Who’s Shadowing Who?




                              By Audrey W.





John Gage strolled happily into the dayroom where his shiftmates were gathered to wait for roll call. His partner Roy DeSoto was just setting a cup of coffee on the table and taking a seat as the younger man reached across, grabbing a jelly donut off a plate near the center, leaving a powdered-sugar one behind.


All eyes fell on Gage in anticipation and curiosity as he took a bite of the pastry, immediately hurrying to the trash can and spitting out most of the donut piece that was in his mouth.


“Chet!” he yelled before trying to spit out more of the salty tasting food.


Chet Kelly pushed off the counter where he’d been leaning and snickered as the others shook their heads at the prank, most trying to hide a smile. Although they didn’t always agree with what the curly-haired fireman pulled on Johnny, they had to admit it livened up the place and often kept the slower times from becoming boring. For that reason, rarely did anyone warn the hapless paramedic of an impending surprise.


“What can I say? The phantom strikes early sometimes,” Chet commented.


“Yeah? Well, tell ‘the phantom’ that he might as well back off,” he said as he grabbed a glass out of the cupboard after nudging his way past the prankster. “Nothing can ruin my mood today.” He filled the glass with water, then proceeded to gulp some of the liquid, next swishing it and rinsing out his mouth.


“A good day off?” Roy questioned. “Or just a perfect start to the day. . .until now?”


“A great day off. A great one.”


“What’s her name?” Marco asked.


Johnny set the glass in the sink and eyed the coffee in a pot on the stove. He’d noticed the only one drinking the brew was Roy. Not knowing how long it had been since he poured the stuff, Gage wasn’t so sure the remaining beverage was ‘safe’. Doubting it would help to ask, he just turned toward the table where the other three men were sitting and addressed Marco’s question.


“It’s not a she. I took Shadow on a hike yesterday. The weather was perfect and the whole day went off without a hitch.”


Shadow was a puppy Johnny had rescued a few months earlier when it was abandoned on the freeway. The little black dog seemed to be a perfect match for the paramedic, even sharing some common personality traits with the man. But Johnny wasn’t allowed pets in his apartment, so the pup eventually ended up with his aunt.


“Any luck in finding prospects for a new apartment that allows pets?” Roy wondered.


The younger man shook his head. “Nah. But it’s probably just as well. I don’t have a solution yet for where he’d stay while I’m on duty. I don’t wanna be shuffling him back and forth between mine and my aunt’s place. I’d be pressing my luck with his car sickness.”


Roy nodded in acknowledgement, recalling how many times his partner ended up cleaning out his Land Rover after taking the pup for a ride.


Johnny then quickly added, “I think we’re all content with how it is now. I spend time with the little guy at least once a week; sometimes more.”


“At least you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with babies,” Mike said. When Johnny gave him a questioning look, he clarified, “You know. . .like with the cat we found on your bed here that one time. Besides, since Shadow’s a boy. . .”


“And fixed. . .my aunt got him fixed, too, so he won’t be procreating around the neighborhood if he ever wanders off.”


Marco and Chet winced at the thought as Roy gave a word of approval.


“We had our dog neutered as soon as he was old enough.”


The captain’s voice summoning them for roll call broke up the conversation and the men trotted out to the apparatus bay to line up.


The donut prank forgotten, Gage listened as Captain Stanley gave a brief rundown for the morning ahead.  Little did he know there were more undesirable surprises yet to come in his near future.




“Chet!” A dripping wet John Gage called out just after being hit with water that was flung at him. It was a typical water bomb set-up by ‘the Phantom’, where a large can was mounted on a small board that was rigged to launch the water at the unsuspecting victim.


Johnny stood waiting, his patience wearing thin despite his earlier good mood. This was the third prank played on him since the donut and it was only just after noon. The others had been a rubber snake in the supply closet that had given him a quick startle; then a supposed phone call from a nurse he was interested in that actually turned out to be nothing more than an automated recording by the telephone company saying, ‘If you’d like to make a phone call, please hang up and dial again’.


Chet Kelly finally made his way into the locker room, a grin on his face. “Well, what have we here?”


Johnny’s angry glare made him step back closer to Roy, Mike and Marco, who’d been tagging behind to see what the jokester fireman had pulled this time.


“Your. . .uh. . .shirt’s wet,” Chet commented.


“Gee, I wonder why,” came a wry reply.


“Hair’s kind of soggy too,” Roy added with a teasing grin. He changed his expression to one of more serious and kept quiet when he saw his partner’s mood wasn’t lightening.


 Marco eyed the dark-haired paramedic from head to toe. Not only was Johnny’s hair and shirt wet, but water was dripping off his chin and his trousers had caught some of the deluge too. Even his shoes had drops on them.


“How much water did you--” he cut himself off when Chet gave him a ‘not me’ look. “Did the Phantom,” he corrected, “put in this time?”


“More than enough,” Mike offered.


At that moment the captain walked in, all smiles at finding his men. “Hey, anybody ready for some hamburgers. . .and. . .fries. . .” he trailed off. He looked at Johnny with a grin he couldn’t hide. He could guess why the younger man was standing next to an open locker and wet, but figured to play along with the typical question anyone would expect. “What happened to you?”


Gage shot Chet another glare, then looked at the captain. “I . . .uh. . .I thought I’d take a shower.”


“I think you’re supposed to take your uniform off first,” Hank teased.


“Yeah, well. . .I’ll try to remember that next time, Cap.” Quickly changing the subject, he questioned, “I thought you were gonna make clam chowder.”


Hank Stanley shook his head. “I figured I was getting too predictable with my choice of menu when it’s my turn to cook. You just proved me right.”


“I’d call it consistent.”


Mike nodded in agreement with Johnny. “Or practical.”


“Right now I’ll call it ready. So, gentlemen,” Hank said, motioning toward the door. “Shall we?”


Mike and Marco were the first to follow behind. Johnny pushed past Chet as he made his way to the paper towels at the sink.


“I’ll be there as soon as I get dried off a bit,” he stated as the others filed out of the room. Roy remained behind and watched as his aggravated friend wiped off as much of the water as he could.


“You know, Chet’s really startin’ to get on my nerves.”


“I thought you said nothing could ruin this day for you.”


“He’s doin’ a good job of it.”


“I think saying what you did may have given him a challenge.”


Johnny balled up his third paper towel and looked at Roy in surprise. “You think he’s determined to ruin my day?”


“I’d say it’s likely that he’s kind of testing you.”


He tossed the paper towel in the trash and headed for the apparatus bay. “That’s it. There’s nothing else he can do that’ll get to me. Nothing,” he repeated, looking over his shoulder as he opened the door.


The senior paramedic shook his head as he followed his partner out of the room.




The men were all sitting around the table, a plate with a hamburger and fries in front of each of them. Johnny got up to retrieve the carton of milk from the refrigerator. He poured the cool fluid into a glass that was near his place at the table and set it down while he offered the carton to the others before returning it to the refrigerator. After taking his seat again, he tipped the glass up to his mouth to take a swig. The milk dribbled down his chin and the front of his shirt.


Chet snickered as the others looked on in surprise.


“I was wondering why that glass looked different from all the others,” the captain stated.


Gage looked at his partner beside him. “Forget what I said earlier.”


Roy just stared at him a moment, as Johnny continued with, “It’s officially ruined.” Gage eyed his nemesis. “Congratulations, Chester B. You win. This time,” he added as he pushed back his chair and stood up, next going over to the sink to get a towel.


Johnny couldn’t wait till the shift was over so he could have a day to think of a way to pay back the ‘Phantom’.




Fortunately for Johnny, the captain had called a stop to the pranks for the remainder of the shift after the milk incident.


The next day after work, the paramedic decided it would be good for his creative thinking to spend some time with Shadow. He could use the puppy for a sounding board for ideas regarding pranks to play on Chet.


Too bad he can’t offer any ideas. . .sometimes I wish he could.


He pulled into his aunt’s driveway and climbed out of his white Land Rover. Showered and dressed in blue jeans, a red plaid collared shirt over a grey t-shirt, and tennis shoes, he made his way up to the door. Before he could knock, it flew open and his smiling aunt Ruth greeted him.


“John! Come in, come in.”


“Sorry for the short notice.”


“Oh, no, don’t apologize. I’m going to be home all day anyway.”


Johnny smiled as he took a seat on the livingroom couch.


“Did you have breakfast? Did you want anything to eat?” Ruth asked.


“Oh, I’m fine, thanks. I had a bowl of cereal when I got home from work.”


He glanced around and saw Shadow just coming into the room. The puppy wagged his tail as he made his way over to Johnny and licked his hand.


Gage patted the dog on the head. “Hey there, boy.” Still not getting the usual ecstatic reaction from the animal, he looked at his aunt. “What’s wrong with him?”


“I think he’s still recovering from yesterday.”


Johnny raised his eyebrows in question.


“Mark and his wife came over with their two boys.”


Johnny nodded knowingly. Mark was Ruth’s son and had always been one to get into things as a kid. It was only fair his two boys were turning out to be the same way now.  He listened as she explained more.


“First they scared him with a rubber snake they brought with them.”


Johnny blanched. He and Shadow often had quite a few coincidences even when apart and times like this, it was just plain freaky.


“Are you okay?”


He nodded his head ‘yes’. “Just. . .uh. . .just thinking.”


“Okay, as long as you’re sure.” When Johnny assured her, she continued. “Well, then they got him with the garden hose.”


With that, he recalled when Shadow had only been with him close to a week and Jennifer Desoto had given the dog a hosing down. Johnny still had to laugh at the look of humiliation on his face. “Yeah, he doesn’t like the hose.”


“He sure doesn’t. He also didn’t like them putting him outside, then calling him to the front door and closing it just as he got there, then doing the same at the back door. Over and over. We didn’t realize what they were doing till they wore him out.”


