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“You going to go pick up the Chicklet?” Kookie asked as he handed Jeff the keys to his car.
“Yep, we’re going car shopping. Her grounding ended yesterday.” Jeff smiled. No one least of all Lee, thought he would stick to his punishment for her skydiving escapade. “She has her heart set on a bright red convertible.”
Kookie pulled a comb from his back pocket running it through his perfectly combed hair. “That’s not the only thing she has her heart set on. “She is planning on going to that party Saturday night.”
“There is no way she is going to a frat party.” Jeff announced.
“You know that, I know that---everyone who knows you knows that. The only person who doesn’t is the Chicklet. She’s going to be mad.”
“She knows it she just won’t admit it.” Jeff said frowning. “It’s all that Peter kid’s fault.”
“She’s going to be madder if you’re late and she has to wait.” Kookie told the frustrated detective.
Lee was waiting at the usual spot. There were several girls with her listening as she explained a math problem to them. Seeing Jeff pull up she quickly gathered her backpack and got in the car. Sitting sideways with her left leg tucked up under her. “You know where I want to go right? The place you got this car…”
“Hi how are you? I’m fine thank you.” Jeff said laughing. “So, you ready to go car shopping?”
“No, I was ready in December.” Her answer dripping with sarcasm. “Or did you forget your promise?”
“No, I promised that you could get your license on your birthday. Didn’t say anything about getting you a car then. Even if you had a car you wouldn’t have been driving then.”
“You can be so unreasonable at times. Lori and Peter are picking me up on Saturday. I didn’t think you’d let me drive at night yet.”
“One no night driving unless an adult is with you…one I approve. Two, you are not going to that party. Lee, you are barely 16 years old. There is a rule against anyone under 18 attending frat parties on campus without a parent or legal guardian present.”
“You’re making that up just to sound official.” She said pouting. “Like you aren’t just being unreasonable again.”
“Look it up in the official school handbook they gave us when you entered.
They made a special point of telling me that. Besides I don’t want you around a bunch of kids drinking.”
“I wouldn’t be drinking I don’t even like the taste of beer.”
“Good but the answer is still no.” He was looking at her not paying as much attention to the road as he should have.
“I’m a junior at UCLA…I should be allowed to attend social events.” She was not giving up.
“Social events yes, frat parties no. End of discussion. Now, are we going to go home or to get a red Mustang convertible?” Before she could answer a black sedan pulled up behind them and hit the bumper of Jeff’s convertible. Get down.” Lee had turned so she could look out the back window.
The black car pulled around them speeding up so the back passenger window was even with Jeff’s window. Lee screamed as the first shot hit the car. Jeff jerked the wheel and the car jerked to the right. Jeff was fighting to control the car despite the pain in his shoulder. Another shot and Jeff lost control of the car. His foot pressed on the gas as he slumped over, a bullet hitting him in the back. The car hit a tree and the black sedan stopped. A tall blond man got out and walked over to the car. He shot Jeff for a third time a cold look of satisfaction on his face. He glanced over at the teenage girl with blood on her face. With a shrug he decided it was time to leave.
The on lookers had stayed back until the black sedan was out of sight. Quickly they did what they could to help the two injured people. Smoke and flames were coming from under the damaged hood. Jeff was pulled from the car and laid on the grass. The front of the convertible was crushed inward holding Lee tightly at a strange twisted angle. By pulling and twisting they managed to get her free and to safety just as the car burst into flames.
The pain medication stopped his memories.
Roy and Johnny finished the morning radio check and calibrations then checked the squad’s supplies. The previous shift had gotten supplies after their last run so everything was in order.
“Chet’s cooking today,” Johnny grumbled. “Maybe we can find something over at Lee’s office.”
“Now, John Boy, is that fair? You don’t even know what I’m cooking and you are being negative. That hurts my feelings.” Neither paramedic had noticed Chet standing in the doorway nor were that Mike and Cap behind him.
“That makes us even, your cooking hurts my stomach.” Johnny countered.
Roy shook his head at the two bickering crew mates. Chet went back to the kitchen.
“You know if those two ever stopped arguing I’d worry about their friendship.” Cap told Roy and Mike. Roy nodded remembering the incident after Johnny and Lee had announced they were adopting a baby. Chet’s thoughtless remark had almost cost them their friendship.
Terri Miers was stressing over having a big family dinner on Saturday. Seth, her 4-year-old was being uncooperative refusing to eat his peas and carrots she had fixed for lunch. He had wanted mac and cheese with his chicken nuggets not the veggies.
“Mommy can I have my cookie now?” His big blue eyes and blonde hair making him look like a small angel. He smiled knowing that usually helped him get what he wanted. And he loved his mommy’s chocolate chip cookies.
“Not until you eat your vegetables.” This time it didn’t work. “Now eat.”
“Then I can have a cookie?”
“Yes. Now eat so I can finish cleaning the kitchen.” She said more sharply than she intended. She left him sitting at the table and went in to the front room to run the sweeper. Seth looked at the now cold vegetables and pushed the plate away.
“Yech.” Looking around he saw the four drawers under the counter. If you pulled them out the right way they made steps. Jarrod his big brother had shown him how to do it. (At 7, Jarrod was Seth’s hero.) Climbing up was easy but it was hard reaching the cookie jar. Jarrod made it look easy. Reaching up and standing on his tip toes he could almost get it. He lost his balance and fell backwards, the cookie jar tumbling after.
Terri heard the crash as she switched off the sweeper at that moment. Running into the kitchen she saw her son on the floor among the blood, cookies and broken pottery.
The SCU sounded just as the crew was sitting down to lunch. Chet took it as a personal insult since because of what Johnny had said earlier.
Neither paramedic said much as Roy made his way through the traffic. Calls involving children always was a worry. Now that he was a father these calls bothered Johnny even more.
There was a woman standing in front of a house frantically waving as the squad approached the address they had been given. Roy pulled into the driveway.
“Please hurry…That poor baby is bleeding.” Johnny grabbed the bio phone as Roy got the trauma box.
Terri was sitting on the floor next to Seth. His eyes were closed and he was very pale.
“Ma’am if you could move back...” Johnny said gently. “We need some room to work.”
“It’s my fault…cleaning the front room was more important than staying out here until he finished his lunch. He wanted a cookie and I said no…”
“What’s his name?” Roy asked.
“Seth...Seth Miers. He is 4, I should have stayed with him…He wanted mac and cheese and I made him eat peas and carrots instead…He usually likes them.”
As Roy was talking with Terri Johnny was getting vital signs. He let out a soft sigh as the little boy opened his eyes briefly. The vital signs were good and there weren’t any apparent broken bones. The cut wasn’t deep. From the reaction to the light he shined in the boy’s eyes Johnny was pretty sure he had a concussion. Johnny gave Roy the vitals and began to gingerly clean the cut.
Dr. Early gave instructions and they were soon on their way to the hospital. Terri was in the front of the ambulance. Martha the neighbor was going to stay at the house waiting for Jarrod to return from a play date.
“Terri is really a good mother. Things like this can happen so fast.” Martha watched as the paramedic gathered his equipment and trash. “I remember when my boys were that age. I have four grandsons now…Are you sure Seth will be ok?”
“I have two kids of my own…I understand how things like this happen, even to kids with good parents. Everything was looking good…unless something unexpected happen he’ll be good as new in a few days.”
“Your partner was good with Seth and Terri. Does he have children?”
“A little girl 2 months old. But he has been practicing on my kids for years.”
Chet was plotting. He’d make John Gage sorry for what he said. Lunch had been really good. It served him right there wasn’t much of it left. Maybe it had been petty when he took that big second helping. But, he had said he was going to eat at Rampart. He thought he was so funny. Well just wait until he had a reason to say his stomach hurt. The problem was to make sure it was just Gage that got sick. He had to time it so it wasn’t anything to serious or kept him from doing his job. Maybe something in his coffee or that nasty tasting juice he drank. Yeah that was the answer. He heard the squad pulling into the bay and went back to cleaning the closet where they kept the cleaning supplies. Cap had complained something in it smelled sour.
“So everything ok?” Cap asked as the two paramedics came into the kitchen. He had come out for some more ice tea. He like the others worried about calls involving children.
“Yeah the little guy has a mild concussion and some stiches. He climbed up on the counter to get a cookie. His mom told him he had to eat his veggies first so he decided to get it himself.” Johnny said as he poured a glass of milk. “You want some tea, Roy?”
