By Audrey W.
What makes a nineteen-year-old recklessly throw his future away?
That was the question on Roy DeSoto’s mind as he sat in the nurses’ lounge at Rampart, waiting for word on his partner, John Gage. Knowing the shock the news had on his senior paramedic, Captain Stanley had arranged to stand the squad down, giving Roy the chance to deal with the situation without any on-the-job pressures.
If Johnny doesn’t pull through, that kid may be facing life in prison; all because of one bad decision. What in God’s name made him think it was okay to do this?
He wasn’t the only teenager they’d come in contact with recently who had messed up his or her own life. Just a week prior, the two men had been dispatched to a home where a seventeen-year-old girl collapsed on a bedroom floor, her skeletal figure reminiscent of those seen in concentration camps. Doctor Brackett had been able to give the girl’s illness a name, one which the paramedics were unfamiliar. Anorexia Nervosa. Johnny and Roy were disturbed by the condition of the girl, but it helped ease their concern when they were informed the choice of recovering and going on with a normal life was hers; that with psychiatric help, her chances were better.
But this young man. . .his future hung in the balance, no longer in his control at all. And he’d put an unsuspecting John Gage’s life precariously on the edge along with his own.
Why didn’t he think of that before he targeted an innocent man?
The shift had started like any other normal duty day. After changing into uniform, the men had gathered in the dayroom for a morning cup of coffee before lining up for roll call. Afterwards, regular chores were assigned and were only interrupted once for a response to a motor vehicle accident.
It wasn’t until after lunch that things changed.
With the engine crew out on a run, Johnny filled the sink with soapy water as Roy carried the dirty dishes from the table.
“I really wish the department would invest in dishwashers,” Johnny stated as he took the plates from his partner’s hands.
“They have. Us.”
The younger man rolled his eyes at the smirk on Roy’s face. “Ha ha. You know, you should go on ‘Johnny Carson’ as a stand up comedian.”
Roy shook his head, still smiling. “Get to washing, Junior.”
Johnny turned toward the sink when the klaxons sounded. The two men listened as dispatch announced the call.
“Squad 51, man down, 1423 West Benton Street, one four two three West Benton Street, cross street Fourteenth Avenue, time out 13:21.”
Roy set the drinking glasses he’d just picked up back down on the table and headed for the apparatus bay; Johnny tossed the dish cloth into the soapy water and followed behind.
Roy acknowledged the call at the podium while Johnny climbed into the squad. The senior paramedic handed the piece of paper with the information on it to his partner as he joined him. He then drove the squad out into the street, lights and siren on.
“Maybe we’ll get lucky and a good Samaritan’ll come by and do the dishes for us.”
Roy glanced at Johnny. “You really don’t wanna wash ‘um, do you?”
“Let’s just say I can think of better things to do.”
Roy grinned. He didn’t want to admit it, but he agreed with his partner.
Ten minutes after leaving the station, the paramedics arrived at the scene. A police officer already there waved to them as Roy brought the squad to a stop in the residential area.
“What’ve we got?” the senior paramedic asked as he opened the driver’s side door.
“Heart attack, I think. The witnesses said he fell against the mail box at the end of his driveway. He says his chest hurts,” the policeman explained as he and Roy hurried to help Johnny get the equipment on the other side of the squad.
“Okay, we’ll check him over.”
The three men quickly carried the necessary supplies over to the victim lying in the grassy yard and the paramedics set to work.
“How’re you doin’?” Johnny asked with a friendly smile.
“Not so. . .” The man winced and took a breath with much effort. “Not good. Hard to. . .breathe. Chest. . .hurts.”
“All right, just take it easy,” he said. “We’re here to take care of you. Can you tell me your name?”
The man nodded. “Robert. Robert. . .Hanson.”
“I’m going to get some air going to you, Mr. Hanson,” Roy explained as he placed an oxygen mask on the man’s face and adjusted the flow. As DeSoto glanced at the people gathered around, he questioned, “Do you have any relatives here with you or close by?”
Robert shook his head slightly. “Daughter . . .in Michi. . .gan.”
“Any history of heart disease?” Johnny asked.
Again he shook his head.
“How about medications? Are you taking anything?”
“Uh. . .n. . .no,” came a muffled reply.
Johnny jotted down the information on his tablet, then he and Roy worked quickly to get Robert’s vital signs. After Johnny had the pulse and respirations written down, he set up the biophone to relay the information to Rampart.
“Rampart, this is Squad 51. How do you read me?”
“Go ahead, 51,” came Doctor Joe Early’s response. “Read you loud and clear.”