Johnny once again pet the pup on the head. “Don’t worry. I know just how ya feel.” When he noticed a puzzled expression on his aunt’s face, he clarified. “Not the door thing. Nothin’ like that of course. But I sure had my share of humiliation yesterday.”


“What happened?”


“Ah, nothin’ really.”  She’d never believe Chet used a rubber snake on me and soaked me with a water bomb if I told her. . .  “Just Chet Kelly being. . .well, Chet Kelly. . .more or less.” He glanced down at Shadow. “Ready to go, boy?”


At the word ‘go’, the little dog got more excited, his tail wagging wildly.


Johnny looked at his aunt. “He hasn’t eaten within the last hour or so, has he?”


“Not that I know of. His food’s been untouched out in the kitchen.”


“Great.” Gage got to his feet, and he and Shadow started for the door. “We’ll be back late this afternoon.”


“Have fun!”


Johnny gave a wave and then picked up the very happy puppy. Soon he and Shadow were on their way in the Land Rover.


“Just one thing,” he commented to the pup as they headed for a park nearby. “This thing with you copying me at times has to stop. If Chet ever finds out you’re still doing it, we’ll both be sorry.”


Shadow just sat on the passenger seat and looked up at his hero, eliciting a sigh from the paramedic.


“Somethin’ tells me you didn’t understand a single word I said.”




Once at a recreation area they frequented, the two companions made their way along a familiar wide paved path many people used for walking their dogs or jogging. Johnny trotted along as Shadow stayed beside him, memories of being frightened by a snake in the area keeping the pup from wanting to get very far away.


“You know, you’ve gotta get over your fear someday,” Johnny commented. Though he wasn’t sure, he’d guessed the pup was afraid after the snake experience. It had been since that time that Shadow stayed closer to him while there.


After a few more feet of jogging, the paramedic spoke again. “So what can I do to get back at Chet?” It was a question meant for himself, but he noticed Shadow look up at the sound of his voice. Johnny grinned. “Relax, you’re off the hook on coming up with an idea,” he joked.


The two continued on their way until suddenly both Johnny’s and Shadow’s head turned as they went past a pretty young woman jogging with her little Cocker Spaniel puppy, pink bows on its ears. Gage took a quick glance down. Noticing his pal’s reaction, he stopped and eyed the dog, his hands on his hips.


“I thought you were supposed to be ‘fixed’? I guess this goes with the ol’, ‘you can look, but you can’t buy’, huh? That’s it!” he said with a snap of his fingers. “That’s how I can get back at Chet.” Johnny squatted down and pet Shadow as the pup put its front paws on his bent right leg. “You may not be able to say anything, but you sure can be a big help at times.” He then looked over his shoulder at the departing woman and Spaniel. “Whataya say we try our luck?”


Johnny gently pushed Shadow’s feet off his leg and stood up. He then took off in a jog in the opposite direction they’d been going. Shadow ran alongside, occasionally glancing up at his friend as they tried to catch up to the girls.




“Now I know why they call you guys ‘man’s best friend’,” Johnny stated after he and Shadow got into the Land Rover once again. The young lady he was interested in took a shine to him since he had a puppy close to the same age as hers. It didn’t hurt that Shadow had given her an endearing look with his big brown puppy dog eyes and warmed up to her quickly when she patted him. The cocker spaniel hadn’t shown much interest, but rather kept her eyes out for chipmunks.


Johnny was very happy since he came away with a phone number and a date. Plus they’d spent the remainder of their time at the recreation area with Betsy and her dog ‘Candy’.


 “Good job,” he reiterated as he held out his right hand. Shadow placed his right paw on the paramedic’s palm; Johnny gently clasped it, and shook it as if the two had made a pact.  “And Chet said I’d be teaching you how to strike out with the girls. Ha! I’d say we make quite a team.” He hoped his brown eyes might’ve had something to do with their success as well.


After all, he thought to himself. It’s not like we’re gonna have our dogs *with* us.


With the Land Rover in reverse, Johnny backed out of the parking space and headed for a pet store they’d come to stop by on their outings as a routine. Shadow sat looking toward the passenger window as he watched the scenery pass by.




When they arrived at the pet store, Johnny put a leash on Shadow and helped him out of the Land Rover. The two then walked across the mostly empty small parking lot and into the place of business. Since they were well-known patrons, the owner allowed Shadow to come into the store with Johnny.


Phil Brummell looked past an elderly woman he was helping at the cash register as the paramedic and pup entered, ringing a bell attached to the door. He was always glad to see them. For one, he didn’t have to worry about keeping an eye on them; he knew Johnny wouldn’t steal anything and Shadow was pretty polite as far as a dog could be. Then there was the fact Johnny was a fire fighter/paramedic. Now a middle-aged man, he’d tried to be a fireman in his younger days, but just never had the physical stamina required. As a result, Phil had a lot of respect for anyone who could measure up to the challenge.


Johnny gave a friendly wave as Shadow’s attention was drawn elsewhere to his main interest in the store. Feeling the leash tighten as his dog tried for a closer look, Gage commented, “All right, all right. We’re going over there. Just hold on.”


When Phil was done with his other customer, he made his way over to Johnny. “Anything I can help you with today?”


“Nah, just here to get some doggie treats.”


“Okay, just let me know if I can be of any assistance.” He bent down and patted Shadow on the head. “That goes for you too.”


After Phil went about his business, Shadow and Johnny headed over to the small cages where the hamsters and guinea pigs were kept. The pup just liked to sit and watch curiously as the little critters bustled around.


Phil glanced over and shook his head. “You know, you really should consider buying him a pet.”


Johnny gave it thought for a second. . .a pet for a pet. . . “I don’t know. . .he may enjoy it, but my aunt probably wouldn’t appreciate it.”


The store owner nodded knowingly and continued on with his work.


After several minutes, it was time to buy what they’d come for. But getting Shadow away from his entertainment wasn’t ever easy. He always kept his eyes on the other animals until they were completely out of sight.


“Okay, time to get a move on. After all, don’t forget I have a plan to get even with Chet that I need to fine-tune.”


With the doggie treats soon paid for, Johnny returned to his aunt’s house with Shadow. As he walked the little black dog up to the porch, he advised, “I know you can’t get even with the boys, but for gosh sakes, try to stand up for yourself. Just give a little growl to let ‘em know you mean business.”


Of course, if the pup had his kind of luck when he’d first decided to take a stand with the Phantom and put garlic extract in a box of chocolates, Shadow would just end up in worse shape anyway. After all, he’d only managed to get himself with the candy.


As much as I hate to admit it, he *does* seem to mirror my life. . .


“On second thought, just shrug it off and learn to lay low for awhile.”




The following morning at the station started as routine. Johnny met into Roy in the locker room prior to roll call; he’d just missed Mike and Chet. Marco had gotten to work before any of the others so he was already dressed and having a cup of coffee in the dayroom.


Roy looked up from tying his shoes and eyed his partner warily. Feeling the stare, Johnny glanced over as he put on his uniform shirt.




“I don’t know. Maybe you can tell me.”




“You’re too quiet and happy.”


“I’m always happy.” A raise of eyebrows from the older man had him correcting, “Well, almost always. Anyway, what’s the big deal?”


“Nothing,” Roy shrugged. “It’s just that I get the feeling there’s more going on here than meets the eye.”


Johnny stopped buttoning his shirt and let his hands drop to his sides. “Roy, what could possibly be going on besides us getting ready for work?”


The senior paramedic didn’t answer. Fully dressed, he gave another wary look at his partner before heading out the swinging door into the apparatus bay.


Gage shook his head and pulled his uniform trousers from his locker, breathing a sigh of relief.  


That was a close call. It's better if no one else knows what I've got planned for Chet. 





Once they were dismissed from roll call, the paramedics headed for their squad to take inventory of various supplies and to do a calibration test on the biophone. Johnny was just about to open one of the side compartments when Chet called out, “Hey, John!” and motioned for him to come back a few feet behind the squad.


Gage eyed his partner, then sighed as he walked toward where they’d just been standing in line. Roy watched curiously as he opened the doors Johnny had abandoned.


“What is it, Chet?” the dark-haired paramedic asked as he approached.


“I was just wonderin’.”




“If you’d come back over here when I asked you to.”


Johnny’s mouth dropped open in disbelief as he glanced at Roy, then returned his gaze to the curly-haired fireman. “That’s it? That’s what you called me over here for?”


Chet nodded. “Got ya, didn’t I?”




“Relax, you can go do your thing now.”


Johnny watched as Kelly headed for the supply closet to get a broom for use in the dayroom. The paramedic then turned toward Roy. “Do you believe that?”


The senior paramedic just shrugged.


“Man, why does he always go for me? You’re right here too.” Johnny grabbed the biophone from the open compartment and set it up on the hood of the squad.


“’Cause he knows it gets to you; for awhile anyway.”


Gage shook his head, then contacted Rampart, keeping in mind that he’d be pulling off a huge payback on Chet soon enough. After the calibration test was complete and he was securing the biophone back in place, he found himself wondering if Shadow’s day was off to the same kind of start.




Ruth sighed and looked down the hallway when she heard her two nephews’ loud snickers. Just as she’d suspected, it had only taken them minutes after arriving to find Shadow. And it didn’t surprise her that they’d already managed to tie a blue ribbon they’d found to his tail in a bow, causing the little dog to go in circles in an effort to get it off.


She’d allowed her son Mark to drop them off on the way to his job, but found herself wondering if she should have given Shadow another day of peace and quiet first. The pup finally sat down and pulled at the ribbon until it came off, only to have one of the boys grab it and go for his tail again.