“Yeah thanks.” He had the log book out to update. “Cap, Dixie told us that Andy Cruz was doing well. It was his gall bladder.” The B shift captain from Station 88 had been taken from the station the previous evening. There had been some concern that it was a heart attack.
“That’s good to hear. Andy’s a good guy. We were just talking about a week ago. He is thinking about taking the chief’s exam.”
“You still thinking about taking it, Cap?” Marco asked. He had just come in from mowing the small lawn.
“Not sure. Right now I’m pretty happy here. Some days I wonder when you twits are acting like two year olds.” Johnny just shrugged his shoulders and gave Cap a crooked smile.
The next morning Johnny was up before the SCU sounded morning tones. He went out to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee and stuck a pan of sweet rolls in the oven. Lee had been baking early in the mornings after Chloe was fed and back to sleep. She was still waking up about 4:30. Usually she went right back to sleep after a bottle and diaper change. But Lee would be wide awake.
Maybe this morning she would lay down and take a nap since he wasn’t sleepy. But probably not since she was bound and determined to prove to everyone she could take care of Chloe on her own. He was so proud of her.
“Good morning.” Johnny said as he handed Cap a cup of coffee. “The rolls are just about ready to come out of the oven.” Johnny had put them down in the fridge from the freezer the night before. “These are the ones with orange zest in the batter. There is an orange icing to go with them if you want it.”
“Sounds good, Pal. She doing ok with everything?” Cap knew that Johnny had been worried about her not sleeping after two babies in Carson had died from Sudden Infant Syndrome.
“Yeah she is. Chloe is doing great…gaining weight and happy. Lee’s been calling her Ms. Ladybug ever since you did. Ya know Cap some days I look at her and Lee can’t remember what life was like without them.” Marco and Chet came in just as Johnny was taking the rolls out of the oven.
“Trying to show off, Gage?” Chet asked as he ignored the plate of rolls being passed around.
“No, just thought you all might like some rolls with your coffee.” He gave Roy a look that asked ‘what’s his problem?’ Roy shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
After breakfast Johnny and Lee went out to the pool. Chloe was happily sleeping in her jogging stroller. (Stacy and Jenny called it her tent.)
“Anything we need to do?” Johnny asked after they finished the exercises and laps. They were just relaxing in the water at the edge of the pool.
“Nope all is well. Got everything I needed to do done yesterday. Wouldn’t surprise me if Jo and the girls came over in a bit. Maybe we’ll have to have dinner out on the porch if you feel like grilling.” She looked at him loving the fact he was so near. Sometimes she thought it would be perfect if neither had to go to work and they could be like this always. She knew he would be miserable without his job and friends but still it was a nice day dream.
“Mind if I went out to the grove and worked a few hours? I’d like to get this last project done before the Fourth.”
“Oh, I would be so mad at you…” Laughing she splashed him. “I demand you spend every minute of your free time catering to my every whim…You are my slave; didn’t you know that?” Laughing he went under the water and pulled her away from the wall. Holding her tightly he pulled her into a long hard kiss. His hands moved over her body playing with the hook on her bikini top. Her hands were lightly moving down his back.
“Later Boyo…sweet anticipation. You have work to do and when we have our time I don’t want to rush it…or to be interrupted.” She had been determined that being Chloe’s mom wasn’t going to stop her from being the Boyo’s wife. She had seen too many marriages die because the parents forgot that they were still friends and lovers not just mom and dad. One of the best gifts they could give Chloe was parents who loved one another.
“Tease…but that’ll just make it better.” Johnny watched as she swam towards the lift. Her many moods and personalities never ceased to amaze him. She could go from flirty school girl to sensual seductress in a heartbeat.
One minute the silly airhead the next the savvy business woman. Now the newest personality was Mother Tiger to confident laid back matron. They heard the girls laughing as they rode their bikes ahead of Jo and Kathy. Johnny got out as they came into the pool area.
“Uncle Johnny, don’t go. We came to swim with you.” Jenny said.
“Sorry Princess. I’ve got to get some work done if we are going to have a Fourth of July party out in the grove. Maybe your mom and dad you’ll come over for a cook out later and we can swim then. If the boys are here we can play volleyball.”
“Can we Mom?” The girls asked almost in the same breath.
“Don’t you think you should ask Lee first? She may have plans for tonight.” Kathy answered laughing at the two girls.
“It was her idea.” Johnny said as she was swimming under water to get to the lift chair.
“What am I getting blamed for now?” Lee said with a laugh. “Boyo don’t forget to take some water out with you. It’s getting really hot.”
Twenty minutes later Roy came out to the grove with some ice cold water bottles.
“Lee was worried you didn’t bring enough water out here.” Roy told him as he handed him the bottle. “Looks like she was right.” Johnny had stripped down to his cut offs, his tee shirt laying in the grass soaked with sweat. The red bandana he had tied around his head was also soaked. With a sigh Johnny rubbed the bottle across his forehead then down his neck before opening it ad taking a long swig.
“I must be getting old. Use to be I could work a shift come home and get lots done without breaking a sweat.”
“Use to be you didn’t have 5 acres to worry about and a wife and baby to keep you busy.” They had moved over to the picnic table and were sitting on it. Johnny had his feet planted on the bench, Roy had his legs just hanging down.
“Actually it’s more like 15. Lee didn’t want any more problems like before so she bought up the rest of the acres. She gave the school district some more so they can enlarge their baseball and scorer fields.”
“You still thinking you want some horses?” Roy looked around at the peaceful area. “Has Lee been out here lately?”
“No, I want to have it almost finished before she comes out. Gonna stock the pond with some bluegills and sun fish for the kid to catch…Maybe some trout or bass for us. Not sure if horses are such a good idea right now. They take a lot of work and that’s time I rather spend with my girls. I love horses and I love to ride but I love doing things with Lee more. Maybe when Chloe and the other kids are older…”
“Other kids?” Roy said a little surprised at that.
“Yeah Lee wants at least 2 ...We figure when Chloe is about 2 we can start getting serious about another baby. We always said we don’t do serious well.”
“You do it well you just don’t let it take over your life. You deal with problems when they happen you don’t let the what if’s take the joy out of the now.” Roy decided this might be a good time to bring up something that had been bothering him. “Did you hear Franklin and Greystone were thinking were thinking about taking the engineer exam? Dutton is thinking about taking the captain’s exam. The guys were talking at Rampart the other day how it’s strange no one ever leaves A shift at 51.”
“Why mess with perfection? We have a great crew. Seriously I know Mike is going to take the captain’s exam one of these days…And Cap will make a great chief. Marco and Chet will both be really good engineers. If Kelly had been serious about it the last time he would have scored a lot higher.” Johnny looked at his best friend, his big brother with a sad smile. “You’d make a lousy engineer but a great captain.”
“What about you? Do you ever think about taking the exam for captain?”
“Yeah…no…maybe. But it’s different for me. You guys have to think about your kids and college and house payments and retirement. I don’t. Maybe I’ll be the world’s oldest paramedic.” He looked uncomfortable then shrugged. “I can’t see me in the squad with any other partner…not a full time one. Maybe if we wait long enough the pay thing will change. Or we will just get too old for all this. I think catch myself looking at things differently now…I want to be here for Chloe and want to be able to do things with her.
Not that I didn’t…don’t want that for me and Lee…but now…”
“Now you’re a dad. You’ve been watching my back all this time to make sure I’m around for Chris and Jenny. There is just something about having kids…”
“Let’s go see what ours have been up to. Don’t know about you but I’m hungry.”
“So what else is new?” Roy said laughing at the look on Johnny’s face.
“Man, sometimes you sound just like Chet Kelly.”
He opened his eyes slowly in rinse to the touch of soft hands and a cool cloth. The sounds became words but in a language he wasn’t familiar with. The voice was pleasant but he had no idea what the words meant. He was hot, thirsty and he ached all over. There was something familiar about the smells but they didn’t seem compatible. The strong smell of disinfectant but also an earthy scent. The room was dim but it was an artificial dimness not the true darkness of the night. He heard a door open and light footsteps approaching him.
“Do you remember any of our earlier conversation, Mr. Spencer?”
“No. I remember getting shot...no it was more like as sharp stabbing pain. Did someone knife me? If you don’t mind…who are you how long have I been here. Where is here?”
“I am Dr. Chambers. You have been at my clinic for two days…we are on a small island in the South Pacific. My clinic is very small and very basic but it’s the closes medical help available.” She had him a small cup of water. “Drink this very slowly. You will be feeling better soon. The people at the hotel brought you here.”