“Rampart, we have a male approximately sixty-years-old, he’s complaining of pain in the chest and difficulty breathing. He’s cyanotic and diaphoretic. He’s got no history of heart problems and is not currently on any medication. We’ve got him on 6 liters of O2. Vital signs are___ pulse 120, respirations 30 and shallow, BP. . .” He looked at Roy, waiting for the answer.
“BP is 100/70.”
“I’ll get the leads on him,” Roy said as Johnny waited for instructions.
“10-4, 51. Start an IV of D5W TKO. And send me an EKG.”
“10-4, Rampart. IV D5W TKO. Standby for EKG.”
Roy glanced up at the circle of neighbors surrounding them as he attached the leads to Robert’s now exposed chest. Johnny went about getting the IV in place.
“Can you folks step back please?” DeSoto requested.
Most complied, although a few ignored the request, wanting to see the paramedics in action up close.
“Step back,” the officer said as he neared the ones who hadn’t wanted to do as asked. “Give these men the room they need to work.”
A few groans and the distance between onlookers and the paramedics was much wider.
“Thanks,” Roy said. He then turned his attention back to his partner and Robert.
“Rampart, this will be lead two,” Johnny reported. He and Roy watched the scope on their end as the doctor evaluated it on the other end.
“It looks stable for now, 51. Continue to monitor and transport as soon as possible.”
“10-4, Rampart. The ambulance just arrived on scene, so we’ll be transporting shortly.”
Johnny replaced the receiver on the biophone.
“Let’s go,” Roy said, standing up and back so the ambulance attendants could get beside Robert with a stretcher.
After a brief period of time, Mr. Hanson was lifted and placed in the ambulance. With everything about wrapped up, the officer drove away from the scene as Roy climbed in with the victim. Johnny closed the doors and gave them the two customary slaps to let the others know the rear was secure, and the ambulance pulled away.
Gage turned and glanced at the departing onlookers. They hadn’t wasted any time in going on with their business.
I wonder if any of them were really that concerned for the poor guy. They acted more like they just wanted to see what we were doing..
He shook his head slightly, then trotted over to the squad. He closed and secured the compartments before heading to the driver’s side.
Just as Johnny rounded the front of the red truck, two loud popping sounds rang out. In that same moment, the paramedic was slammed up against the squad, feeling a searing pain in his chest and abdomen. His hand moved to his abdomen as his legs grew rubbery and he slid partway down the side of the truck, barely able to stand.
As his breaths grew more labored and rapid, he moved his hand away from his body and stared at the blood he saw there and on his shirt.
Wha . . .?
The paramedic winced against the pain as he tried to make sense of what was happening. Shot. . .?
Unable to do anything else, he continued his slide down the side of the squad.
There were a few witnesses to the shooting. A young boy out riding his bicycle quickly dumped the toy and ran for his home a few houses down. A man saw the whole incident transpire as he was opening his garage door and quickly turned, running inside his home to call for the police and an ambulance.
A woman returning to her home after the first incident turned around as she heard the shots, and quickly ducked behind her open screen door. She saw the teenaged boy take off and disappear behind a house across the street.
Others from the area who’d just gone back inside their homes came out one-by-one to see what was going on. Some asking if a car had backfired, others not sure what to think. It wasn’t until the man who had witnessed the shooting came running out of his house, heading for the squad with a few towels and a blanket in his arms, that most realized something was seriously wrong.
Roy continued to monitor Robert Hanson’s condition. So far the man was holding his own, though his face was etched in worry.
“We’ll be there shortly,” the paramedic said with a reassuring smile. He then glanced toward the rear of the ambulance and furrowed his brow.
I wonder where Johnny is with the squad? He should’ve been close behind us. I haven’t heard a second siren since we left.
Officer Dennis Barker listened carefully as his next call came over the radio.
“Unit 9, Unit 14, Unit 20, man shot, 1426 West Benton Street, cross street Fourteenth Avenue.”
“Unit 20 10-4, Dispatch. I’m on the way.”
“10-4, Unit 20. Be advised the gunman may still be in the area.”
“10-4.” As he replaced the mic on the dash, he heard the other two officers respond as well.
Talk about coincidences. I was just across the street from there with the paramedics. . .too bad we weren’t there just a little longer. . . maybe we could’ve prevented it.
Dennis flipped on his lights and siren, doing a u-turn at the next intersection. He then sped toward the scene of the shooting.
