, and before I can even say ‘no’, that we’ve already got plans, I can tell by the look in Lorraine’s eyes that she’s excited at the idea of learning all there is about these vacuums.” He sighed. “Not to mention the fact the lady baited her even more with the prospect of getting to try each one out. . .as often as she wanted.”
“So you missed an Eagles’ concert to go to a vacuum seminar?” Chet asked in disbelief.
“Yep, that’s right. I didn’t even ask Lorraine. I just gave in and handed the tickets to a couple who was walking by. . .” He noticed doubtful expressions on both Chet’s and Roy’s face. “Okay, I offered the tickets to ‘em for a cheap price. But I didn’t make a profit.” Gage shook his head. “Man, I missed the Eagles to go learn everything there is to know about sweeping a floor.”
“Too bad you didn’t do this when you and Roy were thinking of going into the floor cleaning business. Maybe it would have helped.” A scowl at the comment made it clear the fireman’s sorry attempt at humor wasn’t going over well. “I’ll ask it again. . .when’re you getting married?”
“Chet, I told you, that was about her sister--”
“I know, but to give up the Eagles to go listen to vacuums hum? C’mon, John, you’ve really gotta like this chick.”
It’s sure not what I’d expect from him, Roy thought to himself. But then his friend had surprised him before.
Johnny glanced at his watch. “I’d better get goin’. I wanna get a shower in before I go see Lorraine this morning.”
As the dark-haired paramedic headed for his Land Rover, the others looked on.
“I think Gage is a goner, Roy.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Even if he does get married later, it’s not all that bad of a thing. I love being married.”
“Yeah, but when was the last time Joanne wanted to go to a vacuum seminar?”
That was a point the senior paramedic couldn’t argue with.
After showering, Johnny got on a clean pair of jeans and a blue plaid shirt. He stood at the still open closet in his bedroom and stared blankly at the eighteen pairs of shoes piled on the floor inside. He then closed the door and put on his old tennis shoes that were still the favorites to wear.
“Man, at least she didn’t get into shopping for something else. . .like underwear.” Just the thought of a woman buying those for him made him squirm. No matter how much he liked her.
Gage left his apartment and headed for his girlfriend’s place. He knew she was preparing him a homemade breakfast. He just hoped she hadn’t gotten carried away. . .again.
As Johnny pulled into the parking lot belonging to Lorraine’s apartment building, two young boys were suddenly in the driveway, having roller-skated out from behind a car parked at the end of a row of vehicles. The paramedic hit the brakes just in time to narrowly miss the children by mere inches. As they quickly skated away on the other side, Johnny yelled out his window, “Hey, you kids need to watch where you’re goin’!”
Now I know how that man felt yesterday. Damn kids are gonna get run over if they aren’t careful.
With the boys disappearing around a corner and behind a fence, he slowly drove farther into the lot and parked in a guest spot. Trotting inside the building and up the stairs, Johnny headed for Lorraine’s apartment.
When Lorraine opened the door, some of the first words out of Gage’s mouth besides ‘hi’, were about children and the trouble they can get into. The woman politely listened as her boyfriend rambled on about what he’d witnessed lately.
“. . .I tell ya, some of these kids are their own worst enemies,” Johnny continued after having explained the previous day’s rescues involving the youngsters. “They don’t think about the consequences of their actions at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I like kids overall. . .heck, I enjoy seeing Roy’s kids when I go over to his house,” he said as he took a seat at the table. “And we’ve run into some real nice ones on other rescues. But then there’re the ones who’re like an accident waitin’ to happen.”
Lorraine listened as she set the breakfast food on the table. “Do the parents get in trouble for leaving their children at home alone?”
“Sometimes, it just depends on the circumstances. In the first case yesterday, no. The parents had jobs that required them to be at work really early in the morning and their daughter was old enough to watch the other kids. But the second one is. She can’t help that she needs to work, but social services is keeping a watch on her to make sure she arranges for a babysitter from now on.”
“That’s good,” Lorraine commented as she sat down across from Johnny and began eating.
The breakfast turned out to be a welcome favorite of scrambled eggs, toast, bacon and milk. Conversation changed from children getting into trouble, to what the couple was going to do for the day.