Johnny and Roy were off on some errands. Johnny had volunteered to help Roy pick up some supplies at the art supply store and the garden center. There were some pieces he was ready to paint and glaze and he was running low on clay. A portion of the basement was now his pottery studio. He was making some wind chimes for the craft and bake sale the auxiliary would run during the health fair as a fund raiser for the station and department charities. Johnny had promised Emily something from his wood working shop. He wasn’t sure yet but he had an idea for some shelves or a cabinet. They both had odds and end that they needed from the garden center.
“You’re awfully quiet, Junior. Something bothering you?” Roy questioned.
“Nay, just thinking. Maybe I can get an idea for what I’m going to build for Emily. I was thinking maybe a bookcase or a shelf.”
“You’ve got a couple of major projects going out at the grove, sure you wanta start another one?”
“Would you tell Emily Stanley you were too busy to help with their sale?”
Johnny answered Roy’s question with one of his own.
Laughing, Roy responded, “I see your point.”
“Besides, the money from the sale does a lot of good. We don’t want the other stations to sat we don’t do our share.”
“I’d say we did our share and then some.” Roy didn’t ask but he had some idea where Johnny’s logic was coming from. At Christmas, Station 51 had been the top station in the food and toy collection challenge. The prize a $50 gift certificate from Keelson’s had been donated to a local food bank. Some thought that Lee had provided money for the Station to go out and buy toys and food. Actually she hadn’t but she refused to comment one way or another saying people who mattered knew the truth and the others wouldn’t change their minds.
Walking into the garden center both Roy and Johnny frowned. There were pallets and boxes stacked in the aisles and there was no organization to the materials. The signs out front declared it was a warehouse clean out sale…some dented or open packages were half price or less. There were bins with people pushing and shoving trying to find a bargain.
“Didn’t these guys ever hear of fire laws?” Roy looked around until he spotted a store employee. They made their way through the maze of boxes, pallets and people. This reminded Johnny of the crazies he saw at Christmas sales.
“Excuse me but I need to see a manager.” Roy said loudly to be heard over the background noises. Johnny followed carefully thinking what a nightmare it would be if there was any kind of emergency in the store. He could smell some kind of chemical but he wasn’t sure what it was.
“Cashiers at the service desk are doing all exchanges and questions.” The sales clerk said as he tried to hurry away.
“Look, I either see a manager or the owner. I can place a call to the fire marshal who will probably shut you down.”
“You can’t do that.” The clerk said not really sure. A loud crash and some cursing stopped Roy’s answer.
Johnny turned to see what was happening. Without a word he ran pushing people out if the way to the fire alarm on the wall. Pulling the handle down as hard and as sat of he could.
“EVERYONE OUT!” Roy and John both yelled and began trying to help people out. “LEAVE THE CARTS…GET OUT NOW. DON’T PUSH… WALK CALMLY BUT QUICKLY.”
The owner came over and started to argue with Johnny. “What gives you the right to start a panic? I’ll have you arrested for this.”
“Help get these people out of here NOW unless you want to be arrested for interfering with an emergency evacuation.” Johnny barked orders to several other employees and customers as he made his way to a small side room. The door was marked EMPLOYEES ONLY but was standing half opened.
Pulling his tee shirt up over his nose and mouth he entered the room. A teen age boy was laying on the floor, unconscious and bleeding. Gagging at the smell, Johnny quickly got him in a fireman’s carry and out into the rapidly clearing store.
Johnny could hear the sirens and followed the sound towards the door. His eyes were tearing so badly he was having a hard time seeing.
Roy was guiding people to the nearest exit, helping mothers with small children and the elderly. He had lost track of his partner as he had moved farther back into the store. The odor was bad; he could hear people retching. There were others helping now, customers as well as store employees.
Roy stopped not sure what he was listening for. He heard it again, crying. Making his way towards the sobs The small girl was under a table curled up in a ball.
“Come on, sweetheart, let’s get you out of here…It’s going to be alright.” Roy knelt down so she could see him.
The small girl looked at the strange man and pulled away. Her mom and dad had told her not to talk to strangers. She tried to be good and follow the rules but she was scared ad he looked kind. He looked a lot like her Uncle Kevin.
The funny smell was making her eyes and throat hurt. She held out her hand and let the man pull her into his arms. She buried her face in his shoulder as he carried her outside. Relieved to see his squad and engine he made his way over to the triage area.
“That’s one of them, officer. His friend pulled the alarm and started yelling orders.” The man was angry at all the commotion and for being threatened with jail. “There isn’t any fire just some cleaning supplies got spilled and there is a bad smell…No reason to make such a fuss.” Roy had the feeling he had probably been one of the first out of the building.
“That bad smell is chloramine vapor and who knows what else.” Roy said looking around as he talked. “Murphy, you seen Gage? He was headed towards the back of the store.”
“No, but I think there is a pretty frantic lady over by Sam Kline’s car looking for that little one your holding.” The little girl was clinging to Roy and had her head still buried in her shoulder.
“Come on, sweetie, Let’s go find your mom and get you checked out. And with any luck, that partner of mine.” Roy was trying hard not to get too worried about Johnny.
Johnny stumbled as he moved forward. Being out in the fresher air had made breathing easier but his eyes were still stinging. He could make out the familiar shape and color of the squad but the obstacles in his path were proving to be a challenge. There were people milling about looking for family and friends but not looking where they were going. Some were rude but most were in different caught up in their own fears.
“Gage over here.” Doug Stone called to him. Johnny turned towards the sound losing his balance. He felt the nearness of his friend and the strength of his helping hand. “Easy…” The two paramedics made their way to the triage area. There were now two squads and two engines working to contain the panic as well as the sheriff deputies and Carson police. They eased the unconscious boy down to the yellow blanket.
“He was in the store room where this all started…He fell face down…d(cough) dd…(cough) gr..(cough) rn.”
“Harris, get some O2 Gage.”
“Ta…care…boy.” Johnny wheezed out.
“Here, I’ll do that.” Roy said as he knelt down next to Johnny. “Ok, Junior, stop fussing.” Stoney and Harris smiled as the senior (off duty) paramedic took over caring for his partner. “Harris, tell Rampart his eyes are irated and excessive tearing…BP is ….” He gave the vitals and shook his head “I can hear him wheezing without a scope.”
Lee was folding diapers and holding what she considered a very interesting conversation with Chloe about the status of the upcoming July Fourth party.
“If your daddy has his way there won’t be any fireworks shot off here and a limited and well supervised number of sparklers. If we go into somewhere to watch fireworks, we’ll park away from them and stay in the car. Your ears are too young for all that noise and truth be known, I don’t like the sound either.” The phone rang and Lee answered half expecting it to be the Boyo checking if she needed anything while they were out.
Kathy was poolside reading while the girls and some friends played in the shallow end of the pool. “Kathy…come inside.” Controlled panic in her voice.
“Girls on the steps.” She hurried into the nursery. A pale and shaken Lee was holding Chloe.
“We need to get to Rampart.”
Jo had been at the house by the time Lee had changed from her swim suit to a sundress. Kathy drove in silence waiting for Lee to give her details.
Lee couldn’t tell Kathy what that man had said. That would make it true, maybe if she didn’t say it out loud it would go away. But she knew that wasn’t the way it worked. That man’s voice had no emotion in it…so cold and calculated…comfort measures only…treatment not effective…the words screamed in her head as she fought to keep from screaming out loud.
Stopping in front of the ER doors, Kathy helped her into her chair then pulled into Lee’s parking spot. She took several deep breaths before going into the hospital.
Lee went up to the admitting desk. The nurse listened to Lee’s explanation and checked the since she had just returned to from a break.
“He ‘ll be in Treatment 3 with Dr. Brackett. They should be arriving any minute the ‘copter called in and the doctor and Miss McCall went up to the helio pad.”
Joe Early came out of Treatment room 2 and was surprised to see Lee there. He went over to her.
“I’m surprised you’re here already. The squad just called in, the ambulance hasn’t even had time to get here yet.”
“Jeff isn’t coming in by ambulance, they sent Care flight to the airport.” Lee was confused. “The nurse said it was just about to land.” She saw the expression on his face and she felt as if someone had hit her full force in her gut. “Joe! What happened to the Boyo? Is Roy hurt? Jo is with the girls.”
“There was a chemical spill at the store they were at. I don’t know the details, Kel and Dixie took the call.”
The room was spinning and the air disappearing as she sat there. This couldn’t be happening. Not both of them. Please God, no!” Everything went black.
He turned to the nurse, “Put her in treatment Room 1. Kathy, you have privileges here now, right?”