The man who’d called for help reached Johnny just after the paramedic hit the ground. Gage was lying on his back next to the squad. His breathing was rapid and the blood stains on his shirt were increasing. The paramedic groaned.
“Take it easy,” the man said, laying the stuff he’d brought nearby on the ground. “I called for help.”
When Johnny gave him a hint of a nod, he continued to talk as he held a folded towel over each of the wounds. With the thought of the gunman possibly returning, he glanced nervously over his shoulder. But all that remained were a few other bystanders forming a line across the street, all seeming a bit uneasy with being out in the open considering what just happened; a middle-aged woman stood near the front end of the squad.
“Do you need help?” She wondered.
The man nodded. “Come hold this towel on his chest.”
She did as requested, applying gentle pressure. The woman winced slightly as she watched over the wounded paramedic.
Another groan from Johnny quickly had the man’s full attention again. “Hang in there. I’m sure the police and ambulance are almost here.”
Johnny closed his eyes, his mouth in a grimace.
The increasing pain in Gage’s abdomen and chest was becoming unbearable. He opened his eyes to slits and stared off in a daze. Not fully aware of just how seriously he was injured, the paramedic tried to lift his head off the ground. But as he did so, a sudden dizziness came over him. Once again he closed his eyes as he laid his head back down, his breaths continuing in a short rapid manner.
“Man. . .”
“Flatline!” Roy called out as the rear ambulance doors opened. They had just arrived at the emergency entrance of Rampart when Robert Hanson took a turn for the worse. The ambulance driver quickly grabbed for the stretcher as Roy momentarily stopped doing CPR and jumped down to help. The ambulance attendant riding in the back with him held the other end of the stretcher to aide in getting it out as fast as possible. The three rushed inside the hospital with Roy now riding on the rails of the stretcher as he continued the CPR on the victim.
Nurse Dixie McCall didn’t need to be informed of what had happened. When she saw the men enter the corridor, she immediately stepped over to hold open the door to Treatment Room Two, then followed in behind them.
“Get him on the table,” Joe Early directed.
The attendants and Roy did as requested without hesitation. In a matter of seconds the room was a flurry of activity as Doctor Early and Doctor Morton tried to save Mr. Hanson’s life.
Dennis Barker arrived at the scene before anyone else who'd been dispatched. The officer was relieved to see that Squad 51 was still there.
“At least someone's here to take care of the victim until more help arrives. One of them must’ve called it in.”
Wait. . .that’s not either of them leaning over the guy on the ground. . .what the. . .?
He brought his squad car to a stop and jumped out, running over to the injured man. When he saw the familiar face with pain etched in his features, he paled.
“What happened?” the officer asked squatting down as he looked around.
“Some kid shot him.”
The officer looked up as the other paramedics arrived, Units 9 and 14 behind them. The men from Squad 18 gathered their equipment and rushed to where Johnny lay.
As he got up to go fill in the other officers, Dennis Barker let the firemen know what he’d just found out.
“A kid opened fire on him.”
Paramedics Tony Mathews and Gil Robinson, who was pulling overtime away from Station 12, quickly set down their equipment while the man and woman helping stood and stepped back to get out of the way. The bloodied towels they’d held were tossed aside as the men immediately went to work on Johnny, shoving away the shock of the news.
”Man. . .” Johnny said, followed by rapid shallow breaths. He gritted his teeth against the intensified pain in his chest and abdomen. “Har. . .hard. . .ta. . .brea. . .thhe.”
“It’s gonna be okay,” Gil assured as he reached for the oxygen. He noticed his own hands trembling slightly as he did so. It’d been awhile since Johnny and Roy trained him out in the field as a ride-along and he was doing well on his own. . .had more than proven himself capable. But Johnny had been more than just a trainer to him. With them knowing each other several years earlier in high school, there was an underlying friendship and respect for each other. Now the person Gil looked up to most in his career field was depending on him. Robinson placed the oxygen mask over Johnny’s nose and mouth, noticing a blue tinge to the injured man’s lips in the process.
At the same time, Mathews checked for any sign of exit wounds on Johnny’s backside by carefully sliding his left hand underneath. There were none. He informed his partner, then directed, “Let’s get him immobilized as soon as I get these bandages in place.”
He tore open Gage’s stained blue shirt, popping off the buttons. He immediately cut open the equally stained t-shirt underneath to examine the bullet wounds in the flesh. By the location of the chest wound, he was pretty sure Gage’s right lung had taken a hit.
“Any idea what caliber of bullet the shooter might’ve been using?” Mathews asked as he cleaned off some of the blood and put pressure bandages over the injuries in an effort to stop the bleeding.