“Brian, Donald. . .give the poor dog a break!”


“Ah, Gramma. . .” the youngest boy whined.


“You heard me.”


Both boys got up off the floor and slowly trudged to the kitchen where Ruth was waiting. She handed them each a lion-shaped cinnamon-flavored breakfast pastry warmed from the toaster.


“You can play with him later.” Hopefully they’ll find something else to keep themselves amused.


In the meantime Shadow darted for Ruth’s bedroom, hoping to find a good hiding spot.




Once they had the squad checks completed and the compartment doors secured, Roy and Johnny went about their own chore of cleaning the latrine. It was one task Captain Stanley hated giving to any one of his crew being that it was usually associated with punishment. Two together lessoned the burden of the chore.


Just as they were finishing up, the tones sounded, sending the station on a call for a motor vehicle accident.


Roy got to the squad in time for the captain to hand him a slip of paper with the call information on it. DeSoto climbed into the driver’s side as Gage slid into the passenger seat. He took the paper from his partner and looked it over before jotting down the time on it and sticking the paper in the sun visor.


“The tail end of morning rush hour. . .I’m surprised we don’t get a call for an accident around this time on a regular basis.”


“Yeah, well. . . let’s just hope it never gets that way,” Roy commented.


Johnny just nodded in agreement and looked ahead as they pulled out into the street, traffic near the station stopped by the sound of the sirens.




 After finishing their morning snacks, Brian and Donald were sent outside to run off some of their energy.  Ruth sat on her front porch enjoying a cup of coffee while Shadow remained in his hiding spot inside. He had no desire to play with the rambunctious boys. He was content to pull his own kind of trick on them; a disappearing act of sorts that the pup hoped would last.


Shadow had no way of knowing the boys would soon become the least of his problems.




“Oh man! I don’t believe this.” Johnny exclaimed as they came up on the accident scene. They’d slowly made their way past traffic that had to slowly merge into a crowded left lane to get out of their way. The right lane had been closed by police a mile ahead of the second accident due to the mess it created, leaving just the middle and left lanes available for those trying to drive through.


A big-rig with a flatbed that had been hauling very large styrofoam sheets for use in construction had overturned, blocking the shoulder and right lane of the highway after trying to avoid a smaller accident ahead. His load busted apart on impact, the end results taking on the appearance of winter snow in the sun in some spots, with white light-weight debris scattered about, some still floating in the light breeze; larger broken pieces of the foam were displaced here and there near the vehicle.


Fortunately no one was seriously hurt; even the driver in the overturned truck had just minor injuries and was able to climb out of his cab with minimal assistance from Gage and Lopez. However, walking around the scene caused a small problem for everyone.


“Man, this stuff has a life of its own,” Johnny stated as he swiped at small Styrofoam pieces clinging to the lower part of his trousers with his right hand. Standing outside the ambulance and looking in as Roy got situated, he noticed his partner’s pants hadn’t faired any better.


“We’ll have to get most of this stuff off later with tape or something,” Roy suggested.


Johnny agreed as he closed the doors and secured them shut. After giving two slaps to indicate they were good to go, he turned around as the ambulance pulled away.


The engine crew was having their own issues with some of the small remnants of styrofoam as they worked in helping to clean up the accident scene.


Johnny shook his head. Times like this, I’m *really* glad I’m a paramedic.


After taking one more glance at the mess and at one of the officers still directing traffic around it, he headed for the squad a short distance away.




Dixie McCall looked up from her paperwork on the desk near the base station as Johnny approached. Without a word, she handed him a roll of scotch tape.


“Have you seen Roy?”


The head nurse nodded. “He’s already in the lounge trying to get the stuff off.”


“Man, what a mess that accident was.”


“So I heard.”


“The engine crew was helping to clear it up when I left.”


Dixie smiled. “Bet you don’t envy those guys.”


“Ha. You got that right. Man, it was annoying enough to work around the stuff. I wouldn’t wanna be tryin’ to get it all up. I’ll bet their shirts are even gonna have some clinging to them.”


“Maybe you guys ought to stop on the way back to the station and buy a lint roller or two.”


Johnny gave it a second of thought before shaking his head. “Nah, it’ll be more fun to see them with a couple of rolls of tape. We can’t be the only ones doin’ it the hard way,” he commented with a grin as he tossed the roll she’d given him up in the air and caught it. “Well, guess I may as well join Roy.” With a glance her way and a smile, he added, “Thanks, Dix.”


“Any time.”


She watched as he made his way to the lounge, the styrofoam bits standing out on his dark-colored pants.




When they got back to the station after cleaning off their trousers at Rampart, the paramedics were surprised to see that the engine wasn’t parked in the apparatus bay yet. With the extra time they took to rid themselves of clinging stryrofoam bits, they both had figured for sure that the others would have been back before them.


“Must really be something to get that mess cleaned up,” Roy stated.


“No kiddin’ man.”


Roy opened his door and climbed out, Johnny doing the same. The senior paramedic waited as his partner came around the front of the squad.


“So did you see the ‘for sale’ sign still taped up in the window on Chet’s VW bus this morning?”


Roy shook his head. “I didn’t pay attention.”


“Well, it is still up. Has been for several weeks now.”


“Must be having a hard time selling it.”


“I wonder if anyone’s even contacted him on it. He never says.”


“I don’t know,” Roy said with disinterest as the two walked into the dayroom.


“Why don’t you ask ‘im?”


Me? Why me? You’re the one who’s curious,” the older man remarked as he poured himself a cup of lukewarm coffee. He then took a seat at the table, leaving Johnny to get his own cup of the brew.


“Because if I ask ‘im, he’ll think I’m up to something and we’ll never get an answer.” Gage set his coffee on the table and took a seat across from him. “But if you ask, he won’t think anything of it.”


Roy eyed him suspiciously. “Why do I get the feeling you’re up to something?”


“Ah, c’mon, Roy. . .”


Johnny looked toward the doorway when he heard the sound of the engine backing into the apparatus bay. Returning his gaze to his partner, he tried again.  “Just ask.”


Roy couldn’t say ‘no’ to the pleading expression on his partner’s face. “Okay, I’ll ask. But I better not be dragged into anything.”


“You won’t be. I swear you won’t.”


But the words only made the senior paramedic less sure.




The engine crew had been back for twenty minutes and just gotten the last of the clinging styrofoam pieces off their uniforms; Roy still hadn’t asked Chet about his VW bus.


Captain Stanley was in his office making a phone call, but the others were in the dayroom with the paramedics; Mike and Marco at the table, Chet at the counter getting a couple of cookies out of the clear glass cookie jar after tossing the balled up used strips of tape in the trashcan.


Roy noticed his partner staring at him, a baffled look on his face. When Johnny caught the glance in his direction, he silently egged Roy on with a nod toward Chet.


The blond paramedic rolled his eyes. “Chet, have you had any inquiries on your VW?”


“Not for awhile.”


With his back still to the others, he hadn’t noticed the exchange between Johnny and Roy. But Mike and Marco did and silently wondered what was going on.


“How long have you had the sign on it now?” Gage asked with a casual tone.


Chet turned around and swallowed a bite of cookie before answering, “About six weeks. I thought for sure I’d have it sold by now.”


“No ‘bites’, huh? You know, looking at it this morning, it looks like it could use a good bath. Maybe if you cleaned it up a little better. . .”


“It’s old. It’s expected to look a little dirty.” Chet then gave the two questioners a wary look. “Why’re you guys so interested all of a sudden?”


“I don’t know about Roy here, but I’m interested because he brought it up.”


Roy’s mouth dropped open in silent protest, then quickly closed as he decided to play along. His partner was obviously up to something and he didn’t need to blow it for him now.


“Joanne and I’ve been thinking about selling the station wagon and I was just wondering if the sign in the window thing worked very well.”


Johnny shot a surprised look, then a slight grin towards Roy.


“Oh. Well, maybe you’ll have better luck than me.”


Gage pushed his chair back and stood up, heading for the doorway to the apparatus bay.


“Were’re you off to?” Chet wondered.


“The bathroom, if it’s okay with you,” came a reply that ended when Johnny was partially out of the room.


Though everything seemed normal to Chet, Mike and Marco still were thinking there was more to the questions than what Roy had stated.  





Johnny hung up the phone in the dormroom after making a quick call to a friend. He then headed for the latrine in order to stay honest to what he’d told Chet. He counted to sixty, then pushed open the swinging door to the apparatus bay and started for the dayroom. Just as he stepped inside, Chet was hanging up the phone.


“I don’t believe it. . .”




Ignoring Gage’s question directly, Chet explained, “Guys, you won’t believe this either, but that was someone wanting to come take a look at my bus! A friend of his saw it on the street the other day and gave him the phone number. And to think we were just talking about it.” After a second of thought he eyed the two paramedics, looking from Roy to Johnny to Roy again, then shrugged it off. Neither looked guilty, nor overly innocent in trying to look not guilty.


Johnny put a hand on Chet’s shoulder. “This might just be your lucky day, Chester B.”


The fireman glanced at his shiftmates, then took off for the doorway.


“Now where’re you going?” Gage wondered.


“To give the bus a bath!”


Johnny sat down at the table again, a grin on his face.


“You didn’t. . .” Roy started, then sat back. “Forget it, I don’t think I wanna know.”


Still grinning, Johnny explained the situation anyway.





“I can’t find him anywhere,” Brian whined to his brother Donald after they searched the interior of Ruth’s house for Shadow.


“He can’t dis’pear,” the younger boy stated.


“But he’s not here at all!”


Ruth came into the livingroom where the two boys were sitting on the couch pouting.


“What’s the matter?”


“Shadow’s gone!” Donald cried. “He’s gone!”