“Jim and I both have visiting doctor status. Do I need to get someone over to her house so Jo can come here? Was Roy hurt?”
“I don’t think so. Look, why don’t you go in with her and I’ll check with Kel after I see Johnny. This is turning into a family affair.”
The ER was busy with not only victims from the chemical spill but the arrival of victims from a MVA at the same time. Roy was put to work helping with taking vitals and assisting in anyway needed. The doctors and nurses appreciated the way all the paramedics stepped in to help. Roy was surprised when he looked up to see Hank Stanley coming up the hallway.
“What’s going on Pal? Jo called me after the hospital called looking for Lee.
Who was already on her way over here because they were bring in her uncle in. What happened to John?”
“Chloramine gas…He rescued a kid from a supply room…He was responding to the O2 in the ambulance. He was still pretty blurry eyed the last time I saw him.”
“Haven’t a clue…didn’t know she was even here.”
“So you haven’t seen her or Kathy? Kathy called Jo to watch the kids while she drove Lee here… something about her Uncle Jeff. Then Jo gets the phone call about John…” He shook his head in amazement. “What happen to the nice quiet day off we were all expecting?”
“There has to be someone who knows something. I haven’t seen Dix or Brackett…Joe and Morton are in treatment rooms.”
“Go call Jo, she was pretty worried about you four?”
“Four?” Roy was puzzled.
“You, John, Lee and her uncle.” Roy nodded and went to find a pay phone.
Kelly Brackett saw the tall lanky fire chief standing against the wall as he scanned the room for Lee. He strode over to him.
“Hank, have you seen Lee?”
“No, she and Kathy Kildare should have been here a while ago. I think saw a car I her parking place.”
Joe came out of the treatment room and went over to where his friends were.
“How’s Jeff and Lee?” He asked.
“Johnny’s going to be fine in a day or two. His lungs are responding to the oxygen and they are going to give him a breathing treatment, send some meds home with him. His eyes were badly irritated but no burns.” It was then he noticed the confused look on the two men.
“Lee? What’s wrong with her? And when did Johnny get here?”
Kel said. “Someone mind telling me what’s going on in my ER?”
“Lee fainted when she heard Johnny was coming in from a chemical spill. She was here because she had gotten a call about Jeff. I had Dr. Kildare take her into treatment room 1 and started up to see you. When they needed me in 4, I sent a student nurse to find you and let you know about Lee and Johnny."
“Let’s go give Lee some good news about Johnny. figure she could use it. You got good news for her?” Joe said looking at Kel.
“Not the best but not as bad as it could be.” Kel answered as Joe lead the way to the treatment room.
Lee was on the exam table, her eyes closed. Kathy was taking her blood pressure again. Lee’s eyes flew open as she heard the door open and tried to sit up when she saw the three men.
“Lay still.” Kathy ordered. '
“Hank?” The panic at seeing him overwhelmed her.
“Jo called and asked me to check on you.” Realizing what she thought.
“The Boyo?” So softly they read her lips more than heard her. “Jeff?”
“Your Boyo is going to be fine with some rest and a few breathing treatments.” Joe assured her. “He’s getting one now.”
“He is resting comfortably. You can see him before you leave.”
“I’m not leaving him…He won’t die alone.” Her voice rose sharply.
“Now wait just a minute. I never said he was going to die. Yes, he is very ill but I don’t think he is going to die any time soon.” Kel interjected.
“Don’t lie to me. The man who called…He said they could only do comfort measures and there was no effective treatment.”
“That’s not true. He is suffering from some serious infections but we can treat them soon as we get the blood work back. There may be some kidney damage but I don’t see a complete failure any time soon.”
“Well, that explains why your blood pressure wasn’t coming down.” Kathy said. “If you had told me that I could have tried something else.” Lee’s blood pressure was normally low normal but had risen to a level dangerously near to what they defined as stroke level.
“If I said it I would have come true.” Not the confident young professional woman, wife, mother but a sacred little girl told by an angry ayah that she was bad.
Kathy looked at the men and shrugged. “I’ll explain later” she told them softly. “Hey, let’s get you something cold to drink and wash your face and I bet Kel will let you go see Jeff. Then maybe Johnny will be done with his breathing treatment.
“Jeff should be in his room. He’s had a lot of pain meds so he’s pretty out of it.” Kel started out of the room then turned back. “Joe, find that student nurse and find out why I didn’t get your message.”
“Hank will you please go up to her office and get her a Dr. Pepper, please. While you’re up there you can call Emily and let her know what is happening.”
Kathy said. “I would check in treatment room 3 to see if Roy is with Johnny.”
A student nurse came in with a pan of water and towels. “Dr. Early, Miss McCall. would like to see you.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Johnny had finished with his breathing treatment and was getting worried. Lee should have been here by now. They had called her. Roy had said so before he had gone off to help in the ER.
“Man, this sucked. I have too much to do to get everything ready for the party. I want the pond finished and stocked, I need to get some more rocks and plants placed near the shelter…” His thoughts were interrupted by Lee and Kathy coming into the room. “Hi Sweet Pea.”
“Boyo,” she said her voice soft and tender. “Are you doing ok, really?”
“I’m fine…just a little eye irritation. …Sid, the respirtory therapist said I was doing great and gave me a couple of treatment packets for the house. The eye doctor said no burns, just irritated and to wear dark glasses if the light bothers me. But no swimming for 72 hours.”
“If I go on home can you three find a way home?” Kathy asked as Roy came into the room.
“I’ll call a cab.” Lee answered quickly.
“I have a better idea. Kathy can drop me off at the Garden store, I’ll pick up the station wagon then come back for you two. Junior should be good to go by then.”
“Good call, Pally.” Johnny smiled at Lee. “Hey, no more crying…It’s all good.” He reached out to her. “Give me your hand. It’s ok.”
“No, it isn’t. You don’t understand…because no one told you.” She looked at Kathy for help.
“They just brought Jeff in. He has some sort of infection going on…Lee got the call after you left. We were here to see about him when she found out you had been brought in also.”
“Then Hank came down because Jo called him because she was worried. He left after he got me something to drink, they are having company tonight and I didn’t want him to stay here…” Lee took up the story. “So there you have the whole story.”
“Well almost the whole story. Didn’t you forget one detail?” Kathy said laughing. Lee glared at her. Lee glared at her as if to say don’t you dare tell him I did that.
“So you two go home and we will take a cab when we are ready to go home.”
Twenty minutes later Lee was again sitting by Jeff’s bed. He had been awake briefly but hadn’t said much. Johnny was laying on the extra bed asleep. Kel had been in and told her Dr. Macy would be the infection specialist working with Dr. Guthrie the kidney specialist. Lee looked up when the door opened. A very attractive woman who looked familiar came in followed by a blond man who also seemed familiar. She couldn’t place them.
“Lee, it’s nice to see you again. Sorry it is under these conditions.” The woman’s voice was pleasant.
“ The time and place isn’t the best but it’s good to see you again. We just heard that your John and his mate were heroes today? He doing alright?”
“He’s going to be fine. Sometimes after a breathing treatment he’ll sleep for a while.”
“I’m awake.” Johnny said as he sat up. He came over to Lee and kissed her lightly. “You need to get out of that chair for a while”
“Hi, Mark. I remember meeting you when we had some trouble with the stalker. I think we met briefly in Jeff’s office when we were in New York a few years ago.” Giving April one of his famous crooked grins.
“Good memory.” Mark said
.“My husband never forgets someone who helped save his life or a pretty lady.” Lee said with a giggle. “Actually I was thinking about going up to my office and calling a cab. They just gave Jeff another shot and he will be asleep for a few hours. Our friends are watching our daughter but we should be getting home to her.”
“There’s no need for you to call a cab. We have a car and our orders from Mr. Waverly directly is to be of any and all assistance to that young couple.” She
smiled at the sleeping man. “Besides we need to get a hotel. Maybe you can recommend one?”
“Absolutely. You’ll be staying with us. The pool house will give you all the privacy you need, it’s an easy drive from here.”
“And the cook is great.”
“We couldn’t put you out…” April told her.
“When she gets that look on her face there is no arguing with her. “Johnny gave her a kick kiss. “You work it out. I’m going up to the office for a snack. You want another Dr. Pepper?”
“Yes, please. Give Roy a call and let him know we’re on our way home with guest.”
Lee had made arrangements for Ibbie to come out to the house to watch Chloe while she and Johnny went in to visit Jeff and talk with Kel and his other doctors. Mark and April had had breakfast with them before going off to do whatever it was they were doing in L.A. She was just about finished dressing when Johnny came back into the bedroom. It was clear to see by the look on his face he was angry.