The man who’d tried to aid the wounded paramedic looked on with worry. “No. Just that it was a hand gun.”
“Ready to immobilize?” Tony asked his partner. Having run and gotten the backboard, Gil nodded.
The paramedics worked fast, getting help from the two bystanders and a couple of officers in sliding Johnny onto a backboard once a c-collar was in place around his neck. They made sure to keep his spine straight in the process.
“Diminished breath sounds on the right,” Tony confirmed after listening to Johnny’s lungs through the stethoscope. He moved down and gently palpated the paramedic’s abdomen. “Marked rigidity.” He glanced at Gil. “I’ll hook him up to the scope.”
Johnny tried to listen to what was being said. However in his current state, he was unable to make sense of all that was going on. He stared straight up, unable to move his head due to the collar.
Robinson quickly worked to get his friend’s vital signs while his partner contacted Rampart after placing the leads on Gage’s chest and connecting him to the monitor.
“Pulse is 130,” Gil informed. “I’ll get his BP.” It felt like he was just going through the motions out of trained habit, the shock of the situation still having an effect on him. Robinson tried to distance himself from the personal feelings involved, but it was proving to be difficult.
Johnny felt surreal as the other paramedics continued with taking care of him. He squinted at the blue sky above.
While the work was going on with Gage, one police officer on the scene questioned the bystanders. But only the lady who’d hid behind her screen door could give a good description and some helpful information.
“I’ve seen him around the neighborhood before. I think he lives around here. I’ve just seen him get into a car with Billy Taylor a couple of times.”
“Billy Taylor?” the officer questioned.
“He’s a teenager that lives over there,” she said, pointing to a yellow house. “But I haven’t seen him for a few weeks.” She then looked across to the activity surrounding the fallen paramedic. “He’s going to be okay, isn’t he?”
“They’re doing the best they can.”
She and others watched with grief-stricken faces. How could such a thing happen in their peaceful neighborhood?
Doctors Early and Morton breathed sighs of relief once they were able to get Robert Hanson stabilized. Still in the room helping them, Roy felt the overwhelming relief as well. He wiped at the sweat on his forehead and neck.
Dixie McCall noticed the exhaustion in the paramedic. Touching his left arm she asked, “You okay?”
Roy nodded, once again swiping his right arm across his forehead to clear away some sweat. Placing his hands on his hips, he let out a sigh.
“I guess I’d better go find Johnny since he hasn’t found me.”
Which is odd. . .
He told himself Gage was probably out in the corridor trying to pick up his latest love interest, who ever it might be. But Roy couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.
It’s just not like him to not come looking for me after this long.
With their portable EKG monitor, drug box and biophone in hand, he stepped out into the corridor and looked around. There was no sign of his partner anywhere. Dixie followed behind. She was about to suggest Roy try the cafeteria to check for Johnny, but a call coming over the base station grabbed her attention.
As soon as he’d gotten the little bit of information on the suspect, the police officer passed the news on to the other law enforcement on scene and across the radio, giving a description of the gunman in case any other units may spot him.
“Suspect is a male approximately nineteen-years-old, shoulder length blond hair, navy blue t-shirt, blue denim jeans. He was last seen on foot, running west from this location.”
“10-4, Unit 9.”
The officer then immediately made his way over to the Taylor’s home in hopes of getting some answers about the gunman. After several unanswered knocks on the door, it was obvious no one was home. He trotted back to his patrol car and began a search of the neighborhood from inside the vehicle.
“Rampart, we have a male victim, twenty-eight years of age with two gun shot wounds, one in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen; the other in the right anterior chest. No exit wounds apparent with either and we do not know the caliber of bullet, but he has significant blood loss. Diminished breath sounds on the right. Abdomen is rigid. Vital signs are pulse 130, respirations rapid and shallow, BP is. . .”
“BP is 90/60. Patient is cyanotic; lips and finger nails are tinted blue around the edges. We currently have him on 15 liters of O2. Also we’ve applied pressure bandages over both wounds to stop the flow of blood and have him immobilized as a precaution.”
Johnny’s face displayed another grimace under the oxygen mask as he continued to take shallow rapid breaths, his face wet with sweat. A very intense woozy feeling enveloped him just before he suddenly lost consciousness.
“Rampart, victim has lost consciousness, request permission to insert an esophageal airway,” Mathews anxiously stated just after Brackett requested they send him an EKG strip. The paramedic kept the biophone receiver to his ear as he looked over at the monitor while sending the requested information at the same time. “Rampart, this’ll be lead two.”