Their grandmother sighed as she went over and sat by the upset boys. “He’s probably just playing hide-n-seek with you. Puppies play games just like children do at times.”


“They do?” Donald sniffled.


She nodded. “Not exactly the same way, of course, but they have their ways.” And I’m sure he wasn’t ready for another day of *your* idea for play, she thought to herself. “Maybe to him, this is like playing a trick on you like you’ve been doing to him.”


Brian folded his arms across his chest and sat back, a frown on his face. “Well, it sure ain’t much fun.”


Isn’t much fun,” she corrected.


“That’s what I said.”


Ruth shook her head. Kids. . . She wondered herself where Shadow had ended up, but figured he’d come out when he was ready, which would most likely be after her grandsons were on their way home.




With no runs by the time they were all ready for lunch, Chet was able to get his VW bus washed and dried off for his prospective buyer to see. The other members of A-Shift, sans Captain Stanley, had peeked out now and then to see what kind of progress he was making, all but Johnny shaking their heads. Since the dark-haired paramedic had finally clued the other three in on his plan, each could imagine what Chet’s reaction was going to be.


“So are you done yet?” Mike asked Chet as the curly-haired fireman sat down to eat.


“I sure am. Man, what a job that was. I sure hope it pays off.”


“Oh, I’ll bet it does,” Johnny assured.


Roy and Marco kept quiet as their innocent captain inquired, “What time is this guy supposed to stop by?”




“What if we get a run?” Marco wondered.


“He said if that was the case, he’d call later.”


Roy looked at his partner. If Chet only knew what plan lurked behind those brown eyes.




All six firemen were in the rear lot of the station when Chet’s interested buyer was looking over the VW bus. Johnny had his right hand on his chin, his index and middle finger hiding the grin that he couldn’t keep away.


Roy stood with his hands in his pockets, Marco the same, while Mike leaned against the wall of the station beside Hank Stanley. Chet rocked on his heels in anticipation as the visitor carefully looked over every inch of the vehicle, often complimenting on how impressed he was with this and that.


When he was done viewing the bus, the interested buyer stepped over to Chet and smiled.

“It looks great.”


Chet glanced at the others, a smug grin on his face, then returned his attention to the guest. “So, you wanna take it for a test drive?”


“No, that won’t be necessary.”


“You mean you want to buy it without trying it out first?”


The man shook his head. “I just wanted to see it.”


Chet’s smug expression turned to one of shock, then a frown. “You mean you just wanted to look at the bus?”


“Uh huh.”


“With never any intention of buying it?”


“You know the saying. . . ‘you can look but you can’t buy’ . . .” The man then got into his own car, leaving a stunned Chet Kelly behind.


“All that work. . .” the fireman mumbled.


Johnny stepped over to his shiftmate, giggling as he was unable to hold back any longer.


“What’s up with you?”


Gage glanced at the others before explaining, “I. . .uh. . .I set you up. That guy lives two doors down from me.”


Chet stared a moment, then shook his head. “No you didn’t.”


“Yeah. . .I did.”


“No . . .”


Chet started to walk away as Johnny once again glanced at the others, then went after his frequent foe.


“Chet! Look, it was me!”


The fireman stopped and turned around. “Gage, you couldn’t pull off a prank like this if you tried.”


“Yes I could and I did.” He looked around for help from the others. It didn’t matter if Kelly would get mad or even. He just wanted the credit.


“He really did, Chet,” Roy put in.


“Well, then he had help.”


“From Shadow,” Johnny stated, “And Roy. . .sorta,” he added when he got a warning look from his partner.  


“How can a dog give you help on a prank?”


The dark-haired paramedic shrugged. “You’d be surprised at what having him around does. Heck, just yesterday he even helped me get a date with a cute chick.” He immediately regretted letting it slip out about the girl he’d met in the park. Johnny had planned on keeping quiet about the upcoming date for a change until he saw how things were going to go.


“He did?”


Now it was Gage’s turn to walk away. “Forget it.”


“Wait, you can’t say something like that and just drop it.”


The others watched as the two pranksters headed into the station, Chet trying his best to get more details about Johnny’s new female interest.


“Something tells me it’s going to be one of those shifts,” Roy stated.


Marco nodded in agreement. “What’s left of it.”


“Johnny may have just saved himself,” Mike offered. When Roy, Marco and Hank looked at him with confused expressions, he explained, “Now that he mentioned the girl he met, he’s got Chet’s mind off paying him back for this.” He motioned toward the newly cleaned VW bus. “For now anyway.”


The captain shook his head and started for the open rear doorway of the apparatus bay. “What in the world will either of those two come up with next?”


He’d get his answer soon enough.




Once her grandsons were gone in the early evening, Ruth went in search of Shadow after the puppy didn’t come out on his own. Looking in rooms under various pieces of furniture that made for good hiding brought no luck. But she finally was able to locate him in her bedroom closet behind a large bag of clothes she was going to take to the Salvation Army within the next few days.


Ruth lifted him out, noting his lack of enthusiasm at being discovered. Ordinarily he’d be glad to see her.


“It’s okay, boy. It’s just you and me now.”


She felt his nose, finding it warm and dry.


“Poor baby. I hope you aren’t coming down with anything,” she said as she carried him out to the kitchen. She set him on the floor near his food and water dish. When he didn’t do anything, she knelt down. “C’mon, at least have some water.” But the pup resisted the encouragement. Instead he moped and headed for the livingroom where he laid down.


Ruth followed behind, concerned for the dog. It wasn’t like him not to be hungry after a long period of being away from his food. “What’s the matter, Shadow?” she asked as she squatted down beside him and stroked his head and back. But the puppy just laid still, no sign of his usual tail wag.


She got to her feet and looked down. If he’s not back to himself by morning, I’ll give John a call. Maybe he can swing by.





“What are you staring at?” Gage wondered as he noticed Chet Kelly still looking at him while they ate dinner at the table in the dayroom. The fireman had been eyeing him during periods at the station between runs ever since the paramedic blurted out he’d met a new girl.


“I’m just wondering how a dog gets a guy a date.”


“I told ya. She has a little girl dog. She likes dogs and apparently she likes guys with dogs.”


“So is she?”


“Is she what?”


“A dog.”


“Chet!” Johnny looked at the others, an annoyed expression still on his face, then returned his gaze to Kelly. “I’m not even gonna answer that.”


“Well, you haven’t gone on and on about what an incredible chick she is. You haven’t said she’s gorgeous. . .that she could be the one.”


“I haven’t even had a first date with her yet.”


“Since when has that stopped you from getting all hyped up over a chick?”


Johnny took a bite of fried chicken. “Look, even I can be selective.”


A guffaw from Roy had the younger paramedic shooting him a disapproving look.


“What’s that supposed to mean?”


Roy shrugged. “Nothing. I’d just say you’re a little beyond selective.”


“Man, how did my love life get to be the conversation of the day, anyway?”


Johnny looked at Chet, the others following suit.


“Well,” the curly-haired fireman defended. “You’re the one who brought it up in the first place. You know, you’d be a whole lot better off if you’d just tell me. . .us. . .more about this chick who likes dogs.”


“There’s nothin’ more to tell, Chet. Except, yes, she’s cute.”


“That’s it?”


“That’s it,” he said simply.


“Then why did you let me go on all this time, trying to get more information that wasn’t there to begin with?”


Johnny dropped his piece of chicken on his plate and stared at Kelly with a dumbfounded expression on his face before eyeing the others to see their reactions. “Do you believe him?” Johnny asked.


Finished with his dinner, Roy stood up and pushed in his chair, taking the dirty plate to the sink. “Sounds like a normal conversation between the two of you to me.”


With the others nodding in agreement, Gage sat back and tossed a balled up napkin on his plate, indicating he wasn’t hungry anymore. The lack of support from his shiftmates left him wondering what happened to his upper hand on the day.




As the men turned in for the night, Johnny rolled over on his side and stared at Roy on the bed across from his. Sensing the attention, the senior paramedic opened his eyes and turned his head toward his partner.




“I was just wonderin’”


“Okay, I’ll ask again. What?”


“Well, you’ve always said I’d chase after anything in a skirt,” Gage whispered.


“Yeah. . .so. . .”


“So how is it you suddenly have me pegged as ‘overly selective’ when it comes to women?”


Roy sighed and rolled onto his side, propping himself up on his right forearm. “How many girls over 150 pounds have you been interested in?”


“None. . .”


“How many girls with glasses have you ogled?”


“None. . .”


“If a woman over fifty asked you out, what would you say?”


“Roy, that’s crazy!”


“I’ll tell ya what’s crazy,” came Chet’s voice from across the room. “A fireman whose shiftmate keeps him up all night by talking. I don’t think he would be held responsible for his actions by morning, if you get my drift.”


Marco and Mike snickered while Johnny scowled.


“What ever you two are discussing, make it quick,” Captain Stanley suggested. “The paperwork on a fireman gone crazy could take me half a day to complete.”


Roy grinned as his partner answered, “Right, Cap.”


Johnny lowered his voice again. “Okay, I’d say ‘no’.”


“And if she was nineteen?”




“And if she had six kids?”


Johnny gaped at the question, but answered, “I’d run the other way.”


“Well, there you have it,” Roy said, rolling onto his back again. “You’re overly selective.”


“What about you?”


“I’m married. It doesn’t matter.”


Johnny frowned as he shifted his position to lying on his back and stared at the ceiling. Shrugging, he put his left forearm across his eyes and waited to fall asleep. Although he figured Roy was half-teasing him, he still couldn’t argue the point.




By morning, the station had been out on two more calls. One was for a structure fire in a warehouse district, another for a shooting victim. The paramedics were glad to have the help from the engine crew on the second response. When they’d arrived, there was a not-so-pleasant looking crowd gathered near the street corner where it happened and the feeling of ‘safety in numbers’ was definitely present until the police arrived on the scene a couple of minutes later.