“So when were you going to tell me?” He demanded as he stood there glaring at her. “I thought we had agreed not to keep secrets from each other.”
“What secret? Boyo, I don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t like that tone of voice.”
“Well you think about it and when you do know, we’ll talk about it.” He stomped out of the room slamming the door. She sat there not knowing what to think. Finishing her makeup, she went out to the front room.
“Are you going to Rampart with me?” Her voice was calm her tone was pleasant but she was shaking inside.
“I said I would.” He got up and walked back to the nursery where Ibbie was with Chloe.
The ride into Rampart was silent. Lee really had no idea why he was so angry. She wasn’t going to ask him because she was afraid of what he would say as much as the way he would say it.
“Do you need anything from your office?” There was a flatness to his voice that bothered her.
“No, thank you.” She started to wheel herself forward but stopped and looked behind her. “John Roderick, please don’t start any trouble in there. Jeff doesn’t need to be worrying about anything except getting better.
“I have no intention of starting any trouble. Give me some credit.” He almost snarled the words.
She bit her lip to keep from saying something she shouldn’t. Why was he acting like this? What had she done wrong? Suddenly everything was all wrong.
Kel and Jeff were talking when they entered the room. He was more alert than yesterday.
“Sorry I scared you yesterday. The medical personnel where I was the last few days weren’t up to the standards of Rampart. Seems that they over medicated me.” This was an understatement to say the least but Lee didn’t need to know the details. “Johnny, you doing ok? Kel was telling me about your shopping trip yesterday.” Jeff looked over at him leaning against the sink, his dark glasses on, arms folded across his chest.
“Doing fine. The lights are a little bright but other than that no problem. Lee takes good care of me.” Did anyone besides me hear the sarcasm in his voice Lee wondered.
“How’s my great-niece doing? Growing like a weed I bet.” Jeff thought he noticed some tension but decided it was his imagination. Lee looked tired but he realized yesterday had been very stressful on her and Johnny.
“So have the other doctors been in yet?” Lee asked as she shifted slightly in the chair. She couldn’t ever remember being this uncomfortable around Johnny.
“No but they just got the preliminary test results. Jeff has a serious kidney infection that we are treating. There is some more tests we will be running to see if we can find the cause. Because of the severity of the kidney infection there is some other problems but we are also addressing them. I would say you’ll be here at least a week then some time resting and making sure the infection is responding. There is a possibility of surgery if what I suspect is correct. But we aren’t addressing that until we have more information.” He looked at Johnny and Lee. “I’m right in assuming Jeff will be staying with you?”
“Yes.” Johnny replied. “There isn’t anywhere else he should be. He is family and families stick together. Especially when someone is ill or having a problem. You don’t blow someone off just because you don’t think something is important or because it’s embarrassing or just because they didn’t feel like sharing. Sharing information and feelings are important in a family.”
Lee and Kel recognized a full blown Gage rant. Jeff had heard about them but had never seen one before. Lee looked like she was ready to cry, Jeff looked uncomfortable rather from the tension or physical pain no one was sure.
“If you don’t have any more questions for me, I’ll go back downstairs and get back to work. I’ll stop by before I leave for home tonight.”
Lee started to say something but changed her mind. Now wasn’t the time or place to get into what was probably going to be a heated discussion. Did Johnny really think she had blown him off because she had gone up to see Jeff before She saw him?
She had gone to see him first because they told her he would be another 10 to 15 minutes with the breathing treatment. And that had been before Kel had assured her that Jeff was not dying.
That reminded Lee she needed to find out who had sent that message and why it was phrased that way. She was sure there was more to the story than just an accidental case of over medication. It also explained why April and Mark were here. She knew more about Jeff’s job than she could share with Johnny for security reasons. She had seriously been considering going with him to Washington D.C. or to the New York office before she and Johnny had started dating. She had met with some people and learned somethings about their operations and missions.
“Miss Chloe Elizabeth is doing so good. She is growing and getting prettier every day. She has this wonderful smile and she makes the sweetest cooing sounds. Especially when her daddy has her up on his shoulder.” She looked over to Johnny. “John Roderick, did you put the picture of her I in her lady bug dress in your wallet?
“No. I have the one of her and the girls on the blanket out at the grove.” He got it out and handed it to Jeff.
“I’ve got a journal started for you. Sort of a story book illustrated by Johnny’s pictures of her. I started one for Matt too and one for Johnny’s aunt Rosemary.” They only stayed a little while longer because they could see Jeff was getting tired.
“If you’re hungry we can stop for lunch.” Lee said as they pulled out of the parking lot.
“I’m not hungry. I have work to do in the grove if I’m going to get it done in time for the Fourth. I suppose you’ll want to go back to the hospital later.”
Once they got home Lee went into check on the sleeping baby while Johnny changed into his work clothes.
“Ibbie, did you plan on staying all day or going home then coming back?” Lee asked when she went out to the kitchen.
“Staying, because I didn’t know what your plans were exactly.”
“I’m going do some laps. Did you get some lunch?”
“Not yet. I had a late breakfast before I came. My Carla and I met for breakfast at Oshea’s’ It’s one of our favorite places. Shelia and Mick were asking about Johnny after reading about him and Roy and seeing the story on TV.”
“Ok. Well just help yourself and pretend I’m not here. If anyone except the hospital or Jeff calls I’m not available, ok? Oh and we have friends staying in the pool house…you know the drill.”
Lee went in and changed then out to the pool. She swam slowly at first getting her muscles relaxed and just letting her mind half listening to the tape she had turned on before getting into the pool. It was a soft jazz tape that Frankie had Ortega had given her when she was in the hospital.
Actually it was a replacement since the original had worn out. The longer she swam the faster her laps became. She had lost count at 20 but she kept swimming. “You training for a race?” She looked up surprised. She hadn’t \noticed anyone coming out to the pool deck.
“No just catching up on my laps. I didn’t do my exercises before we left to see Jeff. I don’t suppose you could tell me where he was when he got sick or what he was doing?”
“No, it is against protocol. Let’s just say he was on a tropical island that wasn’t a paradise.” April answered. “We saw him just before we came back from our errands. “He said we were in for a treat with you cooking for us.”
“He may be a bit bias. I lived on a tropical island that was until I was 7. My mom kept a journal that I found not too long ago. She said my dad thought I was going to be a marine biologist. I wanted to be a Marine then.”
“Jeff talked about his brother some one night. Sounds like he was a great guy.”
“Is Jeff still seeing Gina? Should we let her know he is in the hospital?”
“She is in London or Paris right now. She knows, Napoleon called her. She’ll be kept updated. Wish I had brought as suit. The water looks good.”
“There is a drawer full of suits in the changing area. I buy one every so often when I see one I like or there is a sale. Different sizes and styles. There is one in the guy’s area too. Not sure if any of mine would fit you but you could check if you’d like.”
Johnny finished unloading the mulch from the trailer that he had hitched up to the riding mower. His back and shoulders had protested when he first started but as he worked they relaxed.
He had a cooler of fixed on the trailer he had filled with ice and water before coming out there. He spread the mulch inside the ring of rocks he had arranged at the base of one of the trees.
The boys had earned some spending money by carrying the rocks from the creek to the girls who arranged them. The ring wasn’t perfectly round but Jen and Stacy had worked hard making it then planting the moss and wild flowers in it. They had two more trees to do.
The open sided shelter house he had built was finished and had been given a coat of water proofing paint. The fire pit was done. It was one of their first things he had built.
The stone barbecue had been his next major project out there. Roy and the guys had helped with the shelter house and he was thinking about adding storage benches along one side. This was his place and he took pride in all he had built.
But today it was a place to work off his anger. At first he was angry at Lee. Now, he had progressed to being angry at himself for being angry at her. When he went back to the house he would explain why he had acted like that and tell her he was sorry. Feeling much better about everything he continued to work. Once he had the form the Forest Service he had made good progress on his pond project.
Lee and April finished swimming and Lee went inside giving her friend some privacy to contact her office. After a quick shower Lee went out to the kitchen. She cleaned the fresh green beams they had gotten at the farmer’s market then put them in the crock pot with some small red potatoes and ham to slow cook. She feed Chloe and changed her then rocked her for a while. It was relaxing for both with a tape of children’s songs playing in the background.
“When Johnny comes in tell him I went back to Rampart. I should be home around 6. I put a load of diapers in the washer after I put Chloe down for her nap. I am assuming he has his HT with him if you need him.”