Gil readied the airway, knowing in advance that the doctor would okay it.
Brackett gave permission for the airway, then stepped aside from the base station speaker as the EKG strip started to print out nearby.
Dixie McCall stood beside a very worried Doctor Brackett as they had listened to the description of the patient’s condition and looked over the EKG strip coming across on their end. She took notes on what was reported by the paramedics and waited as Brackett determined what to do for the victim.
“Tachycardia,” the doctor voiced out loud. He then pressed the transmit button. “18, I read tachycardia on this end, which is what I’d expect with his injuries. Start two large-bore IVs of lactated ringers, and continue to monitor; if the ambulance is there, get him in here fast.”
“10-4, Rampart. Two large-bore IVs of lactated ringers, continue to monitor and transport immediately.”
Roy had been standing by after failing to find his partner, the equipment he'd been carrying safe behind Dixie's desk. He’d called dispatch using the telephone near the base station and was waiting to hear back. “Sounds like a bad one.”
Brackett’s mouth twitched slightly as he nodded. “It is.” He turned to Dixie. “Notify the OR we’re gonna be sending the patient up soon after he hits the doors. By the sound of it. we aren’t going to have much time to spare. I’ll need an assist. We can’t afford to have more than one doctor out of this section for a long length of time.”
Dixie nodded. As she stepped over to the desk, she asked Roy, “Any word on Johnny yet?”
“No.” His voice trailed off as he gave the one-word answer, his gaze shifting to the base station speaker with a look of dread on his face as a horrible thought crossed his mind. It can’t be. . .can it?
At the same time Dixie and Kel Brackett looked as well, a similar thought on each of their minds. The doctor took a quick worried glance at the others and pressed the transmit button.
“Squad 18, do you have an ID on the victim?”
After a few long seconds of waiting came the answer no one wanted to hear.
“Rampart, it’s John Gage.”
Roy stared ahead in stunned silence as he was catapulted into a state of shock. His stomach knotted up and he suddenly was overcome with a feeling of lightheadedness.
Dixie noticed the lost and confused expression on Roy’s face. She quickly placed the receiver back on the phone after passing on the information from Brackett, then walked around to the paling paramedic.
“You’d better sit down before you fall down.”
Roy looked at her as if he either didn’t hear or couldn’t comprehend what was said.
The head nurse reached out and grasped his right arm, giving it a squeeze. “Roy, he’s in good hands.”
The senior paramedic was at a loss for words. What else did I expect? He’d never be this late without contacting me. He looked at Dixie, but remained silent, allowing his solemn expression to answer for him.
“Well, they should be ready to transport,” Kel said as he turned form the base station. “Dix, get Three set up. I want X-Ray standing by with a portable. We’ll need to get the results STAT so we know what we’re looking at for surgery.”
Roy winced inward. How could this happen? Why?
“Right.” Dixie took one more glance at Roy before proceeding with the doctor’s directives.
Brackett folded his arms across his chest. “Roy, there isn’t much I can tell you until they get Johnny in here. But you can be damn sure I’m gonna do everything it takes to get him through this.”
The paramedic gave a still worried look in return and nodded. “I know,” he quietly replied.
The ambulance attendants wheeled the stretcher over and Gage was carefully placed on it.
Still unconscious, Johnny gave no reaction as he was secured on the stretcher. His pale form was covered with a blanket as Gil placed the two IV bags under Johnny’s left shoulder. At the same time Tony placed the monitor on the stretcher. He then trotted alongside, the oxygen canister and drug box in his hands, as the attendants wheeled the stretcher to the ambulance while onlookers watched. Once again the men worked together to lift the injured paramedic into the emergency vehicle.
Gil climbed up in after putting the biophone on the floor. Mathews handed him the drug box.
“See you at Rampart.”
The other closed the doors and watched as the ambulance pulled away. As the siren quickly faded, Mathews went over and gathered up any remaining equipment and ran toward his squad. With a police officer guarding the momentarily abandoned Squad 51, and Officer Barker and another searching for the gunman, Tony Mathews kept his concerns with staying close behind the ambulance in the event Robinson should need his help along the way if Gage took a turn for the worse.
Gil continued close watch on Johnny, the ambulance attendant in back with them assisting as needed. The dark-haired paramedic had not regained consciousness, but a quick check of his vitals showed no change – for the worse or the better. Gil knew that for now that was going to have to be enough.
“You’d better make it,” he said, knowing his words went unheard. “You know Roy’s gotta be beside himself with worry right now.”