The men were minutes away from getting off duty when the phone in the dayroom rang. Chet answered it as he came in the doorway.


“Station 51, Fireman Kelly speaking.


“Yeah. He’s right here.”


The others, including members of B-Shift, looked on with curiosity and interest.



“Is it for me?” Kurt from the other shift asked. “I’m supposed to be getting a call from my sister.”


Chet shook his head as he spoke into the receiver. “I’ll get him on right away.” Holding out the phone, he said, “John, it’s your aunt.”


Looking at the others with concern as he stepped over, Johnny reached out and took the receiver from Chet.


“Aunt Ruth! Hi! Um, what’s up?


“Yeah. . .” He made a face and rolled his eyes.


“I told him to lay low.


“He’s still acting that way?


“Dry and warm?


“Okay, I’ll be over and see what I can do.


“Okay, see ya then.”


He placed the receiver back in the cradle and looked at the firemen eyeing him. “Something’s wrong with Shadow. He’s not acting right; won’t eat his food and only drank a minimal amount of water; plus his nose is warm and dry. He's been like that since last night.”


“Could just be a cold,” Roy offered.


“Does your dog get like that?”


The senior paramedic nodded. “He has before. I’d say either take him to the vet, or just give it a day or so to see how he does. But I wouldn’t get too worried over it yet. Look at Boot. He just needed Chet to like him that time he wouldn’t eat, then he was doing better.”


“Yeah, maybe you’re right. Maybe he’ll be better if I spend another day with him.”


Marco and Mike waited for a crack from Chet, but surprisingly didn’t get one. Chet was getting better at knowing when to leave well enough alone; though he was sure to be plotting to get back at Gage for the prank the day before. But for now, his face was one of concern as well.


They all hoped it would turn out to be something simple that would pass over quickly.




Johnny pulled into his aunt’s driveway and turned off the ignition of his Land Rover.

He quickly exited the vehicle and hurried up the sidewalk to the porch. When he reached the front door, it opened, revealing his worried aunt on the other side.


“Have you tried to feed him again?” he asked as he stepped into the livingroom.


Closing the door behind him, she shook her head. “No, I thought I’d wait and see if you might be able to get him to eat; you know, in the event this has anything to do with him missing you.”


“I’ll give it a shot. Where is he?”


“He moved to the kitchen, but he’s just been lying on the floor; hasn’t done anything else.”


Johnny looked to the doorway leading to the other room. “Okay.” He hurried in, concerned that the pup hadn’t even come to give his usual greeting. When he stepped inside the kitchen, Johnny saw Shadow under the table on the linoleum floor, his favorite stuffed brown bear beside him untouched. The pup didn’t lift his head when he looked up at the paramedic with sad eyes.


“Ah man, what’s the matter, boy?” Gage commented as he stepped over. “Don’t feel good, huh?” He got down on his knees and felt the canine’s nose. “No change. . .” He glanced over his shoulder at the food and water dish across the room, then returned his gaze to Shadow. “If I bring them closer will ya give ‘em a try?” he asked as he got up. He walked over to the dishes and noticed his aunt watching as he then placed them near the pup.


“He looks so sad,” she commented.


“I know. He hasn’t even wagged his tail.” Johnny got his fingers wet from the cool water in the dish and held them out for the dog to lick. Shadow lazily complied. Gage then tried picking up a piece of the dog food and holding it close to Shadow’s mouth.


“C’mon, boy,” he encouraged. This time he got no results. “Hmmm. . .”


The paramedic reached out and pulled the pup to his knees, then sat back, holding his furry pal up against his chest. “You said he’s been like this since last night?” he asked as he gently stroked the dog’s head and back.


After getting a nod, he continued, “Well, I can take him to the vet if you want. I think I’d rather do that than wait it out until tomorrow.”


“I’ll come with you.”


Johnny got to his feet, Shadow still in his arms. “Great. I’ll give the office a call and make sure they can see ‘im today.”




Both Johnny and his aunt felt anxious as the vet checked Shadow’s temperature, heart rate, lung function, gums, teeth; prodding here and there to feel for any signs of internal causes. A stool sample from the night before that Ruth had gotten from the yard had already been examined by an assistant in another room and nothing conclusive was found.


The vet stood back, his arms folded across his chest after he completed his examination of Shadow. Johnny watched him with concern, a wave of dejavu’ coming over him.


It had only been months since he’d brought the puppy in for the initial exam after he’d first acquired him. Only then it was easier as there weren’t any outward signs of trouble. This time the obvious change in behavior and unknown cause had him worried.


“Well, he does have a fever. It’s not exceptionally high; but it does indicate a real problem somewhere; most likely an infection of some kind.” The vet eyed the two concerned owners. “The normal temperature of a healthy dog is anywhere from  99  to 102.5. Shadow’s at 103.7 now. I can give him something for it, except without knowing the direct cause, I can’t be sure it’ll take care of the problem. But Ketoprofen should break the fever and Amoxicillin would take care of any possible infection.” He looked back down at Shadow who was content to be lying on the exam table for the moment. “There does seem to be some pain associated with being handled and touched, and from what you’ve told me, I don’t see any reason for it.” He returned his gaze to the Johnny and Ruth. “I’d like to run a CBC on him to see if we can determine any possible causes that way.”


Johnny nodded as he looked down at Shadow with sympathetic eyes. The paramedic was not fond of being stuck with a needle himself and the pup hadn’t cared for it very much when he got his initial vaccinations either.


Poor little guy.


“Should we wait on the Amoxicillin until you get the blood count back?” Gage wondered.


“No, it’s okay to move ahead with it. We won’t have the results available until tomorrow, two days at the most. And if it is an infection, waiting would give it that much more time to develop further.”


Ruth looked at her nephew as he again nodded in understanding. She was grateful he was familiar with medical situations, though she knew he was no where near qualified to be a vet. But just the fact he seemed to be comfortable with the veterinarian’s words made her feel that perhaps she should allow herself to feel like they were on the right course of action as well.


“Since he’s still taking in fluid, I’ll let him go home with you. But if you notice any more symptoms or a dramatic change from what he’s doing now; or if he stops drinking any water, please give us a call. My receptionist can give you the number I use for emergencies.”


Ruth and Johnny exchanged worried glances. Both would feel a lot better if they knew what they were dealing with.


After the vet got the blood sample he needed and administered the Ketoprofen and a first dose of Amoxicillin, the trio was on their way out of the office. As Johnny drove the Land Rover back to Ruth’s house, he commented, “Well, at least we don’t have to worry about something off the wall like a monkey virus or somethin’. . .”


Ruth looked over from the passenger seat, Shadow lying on her lap, and gave a wan smile. She recalled the time she’d gotten a phone call from Captain Stanley when Johnny fell ill with a mysterious virus he’d contracted from a monkey.  To hear the news that it was an unknown and no sure cure while her nephew was near death. . .an involuntary shudder ran through her body.


She hoped Shadow’s problem wouldn’t come anywhere close to that.




The following morning, Roy looked over toward the white Land Rover pulling into the lot as he got out of his Porsche. After shutting the driver’s side door, he waited for John Gage to park the other vehicle beside his. The senior paramedic stepped around the rear of his car as Johnny climbed out of the Rover.


“How’s Shadow doing?”


Gage pushed on the door and let it close on its own as he walked toward his partner. “I don’t know, Roy. We took him to the vet and he put him on some medication . . .says he definitely has a fever. But even with the meds, Shadow wasn’t any better last night. I left my aunt’s house after midnight, and he almost seemed to be getting worse.”


As they continued to talk, the two headed for the rear entrance of the station.


“Any new symptoms?”


“Well, along with the not eating and stuff, he can’t walk around much. When I took him out to see if he had any ‘business’ to take care of, he moved like he was sore. . .kind of stiff in the joints. And he wouldn’t drink as much water all evening.”


“What exactly did the vet say it might be?”


“He couldn’t find anything obvious, so he’s running a CBC. But he thinks it’s an infection of some sort.” Johnny sighed. “Man, I tell ya, I’m beat.”


“You look tired,” Roy said, noting the slight bags under his friend’s eyes. “How long before you get the results?”


Johnny yawned, then answered as he swiped at his watery eyes, “Should be by tomorrow at the latest.”


The paramedics walked across the apparatus bay, glancing at the squad backing into the room as C-Shift returned from an early response.


“Man, I wish this was the end of our shift instead of just the beginning,” Gage remarked.




“Hey, how’s the little fur ball doing?” Chet asked when he saw Johnny step into the dayroom, Roy right behind him. Both had changed into uniform with a few minutes of time to spare before roll call.


Gage glanced over his shoulder at his partner and rolled his eyes. “I’m not sure I’m ready for this. . .” he mumbled before returning his attention to Chet, who was sitting on the couch across the room. Dismissing the ‘fur ball’ comment, he answered, “He’s still sick.”


Mike and Marco were both at the table listening to the conversation. After a glance at each other, Marco spoke next.


“Maybe you should take him to a vet.”


“I did. But I think it’ll be a day or two before it makes much difference.”


Chet got to his feet. “So what’s wrong with him?”


“I don’t know,” Johnny shrugged. “Probably an infection of some kind.”


As one of C-Shift’s paramedics handed Roy the keys to the squad, the phone nearest to the door rang. Gage quickly picked it up, almost anticipating it would be for him.


“Station 51, fireman Gage speaking.




“No, it’s okay.


“He is?


“Uh huh.


The concern on Johnny’s face had the others wishing they could listen in on both sides of the conversation. Something was obviously very wrong.


“Oh no. . .ah man. . .


“Okay, and listen. . .call me just as soon as you find out what’s up.