Johnny finished his food and leaned back in his chair. “Now, that was a great breakfast. You don’t need all those fancy recipes you were using,” he added, hoping to keep her away from ever getting the idea to get an obsession with preparing all sorts of food again.
Lorraine dabbed politely at her mouth with a cloth napkin as she looked thoughtfully at her companion. “Johnny, could I stay home if we had children?”
“Uh. . .well. . .now. . .um. . .when we. . .that is if. . .if we ever . . .have kids. . .I’d hope you could. . .uh. . . stay home with them.” Kids? We haven’t even discussed marriage.
“I’d like to have a girl and a boy. What about you?”
“Uhm. . .a. . .uh. . .a boy and a girl would be nice. . .it’d be nice.” He sighed. “Um, Lorraine, honey, it’s a little soon to be thinkin’ about this, isn’t it?”
“It doesn’t mean anything. It just crossed my mind.” The words would’ve been reassuring, but the dreamy expression on her face and the slight smile had him wondering if the subject had not only crossed her mind, but taken a permanent stop in there beside the vacuums and shoes.
Man, why’d I have to bring up the subject of kids?
The following morning, Johnny pulled his Land Rover into the rear parking lot of the station and brought it to a stop next to Roy’s sports car. The senior paramedic was just getting out of his vehicle, which was both a relief and a worry to Gage.
He’s gonna ask how things went. . .do I tell him? Or do I skirt around the subject? But if I *don’t* tell ‘im and try to avoid talking about it, he might get the idea something’s wrong. What am I thinking? Something *is* wrong. Ah hell. . .the sooner I get it over with. . .
Johnny quickly got out of his Rover to catch up with his partner. “Good mornin’,” he said with a smile.
“Morning. You seem chipper. No more vacuum seminars, I take it.”
“Nope. No vacuums mentioned at all. In fact, I think I got Lorraine’s mind off that subject again.”
Roy stopped a few feet from the entrance to the apparatus bay and turned to face Gage. “How’d you manage that?”
Johnny cleared his throat. “Uh. . .well. . .it. . .uh . . . it wasn’t that hard, actually.”
“Why do I get the feeling there’s more to this story.”
“Ah, man, Roy. . .there is. There is somethin’ more. I found out Lorraine’s a chronic obsesser.”
“A chronic obsesser?”
“Uh huh. That’s what I call it.”
“Is this your professional assessment as a paramedic?” He teased.
“Roy, I’m serious. All I have to do is mention a subject and she latches onto it and won’t let it go.”
“I thought you already knew that.”
“I did. . .kinda. I mean, I knew she had hang ups. I knew she was obsessive. But until yesterday, I never realized that just the mere mention of something could have a huge affect on her.”
Roy started toward the building again as Johnny followed.
“So what subject did you bring up to get her off the vacuums again?”
“Well, uh. . .” Gage reached out and grabbed Roy’s left shoulder, stopping him just outside the station. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather not try to explain this inside. I don’t wanna take any chances again. . .if ya know what I mean.”
Roy shook his head. “And you think Lorraine’s obsessed.”
“Okay, so I can be that way too. . .at times.”
“Look, I’m tryin’ to tell ya I’ve got a problem. . .kinda. . .”
“What is it?”
Johnny reached in his left pant pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He opened it up and handed it to DeSoto.
After glancing at it, the older man looked at his partner. “What’s with this?”
“That’s a list of names she wants to consider when. . .if . . .we ever have kids.”
Roy handed the paper back, a smile on his face. “I’d say you’ve got a problem alright. This is kind of right up there with that time your girlfriend Barbara thought you wanted to get married.” He stepped into the apparatus bay, heading for the locker room. “So why’d you bring up having kids?”
Johnny was alongside, stuffing the page back into his pocket. “I didn’t. I simp--”
Suddenly the tones went off, sending C-shift out on the call in the squad since A-shift wasn’t quite on duty yet.
“Blame it on Roy!” Gage called out as the men got into the truck. He turned to his partner. “And you thought I was just being obsessive.”
“Well, the squad’s gone now. You’re safe.”
“I’m not so sure about that. It’s likely to catch up to me later.”
Roy sighed and shook his head as he watched Gage walk toward the locker room. He then followed several steps behind.
I hope he decides to talk about it, or this could be a long shift.