Oh shit. . .Roy. . .I wonder how he’s taking this? He *has* to know by now. . .
Roy placed the receiver back on the phone by the base station after a brief conversation with a representative from Dispatch. They’d gotten word it was his partner who was shot just before he did, when police dispatch notified them about the squad being guarded until someone from the fire department picked it up.
I’m sure Cap was filled in on what happened.
He looked down at the telephone, the thought of calling his superior on his mind. But just as he picked up the receiver again, a commotion in the corridor caught his attention.
Gil Robinson trotted alongside Johnny as the injured paramedic was wheeled into Rampart General Emergency.
“In Three,” Dixie directed as they came down the corridor. Gil caught a quick glimpse of Roy near the base station desk. The senior paramedic from A-shift looked like he’d just lost his best friend.
I hope he doesn’t. . .
The doors to Treatment Room Three were held open as the attendants and Robinson quickly took Gage inside, Roy right on their heels.
“Blood pressure’s still 90/60 and he hasn’t shown any indication of consciousness,” Gil quickly informed Doctor Brackett as he and the others guided the stretcher over to the exam table. Johnny was carefully transferred to it, his IVs hung beside, as Roy helped in the process. The injured paramedic lay unaware of the worry that filled the room, his partner especially distraught.
Doctors Brackett and Morton had both been waiting in the treatment room, along with another nurse. Commotion set in as the medical personnel worked furiously to save John Gage’s life.
After an x-ray technician quickly got a few necessary portables taken so they could be processed STAT, Dixie hung type-specific non-cross-matched blood for Johnny while Brackett immediately gave orders as he examined the paramedic’s wounds.
“Carol, get blood samples; we’ll need a reading on arterial blood gases, complete blood count, chem panel type and a cross-match for at least four units.”
Carol nodded having just inserted an NG tube; done with her first task, Dixie inserted a foley catheter to drain Johnny’s bladder. Gil disconnected the portable EKG monitor from the leads and hooked them up to one close by in the room.
Doctor Morton had already been directed beforehand to insert a chest tube to draw the air out of the right side of Johnny’s chest. Both he and Brackett knew that a collapsed lung associated with a penetrating wound was the result of escaped air getting into the pleural space outside the lung itself, therefore squeezing the lung until it was deflated. He completed the task, with Roy giving a hand in the process as needed while another nurse who'd come in with the others monitored Johnny's breathing.
Despite the urgency and close proximity of work involved, the busy crew handled the situation with finesse and no one interfered with another’s duty.
Soon the door to the room opened and a technician from X-Ray stepped in. Gil glanced worriedly at Roy as he hurried over to retrieve the pictures for the doctors.
A quick review of the x-rays revealed a gunshot wound on the edge of the right lobe of Johnny’s liver. The bullet was very visible near it in one of the pictures. Brackett was relieved to see it hadn’t mushroomed out like many were designed to do. An apparent malfunction had spared the paramedic even more severe injury. The bullet in the chest area proved to be the same case. Relief was added when neither appeared to be close to the spine.
With a game plan in place for the needed surgery, Johnny was on his way to the OR just minutes after arriving at Rampart.
Mathews and Robinson were sent out on another response after a brief chance to fill Roy in on a few of the details of what had happened, leaving the paramedic to wait on his own for an update. Unable to relax with so much on his mind, Roy talked to Captain Stanley on the phone from the nurses’ lounge.
“Any news on how the surgery is going?” Hank wondered.
“No. I probably won’t get an update till they’re finished.”
“Okay, well give me a call as soon as you do. It’s a good thing they found the kid who did this before he had a chance to shoot anyone else.”
“You didn’t know?”
“No.” The news was still sinking in and it took a few seconds it to register. They got him? Already?
“I guess the police would have a hard time locating you to fill you in,” the captain added.
“How’d they find him so fast?”
“They found him at his own home just watching TV. Sounds like he’s a few bricks short of a wall.”
“Do they know why he did it?”
“All they could tell me was that he confessed. They knocked on the door, he answered, and that was it.”
Roy was baffled. The kid was at home watching TV. . . Something was definitely not right. Maybe the kid was high. . .
His conversation with the captain soon ended, and the dark-blond paramedic sat down on the couch once again. He leaned forward, resting his chin on clasped hands as he chewed his lower lip. Only one word came to mind. . .Why? It was a question he couldn’t get off his mind.
Coming out of his thoughts about the kid, Roy fidgeted as he continued to wait in the nurses’ lounge, then glanced at his watch.
Shouldn’t be much longer. . .I hope.