“Good deal. . .bye.”


Johnny placed the receiver back on the cradle and sagged against the wall, his eyes focused on the floor as he ran the latest news through his mind again.


“What is it?” Roy wondered.


After a few seconds of delay, Gage answered, his gaze still on the floor. “Shadow. He’s developed some new symptoms to go along with the fever and other stuff.”


“Like what?” Mike asked.


The paramedic looked toward the engineer. “He’s got swelling in the extremities and he’s vomiting any water he takes in.”


“I take it your aunt’s running him right to the vet?”


Johnny turned to face his partner and nodded. “Yeah. I just hope he can figure out what it is. . . .”


No one else said a word. They didn’t have to, as their concerned expressions relayed the message.




Hank Stanley noted the preoccupied look on his youngest paramedic’s face as he read over the notes at roll call. After the meeting was over and the men were going on to their chores, he caught up to Gage and pulled him aside.  


“Is everything okay, John?”


Johnny glanced at Roy who had stopped nearby, then returned his attention to his superior. “Uh. . .no, Cap. Not really.  Shadow’s taken a turn for the worse.”


“I’m sorry to hear that. Do you need me to see about getting a replacement in so you can take him to a vet?”


The paramedic shook his head. “No. My aunt’s on her way there with him now. I’ve just got to. . .uh. . .wait it out. You know, until I get word from her.”


Hank nodded. “Okay, but if you do find that you need the time off, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do. I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled with him being here at the station awhile back, but for what it’s worth, I really hope he’ll be okay.”


“Thanks, Cap. Me too . . .me too.”




“You know, I kind of regret not being nicer to the little guy,” Chet remarked to Marco and Mike as he helped the two firemen with hanging a hose on the rack in the back lot.


“Gage or Shadow?” Mike asked from up on the rack.


“Ha ha. Very funny. The mutt, of course. Johnny’s really worried about him.”


Marco was up beside Mike and shook his head at the subject. “I haven’t seen Johnny this worried about a dog since that time Boot wouldn’t eat.”


“Yeah, only this time he can’t blame me,” Chet stated, pointing to his chest. “That dog doesn’t like me and wouldn’t miss me for anything.” After a few seconds he added, “But you know what? If I could make it that simple to solve, I’d rather it be my fault.”


Both Mike and Marco nodded in agreement.




Johnny and Roy inventoried the squad, then proceeded to the dayroom to clean it up. As Gage worked on the oven, DeSoto swept the floor.


The younger man paused in his oven cleaning as he once again thought about Shadow.


“Man, I can’t believe how quick things went from perfect to bad. I mean, just a few days ago Shadow and I were running at the park and he was fine. Everything was great.”


“Oh yeah. Your new love interest.”


Johnny frowned. “Looks like I might have to cancel that date though. I can’t go out and have a fun evening if my dog’s sick and I don’t know what’s wrong with ‘im.”


Roy paused a moment and leaned on the broom handle. “Maybe she could be of some help. She’s a dog owner; she might know something or, if nothing else, at least be supportive.”


“Roy, you’re a dog owner and you don’t know anymore about this than I do.”  He shook his head. “Nah, it just wouldn’t seem right to go out when Shadow’s so miserable.”


Surprised at his friend’s commitment to a pet over a pretty girl, Roy went back to sweeping. “That little dog is really having an affect on you.”


“Well, he’s been a pretty faithful pup. He looks up to me, and I don’t mean just as in from his leash. I just don’t wanna let the little guy down.”


Johnny went on with wiping the oven a few seconds before once again stopping to make a comment.


“You know, I’m tempted to call the vet and see if they know anything yet. This waiting is killing me.”


“So why don’t you?” Roy asked as he continued to sweep.


Gage stared at him a moment, as he couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of it sooner himself. “Hey. . .yeah. . . .why not?” He started for the pay phone at the other end of the room when he suddenly stopped, remembering something. With a hand out toward his partner he asked, “You got a quarter?”


Roy rolled his eyes and stopped sweeping. He reached in his pocket and pulled the coin out, handing it over.


“Great. Thanks.”


“Don’t mention it.”


Just as Johnny reached for the receiver, the tones went off, sending the station and another engine company on a response to an explosion across town where some new construction was taking place.




As they approached the scene, Johnny reflected on his missed opportunity to check on Shadow.


Guess I’ll just have to hold positive thoughts.


He then shoved his own concerns aside and focused on what lay ahead. A new two-story warehouse that had nearly been completed when they’d been in to do an in-progress fire safety inspection a few days earlier was now the site of the explosion. Though damage wasn’t visible from the front and side outer brick walls of the building, the expressions on the construction workers’ faces on the scene indicated there was probably enough.


The warehouse was designed with one large open area on the lower level, except where three smaller rooms were on the west end of the structure toward the back corner. Those were intended to someday serve as offices and a breakroom for the employees. Only the two rooms to be used as offices each had a window in them. Also two bathrooms were along the backside of the building near the center; a loading dock at the far left rear corner.


The wooden floor of the upstairs covered most of the downstairs, but with a fifteen-foot wide and forty-five-foot deep cutout where a conveyor for moving freight up or down as needed was located, along with a staircase leading to the upper floor beside it along the end wall. Steel framework supported the second story throughout; another set of stairs located at the west front end of the warehouse. Emergency exit doors, complete with fire escapes from the upper floor, were located on both ends, as well as in the center of the back.  


After climbing down from the engine, Captain Stanley questioned the construction workers on the scene as his men waited his instructions. They were all relieved to see that there was no sign of a fire.


“What happened?”


The foreman on the job was the one to explain. “We were working on the interior of the building for the most part since the outside is nearly completed and all of a sudden out of nowhere, there was a huge explosion inside. Must’ve taken the circuit breaker box with it. The place went dark inside; took the power right out.


As he continued, two patrol cars arrived on scene, followed by Engine 18. The officers and other firemen scrambled from their vehicles and hurried over to the captain and others.


“We’d only been on the job for a couple of hours when it happened.”


“How many men were inside at the time?”


“Most of the crew, but not all of ‘em were at that end of the building. The majority were able to get out, but I know two are still in there for sure. They were working in the area closest to where the explosion occurred. We thought we could get to them ourselves through the receiving doors, but it’s useless. We had ‘em locked. What a time for that, huh? They’re bowed out some, but they held. A few of us tried to find the guys by going in the front entrance, but once we got back there. . .” he shook his head. “It’s just a pile of debris. They’ve gotta be on the backside of it or underneath.”


Hank nodded with a knowing look, then glanced over at the large group of men nearby, their ages ranging anywhere from twenty-one to fifty; some were standing, some of the others sitting on the ground. Several of them had small cuts in various places, with chalky dust on their clothing and skin here and there.


“Any of your men out here seriously injured?”


The foreman shook his head. “Just some cuts and bruises. . about six of ‘em have ringing in the ears from the blast.”




As the officers took over on questioning, Hank addressed his men, instructing Marco and Chet to go inside to search; the captain from Engine 18 was sending in two of his men as well.


Johnny and Roy were to tend to the men who’d gotten out until they were needed elsewhere; a second paramedic unit was being called in to assist.


Captain Stanley watched with concern on his face as Marco and Chet disappeared inside the building with their turnout coats on.




As they approached the left rear section inside the warehouse, the men were surprised at what they saw in the beams of their flashlights. A section of the upper floor surrounding the receiving area had been brought down in pieces, the conveyor now twisted amongst the rubble. Some of the steel framework that had supported the floor had been blown apart and what hadn’t come all the way down hung at various angles here and there. Much of the building to the west was undamaged. They all knew had the explosion been larger, it could have been a complete disaster.


With flashlights in hand, they began their search around the plaster, steel and wood rubble, calling out the missing men’s names.




Johnny and Roy continued taking care of the minor injuries of the construction workers; most of the cuts were superficial. Taking which seemed to be worst first, they worked their way through the group.


As each took on their third victims, Captain Stanley approached after taking a call on the HT.


“Marco just radioed that they’ve located one of the men. He was partially pinned under some of the debris. They’re gonna need him checked out before they attempt to move him, just to make sure they don’t make a bad situation worse.”


“I’ll go,” Johnny offered.


Roy nodded, planning to take over on Johnny’s victim as soon as he finished with his own. Squad 36 had hit a delay in arriving when a car sideswiped another directly in front of them.


After putting on his turnout coat and helmet, Gage gathered up some basic equipment and headed for the building. Chet met him at the entrance and helped carry the supplies as he led the way in.




As Johnny and Chet made their way inside, the other victim had already been found and was being helped out with the support from one of the firemen from Engine 18.


Stopping them briefly with a hand on one arm, Johnny asked, “How is he?”


“Shook up. But he says he’s okay. He was very lucky and was covered by a large piece of flooring that fell at an angle against the steps. He couldn’t hear his co-workers calling out for him, but he can hear a little better now.”


Gage nodded. “I’d say he was lucky. Roy’s out near the squad. He’ll check ‘im out.”




The two continued on their way out as Chet and Johnny headed toward the rubble, Johnny shining his flashlight in their path.




“How’s he doing, Marco?”  Johnny questioned as he set down the drug box and kneeled beside the victim located on the right side of the debris, checking his vitals.


Chet waited with the trauma box handy if needed.


“Mr. Barnes has got pain in his lower legs – there were a couple of  boards pinning them in place when we found him. But they didn’t come directly down on his legs initially. He said the debris over him shifted after he managed to drag himself part way out from under it; he was in pocket of some sort. He’s also having a hard time hearing.”


Johnny nodded, glancing around at the amount of damage. “Must’ve been one helluva noise.” Raising the volume of his voice, he asked the victim as he gently palpated the injured legs, “Mr. Barnes, are you feeling pain anywhere else?”