Roy buttoned his blue uniform shirt as he glanced at his partner, who was also still getting ready. Neither had said a word since the exchange in the apparatus bay. The senior paramedic sighed.
“I thought you didn’t believe your answering questions sent us out on runs.”
“I don’t. I just didn’t feel like pushing my luck. Call it a hunch, but I had a gut feeling if I said anything in here, we were gonna get sent out on a call right away.”
“But we didn’t. C-Shift did.”
Johnny looked over at Roy. “That was a--”
“A what?” Chet asked as he came into the locker room, Mike right behind him.
“A none of your business,” Gage commented.
“No problem. After my evening last night, there’s nothing you could come up with that could top my news.”
“I don’t know--” Roy began, but a glare from his partner quickly shut him up.
“So what happened last night?”
“Just hang on, Gage, I’m gettin’ to it.”
“I know. . .you need a few minutes to make somethin’ up.”
“No, I want a few seconds to savor the moments.”
“This must really be big,” Mike put in.
It was then Johnny noticed Mike had on tennis shoes with holes wearing on the sides of both where his little toes rested inside. I wonder if I could pawn off any of those eighteen shoes Lorraine gave me on him? Hey, Mike. . .what size shoe do you wear?”
The engineer gave Johnny a wary look. “Why?”
“Well, I see you could use a new pair and I have a couple I wanna get rid of.”
Stoker looked down at his own feet. “What’s wrong with these?”
Gage was about to point out the obvious when Chet spoke up first. “Since you guys won’t lay off, I’ll tell you about last night.”
Roy and Johnny exchanged a glance, each cracking a smile at Chet’s words. “Go ahead, Chet.” The younger paramedic said. “We’re listening.”
“Well, Marco and I went out to that new nightclub. The Red Coach.”
“We’re sitting at a small table enjoying our beer when what happens? A beautiful chick with gorgeous long blonde hair and a triple D bust line comes up to me and asks me if I’d like to dance.”
“She asked you?” Johnny couldn’t hide his disbelief.
“What about Marco?”
“Once he put his eyes back in his head, he was fine, Mike. He met someone later.”
“So what happened next?” Roy wondered.
“Well, we danced. . .sort of. . .I tried. . .I really tried. And then she suggested we go to my place. I swear we must’ve talked for two hours straight.”
“Talked?” Johnny said, again in disbelief. “You and a chick like that just talked?”
“Sure! I’ve got substance. I like a girl who can hold a conversation. Not to mention hold a can of beer in her cleavage.”
The three listeners rolled their eyes.
“So what did you talk about?”
Chet made a quick glance at Mike, then continued. “Just stuff.”
“Stuff.” Gage laughed. “Did you even get her name?”
“Yes, her name is Vanessa Vavoom.”
“That’s what I said, Gage. Vanessa Vavoom.”
“Sounds like someone Johnny should be dating,” Mike said. “Only change the name to Vanessa Vacuum.”
“Hey, her last name sounds like a vacuum.”
Johnny and Chet were both giving the others disapproving looks. Finished with getting ready for duty, Gage headed for the swinging door leading to the apparatus bay. “Oh, you two are real comedians.” He disappeared from sight, as Roy closed his and Johnny’s lockers before following behind.
Chet shook his head again at Mike, then turned to finish getting ready when he noticed a folded piece of paper on the floor near Johnny’s locker. Curious, he stepped over and picked it up. He opened it and stared at the names listed. I wonder if this has anything to do with what’s not my business?
He balled it up and stuck it in his pants pocket.
“I don’t know, but I’m sure gonna have fun finding out.”
Now ready for duty, Mike shook his head as he snickered on his way out of the locker room. He pushed open the door to the apparatus bay. “Vavoom.”
“Triple D, Mike! Triple D!”
Chet walked across the apparatus bay with a big grin on his face as he thought about the list of names.
There’s gotta be something with this list that Johnny doesn’t want me to know about.
As he entered the dayroom where the others were gathered, Chet quickly changed his expression to serious. He kept the paper behind his back in his right hand.
“Remind me never to listen to any stories you tell next time ya go fishin’,” Johnny said. He was standing near the sink where he’d been talking to Marco Lopez.
Kelly was puzzled. “Huh?”
Johnny glanced at Lopez, then back to Chet. “Seems your triple D description was a little off. . . Marco said she was more like double D.”