Finally the door to the lounge opened, revealing Kel Brackett. The paramedic stood, though he wasn’t sure why he felt he needed to.
“How is he?”
“He did very well in surgery. It’s just a matter of waiting to see what kind of progress he makes. His right lung had re-inflated on its own after the air was cleared out. It should heal on its own. We were able to remove both bullets and repair the damage to his liver. He’s stable for now, but with all he’s been through, I’m keeping him on the critical list for awhile.”
The paramedic sighed. He glanced around the room, not really looking at anything in particular. With a lost expression on his face, he stated, “I guess I should call Cap again. . .he wanted to know as soon as I got word.”
“I think that’d be a good idea. Maybe he’ll have some encouraging words on the other end of the line that’ll help you too.”
The paramedic smiled slightly and nodded. “Yeah. I think you’re right. Maybe hearing the good news out of my own mouth won’t hurt either, huh?”
Brackett returned the smile, his wider. With brightness in his eyes, he patted Roy on the back. “Don’t worry. We’re taking good care of your partner.”
“I know you are. Thanks.”
Roy walked over to a telephone on the wall and lifted the receiver. After taking a deep breath, he began to dial the number to the station.
Roy was just hanging up the phone when Officer Dennis Barker came into the lounge. He gave a small wave to the paramedic.
“I hear your partner made it through surgery okay.”
“Yeah. . .yeah, he did. He’s still critical, but he’s stable for now.”
“I’ll be holding positive thoughts.”
There was a moment of awkward silence before Dennis Barker spoke again. “Did anyone get word to you we got the punk who shot him?”
Roy nodded as he quietly responded. “Yeah, Captain Stanley told me.” He looked at the officer a few seconds before asking, “Does anyone know why he did it? Shot my partner?”
“He. . .uh. . .he just wanted to know what it felt like.”
Roy looked on in disbelief. “That’s it? Was he high on drugs or something?”
“Yes, that’s it. And no, no drugs were involved, surprisingly. Usually with something like this we’d expect that.”
The paramedic was stunned. No reason was a good reason to shoot an innocent man. But he never expected it to be this.
He wanted to know what it felt like to shoot someone. . .
Roy once again eyed Barker. “So did he get his answer?”
The officer shrugged. “He says he did. He’ll have plenty of time to think about it once he’s locked up for awhile.”
DeSoto nodded. Again the thought ran through his mind. . .what would make a kid risk throwing his future away for that. . .?
With Johnny being out from the surgery, there was no need for Roy to stay at Rampart. Grateful to his captain for standing down the squad, he headed for home where he knew the support he needed would come from his wife, Joanne.
A weary Roy sat on the couch in his livingroom. Joanne handed him a cold bottle of beer, then sat down beside him, sighing.
“It kind of makes you think.”
“It sure does,” Roy agreed.
“When you mentioned the anorexic girl last week, I thought about Jennifer and if she would ever do that. I know she’s only four now, but I tried to reason how a daughter has to end up collapsed on the floor before a parent sees a problem and decides to get help. I still can’t understand it. But now this. . .with a young man shooting Johnny because he wanted to know what it felt like to shoot someone. I mean. . .how could a kid that age not know what the results of his actions were going to be?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure that out myself.”
“Even Chris knows what a gun can do and he’s only six. So didn’t this kid’s parents ever talk to him about it?”
“That’s a good question; one I doubt we’ll ever know the answer to. But I’m not sure we can fault the parents.” Roy sighed. “I’ve been thinking about it, and you know if a kid doesn’t show outward signs of a problem or doesn’t share some crazy idea he’s got running through his mind . . . how can anyone, including the parents, be to blame if the kid follows through? The mother of the anorexic girl said her daughter dressed in layers of clothing, so her boney figure never really showed through.” He looked at Joanne as he held the beer bottle near his lap. “I’d like to say we’d recognize a problem in Chris or Jenny if it were there. But I don’t know, Jo. I just don’t know.”
The two looked over toward the staircase across the room when their conversation was interrupted by their two young children arguing upstairs.
“I’ll handle it,” Joanne said, stopping Roy from getting up. “You rest.”
As she started for the steps, she glanced over her shoulder. “I guess we should be thankful we only have these spats between Chris and Jennifer to worry about where they’re concerned; at least for now.”
Roy took a swig of his beer as she headed upstairs. He wished his kids’ argument was the only problem he had to deal with at the moment.
Johnny awoke with a start at the sound of loud popping noises. Anxious as to what the cause was, his eyes darted around the quiet darkened hospital room.