“We’ll be fine. Don’t you think you should eat something before you go?’ Ibbie knew Johnny didn’t like her skipping meals.
“I’ll grab something at my office before I go into see Jeff.”
Johnny came back from the grove feeling a lot better about what had happened earlier. He had been tired, had a head ache and just over reacted. Lee would understand. She always did.
He went in for a quick shower. When he got out of the shower he dressed in a LACFD tee shirt and a pair of old cut offs. He went into check on Chloe. She was awake so he picked her up. She curled up on his shoulder and let out a contented coo.
Deciding he was hungry he went out to the kitchen. The smell when he lifted the lid on the crockpot made his stomach growl. “Just wait until you can eat your mama’s cooking. She makes the best corn bread. It’s almost more like cake than corn bread. Wonder where she is? Maybe in the laundry room or out talking to April. Ya know your Uncle Jeff works for this super-secret company…I’m not sure exactly sure what he does but it helps keep people all over the world safe. My job is to keep people safe and help them when they aren’t. I was talking to your Uncle Roy and maybe instead of being a paramedic I’ll be a captain. Just like your Uncle Hank…hopefully as good of one as he is. I know Roy will be a great captain like Hank…Your uncles will never hurt you like mine hurt me. No one is ever going to hurt you if your mama and I can prevent it. All your uncles will help as well as Hector and Cisco and all our other friends. I was a jerk earlier and probably hurt your mom’s feelings. But I’m pretty sure she’ll forgive me.”
He was making a sandwich one handed as he talked. “You are so lucky to have such an understanding mom. Your Grandma Katie was like that. She would always tell me to learn from my mistakes and to trust in the Great Spirit that he would be there. You and your mom are His gifts to me…and to the rest of the world you’ll impact. He took her over to the bassinet. Getting some milk to drink he settled in his recliner to wait for Lee. It wasn’t long after finishing his milk he was asleep.
Lee was sitting by Jeff’s bed reading grand applications. She felt him watching her.
“Hi. Have a nice nap?” She asked putting down the folder.
‘” What are you doing?”
“Paper work and watching you sleep. Think you spent a lot of time doing that when I was 16.”
“So Kel told you?” Not sure if he was upset or angry. “What happen to patient confidentiality?”
“You signed a paper saying I was your next of kin, remember?
When I turned 18 and you never changed it. Mine is you, Johnny and Roy.”
“Where is Johnny?”
“Home working on the grove. We are having a party so he wants everything done by the first of July.”
“Everything alright with you two? He seemed a little distracted when he was here earlier.”
“We’re fine. I think he still had a headache from the chemical spill at the garden store. They had to wash his eyes out a couple of times before they stopped stinging then they were blurry the rest of the day. You know him, he doesn’t sit still well.” She smiled. “unless he is holding Chloe then he is fine. She likes to move around so he walks her and talks to her. I heard him one day explaining to her why he was the one who always walked with her but that when she was older she would love sitting on my lap as I wheeled her places. He has some very interesting conversations with her that I get to hear sometimes. Sometimes they are in English but sometimes they are in Cheyenne. He sounds sad sometimes when he tells her about his parents.”
They both knew she was avoiding what they really needed to be talking about. “When are they going to do the exploratory surgery?”
“Soon as the get the infection cleared up. The X-rays and the Cat scan just showed some blockage. The can’t tell what kind from that and all the blood work isn’t in yet. It maybe scars tissue or it may be something worse. Whatever it is we’ll deal with. What is important is that whatever it is you accept it for what it is. The one doctor was talking the possibility of a kidney transplant. We’d have to do non relative donor search for that.”
“If I’m not a match.”
“No you wouldn’t even be considered for a donor. You have a history of having problems with scar tissue forming after any procedure.”
“Plus people in wheelchairs have a higher tendency to kidney infections. I remember the lectures.”
“Still drinking two glasses of water for each can of Dr. Pepper? Wasn’t that Maria’s rule?”
“Some days. She and Hector were out to the house last week. Hector was giving Johnny advice on his pond building. When he got that wood working shop for Christmas I never would have guessed what all he would make. He made me a chair for out there and one for the pool. They are wide enough for two and the back is just at the perfect angle for me. He is already planning the big girl bed he is going to do for Chloe when she moves out of the crib. The cradle is what we use when she is in the front room and the bassinette is what we used in our room. We have a pretty good system set up and of course with great back up. April and Mark said they were coming over this evening so I may come back with them.”
“Johnny isn’t coming with you tonight?” Jeff was getting concerned about her and Johnny. Had they had a fight?
“I don’t know. He is usually pretty tired from working out there all day. Plus, I’m not sure if he needs to be driving at night. His eyes were still blurry.”
Johnny woke up when he heard Chloe crying as Ibbie was carrying her out to the kitchen.
“Bring her over to me, please.” He looked at the clock. “Is Lee still out in the pool house?”
“No she left about two hours ago to visit Jeff. I thought she called you on the HT to tell you that. She said if I needed you for anything to call you.”
“Did she says when she would be back?”
“Around 6. It’s 5:45.”
“Thanks. Look, why don’t you go on home. Me and the Ladybug will be just fine. Thanks for changing your plans for us.”
“I am always glad to come see this little one and help her parents. She is such a good baby, truly a gift from God. Our daughter and her family will be moving here in a few months. Her husband is not reenlisting” Ibbie had married when she was 16 and had her daughter when she was 18. Her daughter had married when she was 17 and was expecting her first child. Ibbie had talked to Lee about helping her daughter and son in law get settled once he got home from Japan.
“You take care and I guess I’ll see you in the morning. As far as I know Lee is going to work.”
Lee pulled into her parking spot a little after six. Johnny and Chloe were in the porch swing. Keeping a smile on her face she got out of the car and wheeled over to them. Johnny didn’t smile as she moved towards them and her heart sunk.
“You two look content.” She said trying to sound normal. She didn’t want him to see she was in a panic.
“Just taking it easy. How was Jeff?” Johnny asked. He really did care about the man he considered his father -in-law.
“He was more awake. The blood work isn’t all ibn yet but it looks ice he’ll be having surgery within the next week or so. Depending on how the infection responds to the drugs. “Ibbie leave?”
“Yeah about 20 minutes ago. Said she would see you at the regular time unless you called for her to come earlier. Did you talk to anyone else while you were there?”
“Not really said hi to Dixie as I was leaving. She asked how you were doing. I told her you were feeling better. Your eyes look better.”
They feel better. You going back to the hospital tonight?”
“No, Jeff doesn’t want me driving alone at night. I think April and Mark maybe going out but they are going somewhere else afterwards. “Told them we would be eating in about a half hour so I better go finish up dinner. She looks so content in your arms.”
She didn’t wait on him to answer but went inside to finish up dinner. She made the cornbread knowing it was one of his favorites. Maybe it was wishful thinking on her part but if she made him one of his favorite meals maybe he wouldn’t be so angry. The worst part was not knowing what she did wrong. Dinner was pleasant, Johnny being a good host did not want his guest to feel uncomfortable even if he was. Lee was just glad that he seemed happier and more relaxed.
April and Mark helped to clear the table then left to visit Jeff for a few minutes before going off on whatever errands they had. Lee put the dishes in the dishwasher then went into check on Chloe. She wasn’t really surprised to see Johnny giving her a bath and getting her ready for the night. At first she had been uneasy with him doing so much of the care but had come to realize how important it was to him. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her to do it but he needed to have that on hands relationship with Chloe. She wheeled quietly down to the sunroom to work on the journals she had begun for Jeff and Matt. Hoping that Johnny would come in and talk to her.
Johnny felt her watching him and waited for her to say something. She had been pleasant but distant during dinner. It was an odd unpleasant feeling to be so awkward around her. Even when they had been fighting over her going to Lame Deer there hadn’t been this coldness he felt now. Then there had been a heated passion. Leaving the nursery, he went to the door of the sunroom.
“If you don’t need anything I’m going for a run. I’ll take the HT if you need anything.”
“Did you take your breathing treatment this afternoon?” Not sure if running was a good idea but not wanting to sound critical of him. “Be careful.”
“Yes I did the breathing treatment and yes I will be careful.” He left.
Johnny fed Chloe while Lee cooked breakfast. Just as Johnny finished Ibbie came. Lee excused herself and went into change into a swim suit. Johnny was ready to walk out to the grove.
“Have a good day and stay safe, all of you.” She told him. “Maybe a I’ll see you at the office?”
“Just depends on the day. Tell Jeff I asked about him. Not sure if I’ll be able to run up there.”