“Left shoulder’s sore. . .and a headache. . .”


Noting there was no head injury apparent, Gage replied, “We can probably give ya something for that.” He pulled his hands away from the legs, then gently examined the shoulder. “No sign of any fracture to your legs. You were lucky there. Shoulder’s probably bruised is all.” When he was done, he absently rubbed at his own aching forehead as he turned to get the HT from Marco.


After relaying the information to Roy, he waited for directions from Rampart. Chet was sent to get the stokes for use in getting the injured man out.


Johnny kind of shifted in his turnout coat and tugged at the neckline of his blue uniform shirt. “Man, it’s hot in here,” he mumbled to himself.




Soon Chet returned with the stokes; Johnny had received the instructions from his partner and was working on Mr. Barnes.  After a few minutes they had the victim ready to carry out. Just as Marco and the fireman from Engine 18 lifted the stokes, Captain Stanley’s voice came over the HT.


“HT 51, Engine 51.”


Chet removed the radio from Marco’s coat pocket and depressed the transmit button. “Go ahead, Engine 51.”


“Chet, the foreman thinks there’s one more worker inside after all. He’d thought he was over by one of their trucks earlier, but apparently that wasn’t the case. His name’s Walter Hanson. We’re gonna need to do a search for him probably in another section of the building on the first floor. That’s where he was last seen.”


“10-4, Engine 51.”


“I’ll take a look around,” Chet stated as he then placed the HT in his own coat pocket. He then started off in another direction calling out, “Mr. Hanson? Walter!”


As the others neared the exit, they could hear Chet yell from far back in the building, “Hey! I think I found him!”


“Take him out to Roy,” Johnny instructed Marco and the other fireman, indicating the victim with a nod of his head. “I’ll go see what Chet’s got.”


He hurried back farther into the warehouse, the drug and trauma box with him, a flashlight held awkwardly along with one of the handles. He was getting annoyed at the overheated sensation he was still feeling. But he reminded himself the outdoors would just feel that much better after they rescued this last man.


Only problem was, overheating wasn’t his only discomfort. His slight headache was now more of a throbbing pain.


As he followed the sound of Chet’s voice, Johnny first had to deal with making his way around some of the equipment and supplies the construction workers had inside, the lack of light available making it awkward as he carried the boxes. He then walked along the rear of the building noticing two doors, one marked ‘Ladies’, the other ‘Men’.




In the meantime, the two firemen carrying the victim in the stokes were about to emerge from the building’s doorway when they were met by the other fireman from Engine 18 that had been in on the earlier search. Marco handed his end of the stokes to him.


“Roy’s going to take over on him. Chet may have found the other missing man. I’m going to go in and see if he and Johnny need more help.”


The fireman nodded, taking over Marco’s place. They continued on out while Marco headed in the opposite direction.




Finally Johnny found Chet near the west rear corner of the building where he was coming from one of the other rooms. Gage set down the two boxes he was carrying, the muscles in his arms feeling uncharacteristically tired from the weight. He then walked forward, meeting up with Chet.


“Never mind. I thought I heard moaning, but it must’ve been the building settling or somethin’.”


Johnny sighed. “That’s okay, better safe than sorry.” He shined his flashlight around, turning slightly in the direction of the bathrooms as he winced at the pain the headache was causing. Ignoring it as best he could, he returned his attention to Chet. “I’ve got an idea. Keep searching out here.”


“Sure.” He pulled the HT from his pocket, his intent to report to the captain as they began the search again.


Just then another huge explosion, this one from nearer the center of the warehouse, rocked the building. It was much stronger than the first. Neither man had much time to react as they were knocked off their feet, both thrown to the concrete surface, Chet losing his helmet on contact. The second floor overhead came crashing down afterward, the various wood and plaster debris landing at all angles, in assorted sizes. As like before, the steel framework was ripped apart in the area closest to the blast, the force causing the framework farther away to buckle and break. It tangled with the other debris as it fell. The encompassing compromise of the structure’s integrity caused a complete collapse in the center of the warehouse, which in turn caused a partial collapse of the roof over the west end of the building as well. Water spewed out of ruptured lines that had led to fire hoses packed in glass boxes on walls in a few locations throughout the warehouse.




Marco was about to call out for the others from the front west side of the building when the explosion occurred. He hit the floor hard and put his hands on his helmet. Debris rained down all around him, but by luck he didn’t get hit with any large pieces. However, when everything came to a stop, he found himself trapped with only enough room to push himself up on his hands and knees in a space just slightly over five feet long and three feet wide. The blast had been so loud, he could barely hear anything.


Or maybe there’s nothing *to* hear, he surmised.


He reached toward his pocket for the HT, then recalled Chet had taken it with him. With a sigh, Marco set his flashlight on the floor in front of him and waited. He knew if he tried to get himself out, he might bring debris crashing down.




Hank Stanley watched the two firemen from Station 18 emerge from the front entrance of the warehouse, carrying the stokes with the second victim in it. He’d expected to see his younger paramedic on one end or at least beside it. But even as they headed in the direction of Roy and the squad, John Gage didn’t exit from the building.


Did they already find the third victim injured?


The captain put the HT to his mouth and was about to inquire on his men’s status when there was a loud explosion. Without realizing it, his hand with the radio in it slowly lowered while he watched in stunned silence and horror as the middle section of the warehouse began to collapse, roof included. A cloud of dust blew out the open front entrance, increasing as more of the building went down. Though it only took many seconds to happen, it seemed like minutes as it appeared to be in slow motion to him.


The majority of the west half of the roof fell as well and suddenly Hank found himself looking at a ragged-edged gap that resembled a poorly drawn v-shape in the center of the structure’s front wall, the bottom of it near what would be the second floor level. Only the second floor wasn’t there.


The gaping hole was several feet wide and led into an equally jagged edge along the top of the wall more toward the right of the building where bricks had come out after the roof there had let go.  


Looking past the middle missing section, Hank could see that much of the rear wall had come down in the center due to the collapse as well. Only the end walls seemed to be fully intact. A small section of the roof was still connected to the right end wall, and hung down at an angle as its loose end apparently rested on some of the debris below. The east most end of the warehouse still had a roof over it.




When the explosion occurred, the men carrying Mr. Barnes ran as fast as they could without bouncing the stokes around too much. But despite making it a fair distance, the three men found themselves in the dust cloud from the doorway they’d exited from, some of the debris from the damaged wall raining down where they’d once been walking.






Roy looked up from where he was rendering care for yet another victim. His mouth dropped open in disbelief at what he was witnessing.


What in the hell?


He was suddenly reminded of another time they’d been around for a second explosion during a rescue at a warehouse. It was early in his partnership with Johnny and the younger man had nearly been caught up in the blast.


With that quick thought, he noted the two men hurrying away from the building with the stokes between them. Neither was his partner.


Roy glanced around, a feeling of dread creeping in when he couldn’t see Johnny, Chet or Marco anywhere.


His worried gaze returned to the now severely damaged warehouse.


Oh my God. . .




Johnny’s Aunt Ruth gently stroked a listless Shadow’s head and back as the two waited for the vet to return to a small kennel area where the ill puppy was resting. He’d made telephone calls to a couple of other veterinarians he knew in an effort to find a quicker answer to Shadow’s worsening condition and had just gotten a call back from one of them.


“Poor baby,” Ruth soothed the pup. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you on the road to recovery soon.”


If only she could be sure of her own words.




Seconds after the explosion in the warehouse, everyone outside of it was in a commotion as they scrambled to handle the massive disaster. Hank radioed for another engine company and a snorkel truck which could perhaps help in removing some of the debris by men being able to lift it upwards; shifting any of the material horizontally could cause further collapse. He also checked on the status of Squad 36 in the process.


The other captain on scene made sure his men were uninjured as he made his way over to Captain Stanley. The two were going to need to quickly assess the situation more and devise a safe and effective rescue plan. Both knew that if anyone had survived the building collapse and was severely injured, there’d only be so much time before what was termed their ‘golden hour’ would run out. They’d have to treat the situation under that assumption.


With the verification on the trapped men’s last known location from the two firemen who’d made it out, the west half of the warehouse became the focus. Though it had sounded like Chet might’ve been farther back, perhaps in the middle of the building when he hollered that he may have found Mr. Hanson, there was no guarantee of his exact location at the time. The men knew his voice would’ve carried in the huge open-spaced interior and pin-pointing exactly where it came from would’ve been difficult.  Thus there was no sure bet where any of the missing men were when the explosion occurred and the warehouse collapsed.


The area would have to be divided into many square footage zones, much like a grid with imaginary lines, each searched methodically one at a time. The operation would have to be done in a safe, patient manner to prevent things from becoming worse with any of the efforts. It was going to be tricky acting with a sense of urgency when removing any of the rubble to clear the way, yet not moving too fast and creating a more dangerous situation.


In the meantime, one of the firemen on the scene broke an office window at the west end of the warehouse where the roof was still attached and cleared the shards of glass on the side of the frame. With the entry cleared, he and another climbed inside to search where they without moving any of the tangled rubble that was farther in.


The police officers at the location stood by to aid in the search as well if and when more help was needed, momentarily putting off their investigation of what may have caused either or both now somewhat suspicious explosions. Finding victims took priority.


“I called for the electric company to send someone out to shut off the main power source to the building,” Captain Garner stated to Hank.


“Great. We don’t wanna risk coming in contact with any live lines as we move stuff. We’d better get the main water line shut off too. If they’re pinned to the floor, the guys could drown if enough water builds up where they’re at.”


“Right. I’ll have headquarters call to get someone on it.”


With those two things being taken care of, and the partial search underway, the last item to line up was a crane. Luckily there was one on scene due to the size of the warehouse and the fact it was still under construction. After talking to the foreman, it was arranged for one of his men to run the machinery to help lift off the debris as soon as it was deemed safe by the power company.