It was just a dream. . . he thought, relaxing into his pillow on the propped up bed. It had been a few days since the shooting occurred and the dark-haired paramedic had experienced flashbacks of the incident numerous times in his sleep. Doctor Brackett was very reassuring that it was a normal reaction considering what happened and would pass with time. Johnny was offered therapy to help deal with the dreams, but he’d declined.
The paramedic noted there was still some soreness in his throat from having been intubated for the first day and a half of his stay.
Sure am glad *that’s* at least over with. Man. . .
His punctured lung was healing with no complications, as was his other injury. As he lay staring at the wall across from the foot of the bed, he thought once again about what Captain Stanley and Roy had told him earlier.
‘It was just some kid wanting to know what it was like to shoot someone.’
‘He didn’t even seem to think it was a big deal. He went home right afterward and watched TV.’
Johnny furrowed his brow at the information. The more he ran it through his mind, the more disturbing it got.
I wonder if the kid has any regrets?
He had to face the fact he’d probably never know. With his pain medication still doing its job, he closed his eyes in hopes of getting to sleep again. Not long afterward, he managed.
After a couple of more days at Rampart, Johnny was showing marked improvement both physically and mentally, his nightmares having subsided. And though he was still sore from surgery and just back to trying solid foods again, he was well enough to carry on longer conversations as long as he got some rest in between visitors.
Roy and Gil entered Gage’s room in hopes he’d feel up to some company. The two were happy to see him give a weak smile at their appearance.
“How’re you feeling?” Roy wondered. “Better than yesterday, I hope.”
“I’m doin’ all right,” came a weary sounding reply. “Thanks to you and Mathews,” he added, looking over toward Gil. “Roy filled me in the other day. Thanks.”
Robinson had been in to see Gage while he was still in intensive care, but decided to wait until his injured friend was healed more before returning again. He realized now that he should’ve come back sooner. But seeing Johnny like that was tough; if it had been anyone else in the department, it wouldn’t have been as difficult for him. However, knowing there was no way to change the past, Gil smiled and pressed on.
“Hey, I couldn’t let anything happen to you. I might end up being the only guy who’s still single at our high school class reunion in July,” he teased.
“You sure went to great lengths to get out of doing the dishes the other day,” Roy added, keeping the mood light. “But we decided we’d make it up to you by giving you the job for the first two weeks you’re back.”
Johnny’s face was one of shock, his mouth hanging slightly open.
“Relax, I’m kidding.”
“Man, you had me worried for a minute there. . .”
The three men grew more serious as they glanced at one another.
“Cap was here awhile ago and said the kid who shot me is still in juvenile detention for now.”
“I don’t have a lot of faith in those places from what I’ve heard about ‘em,” Johnny said, pausing. “But maybe it’ll do him some good.”
“Let’s hope so. It’d be great if someone would get him some psychiatric help too. Anyone who does what he did probably needs it.”
“Yeah, no kiddin’.” Johnny sighed. “I still can’t believe why he did it. I wonder what made him think of it in the first place?”
“Joanne and I’ve been discussing it off and on, and the only guess we can come up with is maybe he doesn’t quite understand it himself. If he did, maybe he would’ve given the consequences more thought.”
Gage just nodded slightly, then shifted his position on the bed, grimacing in the process. He changed the conversation to a more positive subject. “I met the guy who called for help when it happened. Sure glad we’ve got more friends than foe.”
“You aren’t the only one,” Gil agreed. “Our job is risky enough at times without having to worry about half-cocked teens going around shooting at us.”
“Or half-cocked anyone,” Roy put in.
“Let’s just hope it never becomes a trend.”
Johnny and Roy agreed. For the period they’d been paramedics, so far they’d only had to deal with a couple of snipers shooting before they arrived at the scene to rescue the victims, once continuing while they were still around. But never had either been the intended targets at the beginning of a situation. All three men knew in their hearts this wasn’t going to change things; they’d still go into the situations they were sent to with the same confidence as before. But the actions of this teenaged boy were going to leave an impact on them just the same, because they also knew it could very well happen again. And the question that would likely come to surface if it did would once again be . . .why?
Many thanks to Jill Hargan for the partial beta read during her busy schedule and to Becca for the immense help with medical information during her busy time as well. If anything is *off*, it’s of my own doing.
Also, on regards to the anorexia, the simplistic comments about it are what I recall of attitudes toward the illness in the early 1970s. However, having been through it as a teen, in reality I know it’s very complex and not so easily overcome; and weight gain afterward doesn’t always mean no permanent damage is done to the body.
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