Lee was glad Ibbie was in with Chloe and had not watched Johnny walk out of the door. Lee could never remember a time when he had left without saying I love you and giving her a kiss. As she watched him start down the lane she whispered “I love you Boyo.”
It did not take her long to do 5 laps then she went in and got ready for work. She fed Chloe then gathered up her stuff.
“I’m not sure what time I’ll be home. Depends on how much time I can spend with Jeff today. Call if you need anything.”
“I will. Marco and his mama said a prayer and lite candles for your uncle yesterday. I talked to him last night.”
“Thank you that means a lot…Having friends and family supporting you is so important.”
Station 51 A shift was not in a good mood. Chet was still on his high horse and stewing over what Johnny had said about his cooking.
Mike was in a foul mood because somehow on the last shift Big Red had gotten a nasty ding on the driver’s side door. Mike thought it looked like a fist but the story was a rock had hit it.
Cap was not happy about the additional documentation HQ was wanting about how the window in the dorm had gotten broken.
Roy had had car trouble and was last one in for roll call earning latrine duty. Johnny was a plain old fashion grump.
“What’s wrong Gage? Chloe keep you up all night?” Chet asked seeing the scowl on Johnny’s face.
“Is Lee’s uncle feeling any better?” Marco asked as he came into the kitchen.
“Ibbie told mama that Lee was pretty worried about him.”
“No Chloe did not keep me up and I don’t know how Jeff is they are still running test. Lee sad he was more alert so that’s good news.”
“So what you cooking today Gage? I didn’t see any of the care packages Lee sends us when you cook.”
“Lee doesn’t Always send food in when I cook. Seems to me she sends it in to us more when she thinks it’s your turn.” His tone was as nasty as the look on his face. “So you just keep her and my family out of the conversation.” He stormed out of the room.
“Who spit in his beer?” Chet asked shocked at the reaction he had got.
“Lay off, Kelly. He got hurt on his day off, Lee’s uncle is seriously ill and he is worried about how Lee is holding up.” Cap said. “You understand?”
“Yeah I understand," he said outloud. To himself it wasn’t so positive. ‘Muller is right; Gage is the golden boy because he has a rich bitch wife. They aren’t going to do anything to make him mad so she keeps pouring money into the department charities. Him and Roy just did the same thing any of us would have done the other day.
Still muttering to himself Chet went off to do his chores. Morning checks were done quickly and quietly as both paramedics were nursing their own grudges. They went off to do their individually assigned chores. Roy was trying to figure how the stem on his back tire had been damaged while doing the dorm.
Johnny was alternating between Chet’s attitude and Lee’s behavior as he swept and mopped the bay. Yeah he had snapped at her but that wasn’t such a big deal. She shouldn’t have lied to him. He had never known her to do that before except what she called Christmas and birthday fibs. Since Chloe had been born they had worked at not keeping their feelings hidden from each other and the first real problem…He was deep in thought and didn’t hear Roy come into the bay.
“You ready to go to the store?” Roy asked as he watched Johnny swab the floor with a vengeance. “Then we swing over to Rampart and pick up the things we are low on.”
“Yeah soon as I put this away.” Johnny replied glad for the change. Roy waited out in the kitchen for Johnny.
“Any clue what Gage is making for lunch or dinner?” The Irishman was still defensive over what he considered unfair treatment that morning.
“No, but I would guess it’ll be edible.” He didn’t want to get in the middle of another feud between Johnny and Chet. It worried him he would see the shift break apart because of their feuding.
Roy let Johnny chose the topic of conversation as they drove to Rampart. He knew him well enough to know something more than Chet was bothering him.
“The pond is filling up so in a few days I can talk with Stan Keaton about getting the fish in there. He said for the size of the pond it shouldn’t be a problem adding the sun fish and blue gills. He suggested I start this season out with either bass or trout but not both.” He sounded excited and happy about the progress of his latest project. “Once we get the rest of the planting done out there it should be in great shape for the party.”
“You going to let them fish that day?” Roy had overheard Chris and Jimmy planning on doing a lot of fishing there.
“Probably not. There’s going to be so much going on there an up at the house. I know a couple of the guys from B shift said they would be willing to help life guard and to help with the grills. Lee is going to order the ribs from the guy who supplies O’Sheas’ and the soda and a keg from Jamie Frasier like usual. Her and Emily are in charge of the food. Someone from B shift is in charge of games and prizes for the kids. Between the two shifts and friends they are inviting it looks like we’ll have about 75 people coming. Murphy asked if there was going to be a volleyball game between the two shifts.”
They reached Rampart and went in to get the supplies they needed. It was busy as usual and took a while before anyone could stop and check them out after they had everything assembled.
“You going up to see Lee and check on Jeff?”
“We better not, it’s getting late so we better get to the store so I can do lunch.”
At the store Johnny picked up some pork chops and vegetables for a salad. He decided instead of potatoes he would make some mac and cheese for dinner. For lunch he got lunch meat, deli salads and chips. There was a pecan pie in the bakery and he got it. He was really glad that Stevie and his dad weren’t working.
Roy put the meat and veggies away as Johnny started frying bacon. Once it was started he cleaned the lettuce and sliced the tomatoes. The first of the bacon was on paper towels and he had just started another pan of it when the SCU called the squad out. Stoker volunteered to finish lunch.
“Gage thinks he’s pretty slick just giving us sandwiches. What do we get tonight? Left over deli stuff and hot dogs?”
“He has the stuff for tonight in the fridge. What’s your problem with lunch? It’s hot out and salad and sandwiches sound good. He got the good thick cut bacon for the sandwiches.”
“Yeah stick up for him.” Kelly muttered as he left the kitchen.
The squad reached the address given but found nothing. The call had been for an injured biker. There were some skid marks but no sign of blood or anyone. They checked with dispatch to make sure they were at the right place. They confirmed the location then drove slowly down the road in case someone had gotten the mile marker wrong. After a half hour they called back to dispatch and headed home.
Ten minutes later they were called to an MVA. They reached the site before the engine and began checking cars. At first it looked as if it was mostly fender benders.
John went up to a small blue sports car. He could see two men and a woman jammed up against a garden center truck. Johnny realized this was from the same store they had been in earlier that week. He placed his fingers gently on the man’s neck but the odd angle of it really didn’t give him much hope. The man in the back started to move. “Stay still. My name is John and I’m a paramedic with L.A. County fire department. We’ll get you out but you need to stay still.”
“My wife…is she ok?” The man had blood running down his face from a split forehead. She doesn’t like sitting back here, says it’s too cramped.”
“Let me get your friend out of here then we’ll be able to see to your wife. She’s breathing so that’s a good sign.” Quickly and as gently as possible John got the driver, laying him on the ground away from the car. Scooting back into the car he slid over and took the woman’s pulse. It was steady if a little rapid. “What’s your wife’s name?”
“Christy…we were on our way to pick up our car. Kent the guy driving was like her boss’ second cousin…He was kind of like a gofer.” Johnny checked her eyes and respiration.
“I’m going to go get some equipment, she’s doing ok…Be back real soon.” Johnny backed out of the car and headed over to the squad. Cap had Chet pulling battery wires and Marco was spraying down a truck that was overheating.
“How’s it looking over there?” Cap asked as Johnny.
“One code F but the other two are doing ok. The wife is semi-conscious. I’m going to need some help getting her out…The dash is pushed in so we’re going to have to pry her out. The jaws should work.” He glanced around looking for Roy. '
“He’s over by the engine.” Mike had set up a couple of the blankets near the engine for any victims. “Marco, go with Gage.”
The two firefighters worked well together and soon had the woman out. A quick check didn’t show any spinal injuries or broken bones. They used the backboard as a stretcher to carry her over to the engine. Roy was there starting an IV on an older gentleman and there were several who would be classified as walking wounded which now included Christy’s husband.
“I’m going back to check on the driver. Man that place is having a run of bad luck.” He jogged off towards the truck. Cap turned to Chet who had finished pulling the battery wires and had come to see what he needed to do next.
“Help Roy. The ambulances should be here soon.” The first of the tow trucks had arrived as Hank and Johnny were talking.
Roy finished with what he could do at that point. Leaving Chet to watch the one victim with an IV he went over to where Johnny was.
“What you got?” He asked as he stepped up on the truck’s running board.
“A couple of kids. They’re stoned. The smoke hit me when I opened the door.” He had crawled inside the truck to check on the passenger after getting the driver out. The driver was sitting on the ground smiling and humming a song by the rolling Stones. Even rolling the passenger side window hadn’t helped the smell much.