After Roy made another assessment on Mr. Barnes, Hank approached where the victim was being lifted into an ambulance on a stretcher. “Squad 36’ll be here in about three minutes.”


“Okay. Mr. Barnes is still stable and ready to transport.”


“What’s the likelihood he’ll have any complications along the way?”


“It would be more than a surprise if he did.”


“Okay. See if Rampart’ll let you send him in without a paramedic. We’re gonna need all the help we can get here.”


“I’ll ask. I don’t have the right supplies to take with me in the ambulance anyway. Johnny left me with some alcohol wipes, sterile gauze and bandages, tape, that sort of stuff. But he had . . . has,” he was careful to correct, “the drug and trauma boxes with him.”


Hank had forgotten about the fact Gage took the boxes with him. He took it as a good sign, refusing to dwell on any other scenario at the moment.


Roy contacted Doctor Brackett on the biophone once again. Both he and Captain Stanley were glad when the doctor went along with their request.




Marco lay in his temporary prison, wondering if and hoping that Johnny and Chet had faired as well as or better than him. He figured it was possible.


Maybe they were in a section that didn’t come down. . .


At least Chet had the HT. That way if they were trapped, Kelly could let the captain know where and how they were.





John Gage groaned as he stirred, coming to a higher level of awareness after being dazed by the blast. Lying on his left side, he coughed as he eyed his immediate surroundings; the flashlight that had been in his hand was on the ground near his head and still providing light.  His helmet lay off to the right of the beam of light.


A tangled mess of wood and plaster could be seen through the haze of still unsettled dust; metal frames from what were once overhead lights on a high ceiling were now just feet above, the shattered glass from them strewn about on the floor and paramedic’s turnout coat and pants. Steel beams that had supported the second floor were bent and broken apart at joints and had come down horizontally for the most part, a few at different angles. Plaster chunks and splintered wood was resting in between some of them a short distance away. He had no idea how much of the building had come down, but he figured he was buried pretty deep in rubble. There was no sign of daylight shining in from anywhere above.


Being that he and Chet had been near some of the supplies and equipment the construction workers had been using or kept stored inside, the items helped to create a void space by preventing a complete pancaking effect with the rubble that had fallen.


The thought about ‘them’ suddenly had the paramedic alarmed.




“Chet!” He called out, followed by another cough. Though he couldn’t hear himself yell, he was sure he did. Johnny put his fingers to his ears in an attempt to stop the ringing. His mouth open, he also tried to force a yawn to clear his hearing. But neither action helped.


Recalling that Chet had been to his left, Gage slowly rolled onto his back to look in that direction. Though his feet were hidden underneath some of the upper floor boards that had come down, there was room to move them.


The paramedic saw the curly haired fireman laying a few feet away on his back, his breathing rapid judging by the rise and fall of his chest. There were several small nicks here and there on his face, most likely from the shattered glass from the lights. Johnny felt a stinging on his own face as well, which told him he probably mirrored Chet in that area.


Johnny groaned as he slowly slid from under the boards, being careful not to bump any, a mistake he’d learned not to make after doing it a few years earlier in a similar situation. It wasn’t easy to get himself cleared as his left arm was sore from falling on it.


Once out in the cramped clearing, he shakily pushed himself up with his right arm and hand. When he was finally sitting, his head was just inches below what was now the ceiling of their space.


Breathing hard himself, he winced at the massive headache he had, and swore inwardly at the overwhelming heat radiating from his body. On top of those two things, he was starting to feel nauseated.




Shoving his own agony aside, he began to scoot over toward Chet when he felt a sharp pain in his left side and hip.  


Oh man. .


But he couldn’t dwell on the apparent injuries. He needed to check out his friend first. Johnny forced himself to move over to him.


“Chet . . . are you. . . okay?”


The fireman’s mouth moved, but Gage couldn’t hear him.


Still feeling overheated, he very carefully shrugged off his turnout coat, gritting his teeth against the pain it caused in his left arm. He then grimaced as he leaned closer in an effort to hear what Chet was saying.




Ruth looked up when the door to the kennel area opened and the vet approached from the long hallway, a clipboard in his right hand.


“I think we have our answer,” he said with assurance. “Enough so that I’m going to bank on it and start treating Shadow while we wait for word on a serology test.”


“Serology test?”


He nodded. “Should be an easier way to confirm the diagnosis. But it’ll take a few days to get that back as well, and we may not have the time to wait.”


“What is it? What did the other vet say?”


“Well, Doctor Taylor has seen this before and it turned out to be Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.”


Ruth stared a moment before asking, “In a dog? I didn’t think they had a problem with it.”


“It’s only been recognized in the past few years according to Taylor. I’ve never encountered it in all my years as a vet.”


“John has taken him hiking, but I’m sure he’d check himself and Shadow over for ticks.”


“You’d be surprised how easy it is to miss those things in dog fur. Even in people with a healthy head of hair.”


Suddenly her face registered alarm. “Would it be spread to people from him? I mean, my grandsons recently played with him. Do I need to have my son check them over?”


“Probably wouldn’t hurt. A tick might leave its host for another or he may have had more than one. They’ll know soon if either is infected. I know in the case of a person, it comes on suddenly a few days to a week or so after being infected and the disease moves at a rapid pace.”


She nodded in understanding, concern still on her face. “I’m glad John didn’t show any symptoms.”


“Speaking of, if you want to call him and give him the news on Shadow, you can use our phone.”


“Oh, thank you. He wanted to know just as soon as we found anything out.”


But her effort was met with disappointment when she couldn’t get an answer at the station.


I’ll have to try again after I get home, she thought to herself.




When he couldn’t quite understand what Chet was trying to tell him, be it from lack of hearing or still being a bit disoriented after the explosion and aftermath, Johnny glanced over his co-worker; he quickly searched for any obvious signs of injury. Unlike Gage, Chet had escaped the falling debris when he hit the floor. A large steel beam and part of the upper floor had come close to landing on his lower legs. But by luck or a freak chance, they’d just missed, instead just forming one of the barriers of the void they were trapped in.


He once again took in the nicks on Chet’s face before noticing the black helmet a few feet away, resting against another ‘wall’ the debris had created.  


He lost his helmet. . .


As Chet brought a hand up in an effort to reach the back of his own head, Johnny realized what he had been trying to get across; his head hurt. There was no visible injury other than the small cuts. But if he smacked his unprotected head on the concrete surface, he was going to be damn lucky if he hadn’t fractured his skull.


Gage moved Chet’s hand away and felt the back of his head with his right hand, frowning when he found a good-sized lump and felt a dampness, most likely from blood. He shifted to where his left hand was supporting Chet’s head, then slowly and carefully pulled his other hand free. Sure enough, there was a small amount of blood on his hand. Displaying a frown, he reached for his turnout coat and pulled it toward them, coughing from the dust still in the air and his efforts.


Johnny was surprised to find that the coat felt so heavy to him; bringing it closer wore on his muscles.


Once he had part of the coat balled up under Chet’s head, he gently rested it on the material surface. Johnny then took the penlight from his shirt pocket with his right hand after wiping the blood off on his coat and checked his friend’s pupil reactions to the small beam.


Normal. . .well, at least that’s a good sign. . .


“You’ve got quite a goose egg.”


Maybe his helmet got knocked off *as* he hit the floor. It would’ve saved him direct contact with the concrete initially.


Chet hadn’t responded aside from a wince. Gage was sure he had a headache as large as the one he was battling since before the explosion.


He held the penlight in his teeth as he kept his eyes on the second hand of his watch while taking Chet’s pulse. He then did the same for his respirations.


Still apparently dazed, Chet’s eyes darted around, taking in the dim surroundings.


“Ah. . .man. . .Gage,” he said as he started to roll to one side to get up, coughing in the process. But Johnny stopped him by gently pushing down on his shoulders.


“Uh uh. Stay put for now.”


With his dust-covered turnout coat on, Chet couldn’t feel the heat radiating from Johnny’s hands. He hadn’t given it thought while his pulse was being taken. He groaned again, wondering why he didn’t hear anything but a distant steady ringing sound.


Still suffering from the same problem with his hearing, Johnny once again put his fingers to his ears and moved his lower jaw in a yawning motion. But aside from the continuous ringing, there wasn’t anything else he could hear. It reminded him of how it was after coming out of a loud concert, only this he figured to be a hundred times worse. He then rubbed absently at his aching forehead, feeling the feverish heat on the back of his right hand.


He glanced up at the solid ‘ceiling’ of rubble just above his head and sighed.


I suppose chances of being found soon aren’t very likely.


With that thought, he suddenly recalled Chet having . . .


The HT!


He anxiously looked down at the curly-haired fireman, then around when he didn’t see it sticking out of a turnout pocket. Hope soon turned to discouragement when he spotted shattered pieces of it near the edge of their void space. The rest of the broken equipment was most likely buried.


The thought of the HT reminded him of something else: the drug and trauma boxes. He’d set them down. . .


Johnny frowned and hit his right fist against his leg. “Dammit!”


If they weren’t destroyed, it would be a miracle. But as it was, he’d left them too far away. They were not even close to being accessible.




With that he took another glance at Chet, then at the rubble keeping them from the outside world as he was suddenly hit with another wave of nasuea.


Oh man. . .I feel like crap. . .Well, on a bright note, at least Marco should’ve gotten out okay.




With no idea how long he’d be trapped, Marco decided to turn off the flashlight to save on batteries. He’d turn it on now and then if he felt he needed to, but for the most part, being in the dark was fine. He surmised he couldn’t do anything anyway.


With nothing to focus on visually, he listened for any kind of sound.


Part 2