“Double, triple . . .when they get that big does it really matter?”
Roy was sitting at the table and nearly spit out the coffee he’d just taken a sip of. Mike and the engine crew from C-Shift just quietly observed the others, the latter more interested in getting off duty than discussing a woman’s bra size.
“I’m sure it matters to her,” Johnny stated.
“Well, she did hold a beer can between ‘em.”
“She di--” Chet cut himself off when he remembered the paper in his hand. “At least I don’t run around with a list of chicks like I’m shopping for groceries.”
Now it was Johnny’s turn to be puzzled. “Huh?”
Chet held up the paper. “Let’s see. . .Julia, Cally, Belinda--”
“What are you. . .?” Johnny quickly stepped forward reaching out. He snatched the list from Chet’s grasp. “Those aren’t girlfriends, Chet! Those are my kids!”
The room was suddenly silent; everyone’s mouths dropped open in shock, including Roy’s when he couldn’t believe his partner let the news slip out.
Here we go. Chet’s going to have a field day with this.
Much to Roy’s surprise, it was Ray Mathews, the engineer from C-Shift, who spoke first.
“Kids? How’d you manage to have enough kids to make a list when your relationships end after a few dates?”
“Man, you’ll be broke from paying child support,” another C-Shift engine crewman said.
“I don’t have any actual kids. These are names Lorraine came up with for when we do have kids. I mean. . .oh man. . .” He glanced at Roy. “Did I just get myself in another mess?”
DeSoto nodded as Chet finally recovered enough to speak.
“Names for when you two have kids? So you really are getting married.”
“No, Chet, we’re not getting’ married. It’s just her latest obsession.”
“You’re getting married,” Kelly reaffirmed, shaking his head yes.
Curious, Mike and Marco got behind Johnny and peered over his shoulder at the paper.
“Wow! That even makes my family seem small,” Lopez stated.
Johnny turned to respond when Captain Stanley poked his head into the doorway. “Roll call!”
As the men headed out of the dayroom to the apparatus bay, Chet walked up beside the younger paramedic.
“This doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, Gage.”
Johnny sighed. “Someday I wanna see this ‘hook’ I always seem to be on.”
Hank Stanley briefed his men on a few notes he’d gotten, then assigned each a chore. Johnny was relieved to be by himself in the latrine. However, he knew eventually he’d have to help Roy inventory the squad after the paramedics from C-Shift returned.
Gage was just putting cleaning supplies away in the supply closet when the squad was backed into the apparatus bay. The men had been out for over an hour.
I sure wish we’d gone out on that call. Then I never would’ve opened my big mouth about Lorraine’s idea for kids.
“Hey!” Johnny greeted the weary paramedics as they exited the vehicle. “How’d it go?”
“Just one more kid in a mess,” Charlie Dwyer explained. “Did we miss anything while we were gone?”
“No. . .no. Nothin’ at all.” Nothing you need to know about.
“Good. Well, it’s all yours,” he said, tossing the keys to Gage.
Johnny caught them and then handed them to Roy, who had just entered the bay.
“You ready to do a check?” The senior paramedic wondered.
Johnny walked around to the passenger side pf the squad and opened the compartment doors. He grabbed the drug box and set it down on the floor as Roy pulled out the trauma box and placed it a few feet away from his partner.
“Aren’t ya gonna say anything about what happened in the dayroom before roll call?”
Roy shook his head. “I figure you’ll hear enough about it once Chet gets on a roll.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Johnny paused as he thought a moment, his lips pursed. “You know, maybe I oughtta tell Cap what’s going on so he doesn’t overhear somethin’ and drag me to his office thinkin’ I’m supporting twenty kids spread out all over LA County.”
Roy grinned. “I think that he knows you better than that. But you’re right; it might save you a trip to his office later on.”
The younger man nodded in agreement. “I’ll go talk to him as soon as we’re finished.”
“You sure you aren’t afraid that trying to explain the situation won’t cause us to get a run before you’re done?”
“Ha ha. Look, I’m over that.” A raised eyebrow from his partner had him reassuring, “I am. After all, I made it through my explanation about the list of names and I didn’t even think about it.”
“But the squad was already out on a call.”
The two paramedics continued on with the inventory, neither sure Johnny was over his superstition.