The boy who looked to be about 18 had a cut on his head that was bleeding freely. Johnny used his pen light to check his eyes. They were reactive but sluggish. Johnny wasn’t sure if it was from the head injury or the marijuana. Checking for broken bones or spinal injuries he decided it was ok to move him.
About the time they got him out of the truck Cap and Sam Kline came over to the truck.
“Need some help Pal?” He saw the dazed look on Johnny’s face and the grin on Roy’s. “He ok?”
“Just some second hand smoke.” Roy giggled and realized he had inhaled some of that smoke also. “These will probably be fine. Cap you’re going to have to tell Rampart we can’t do much paramedicing right now.”
“Paramedicing? Is that even a word?” Sam said laughing at the strait laced
“It is now. Look, I’ll have Chet drive the squad in…Can you take these two into Rampart?”
“Sure…Think they’ll give me any trouble? Should I hand cuff them?”
“New they look pretty harmless to me.” Hank laughed glad his men were fine. The last of the tow trucks soon left and he and the crewed finished cleaning up.
Dr. Brackett looked the paramedics over and said they would be fine. After a few minutes on O2 he sent them up to Lee’s office since Johnny was complaining about missing lunch and Roy also admitted he was hungry.
“I don’t think she is there; she’s been with Jeff most of the day.” Kelly Brackett told them as he left the room.
Johnny fixed a sandwich and got a bag of chips and some cupcakes then went over to the conference table. He had taken two cartons of chocolate milk to the table also. Roy shook his head at the amount of food his partner had put on the tray.
“You going to go see Jeff when you finish?” Brackett had stood the squad down for 90 minutes just to be sure the effects of the smoke had passed.
“I guess I should. We didn’t talk much this morning. She is pretty mad at me, I think.”
“You don’t know for sure if she is mad or not?” That surprised him because usually when she was mad Johnny knew it and knew the reason. She could be very vocal when angry.
“She has been a little cool and distracted lately. I guess it’s my fault for the way I acted the other morning.” He gulped down the milk and sat looking at the empty glass. “I got all bent out of shape when I found out she had passed out and no one told me.” He sat the glass down and opened the other carton of milk. “Not only didn’t she tell me she passed out there was a problem with her blood pressure going way off the chart. She was almost to stroke level. And she never mentioned it, nor did anyone else. Kathy must have been worried about it because she called the next morning to see how we both were. I don’t think she was even going to tell me then but it slipped out. I got all bent out of shape and …I mean what if it’s the start of something serious? Why wouldn’t she tell me? She not only is putting herself at risk but Chloe too. What if she was alone with Chloe and something happen? What would I do if something happens to either one of them?”
“Did you try explaining that to her?”
“Kind of hard to explain anything when we aren’t talking. Do you think she even cared I left this morning without saying I love you? That is something I promised myself I would never do. I didn’t kiss her and barely said bye.”
“I wouldn’t wait till tomorrow. I’d go down and see her right now and then call Nana and have a great big I’m sorry bouquet sent to the house.” Roy hadn’t seen his friend look this sad in ages. Even when it looked like there wasn’t going own. to be any adoption in their future had Johnny hadn’t seemed so down. “Why don’t you go on down there?”
“Scared of what she’ll say…. or not say. What if she is so mad she doesn’t want to talk to me?” '
“I don’t think that is very likely. Besides, I figure the longer you put it off the worst it’ll be. How mad can she be? You know she loves you…And she will forgive you, especially after all the stuff at the garden center. Let her know you over reacted because the thought of something bad happening to her on top of everything else just made you a little crazy.”
What would Jo do if you acted that way?"
“Probably tell me to get over myself. She doesn’t pull her punches and neither does Lee. I bet Lee is as unhappy as you are. We’ve got some time before someone is here to pick us up…go see her.”
Roy had seen Johnny this emotional before, especially when they had first begun their special bond and Johnny sharing the story of his life. The world often saw the happy go lucky over grown kid when he wasn’t being the ultimate professional.
Roy and Jo had seen the hurt and turmoil behind the kid. Now they saw the John Gage that was a devoted husband and father. A man who loved his family and friends and who was finally happy with himself. The old scars and memories would always be there they just were buried deeper each day as new memories formed a protective layer over his heart and soul.
“Do you really think she’ll forgive me?”
“Yes and even more I think she’ll understand.”
Lee was in Jeff’s room waiting for him to come back from another CAT scan. The newest blood work showed the infection was now under control and that it was time to start making some decisions about future treatment.
She knew it was his choice but she was still unhappy about him refusing to even consider her getting tested for a match.
Kel and the kidney specialist had been in before they took Jeff and she had been able to ask some questions and the answers had been a little reassuring.
Lee couldn’t imagine what it would be like not to have Jeff in her life and didn’t even want to try. That brought up a newer worry…Johnny. She still had no idea what she had done to make him so angry. She couldn’t believe it was because she had gone to Jeff’s room before seeing him the other day. He had been fine the next morning until he came out of the bedroom. Did he think she had ignored Chloe in some way? She was lost in thought when the door opened and she saw Johnny coming towards her.
“Can I come in?” He asked almost shyly.
She thought he looked like a little boy who knew he was in trouble with his mom. “” Of course. You alright? Your eyes bothering you?”
“Just a little smoke. Have the doctors told you anything new?”
“Not really. He is responding to the antibiotics and his fever hasn’t been over 99 today. They aren’t ruling out surgery with the next 72 hours. They are hoping this scan gives them a clearer picture of the mass.”
“Look, about the way I acted this morning…I was being a jerk…Guess it was just that…well…you went to the hospital without me…and then…before that…you…. you didn’t …. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what? You were so angry and wouldn’t tell me why. I love you with all my heart but I can’t read your mind. Sometimes I can read your eyes or your expression but all I saw the other day was anger...Boyo, please, I need you now…I’m so scared for Jeff and feel so alone…I was so scared the other night…I thought I was going to lose both of you…”
“I was mad because I was scared something was really seriously wrong with you. You didn’t tell me you fainted or your heart was skipping beats and your blood pressure was off the chart. Don’t you know how important you are to me? To Chloe? I don’t want our daughter to grow up like we did. I want her to have both her parents to love her and be a family. It hurt my feelings I guess, that you didn’t trust me enough to tell me.”
“I honestly didn’t think it was any big deal…I was so grateful that you were going to be ok…When I heard you were on your way in from a chemical spill and they still hadn’t told me anything about Jeff. The message I had gotten about him made it sound as if he was dying…I just wanted you both safe and …I trust you with my life…even more so now we have Chloe. …As much as I love Matt and Jeff…you are the two most important people in my life.”
He kissed her as he knelt down in front of her. She put her hand around his neck, pulling him closer. Neither heard the door open or Roy come into the room.
“Sorry to intrude but Chet is here to take us back to the station.” He was glad that whatever had been bothering the two was resolved.
“John, you think your head is clear enough to go up on the hose tower?”
“Cap, when has Gage ever had a clear head?” The linesman quipped.
“Funny, Kelly.” Johnny responded. “No problem Cap.”
They finished hanging the hoses and Johnny went into the kitchen to start thinking about dinner. It was a nice day and he didn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen. He swiftly got a rub on the chops then got the macaroni on to boil and made his cheese sauce.
Once that was in the oven he went outside and started the grill. While that was heating he went back in and made a salad. He took a container of cool whip from the freezer and pulled out a loaf of garlic cheese bread. He had gotten some garlic cheese bread at the store and sat it out to heat later.
Once he pulled the mac and cheese out he’d stick the pie in the turned off oven with the door ajar. He went out to check the grill. The coals looked just about right so he went back in to get the pork chops so they could start cooking.
Chet had watched Johnny cooking and had decided now was the first step in discrediting the paramedic’s efforts. He turned up the oven and then went outside where the rest of the crew was relaxing. Johnny had the pork chops cooking and they smelled really good.
“Gage, you going to put some barbeque sauce on them?” Chet quizzed.
“Hadn’t planned on it…I used the dry rub recipe that Hector uses when he cooks out. “There is a bottle of barbeque sauce in the fridge.”
“Smelling good there, Pal” Cap said as he sat down at the table with an ice tea.
“Did you see Lee when you were at the hospital?” He had been wondering but wasn’t sure if he should ask since John had been in such a bad mood earlier.
But his mood had improved since coming back from Rampart. “Just for a minute or two. Jeff was having another CAT scan done so they still don’t know anything for sure. The good news is the infection is responding and his temperature is almost normal.”
The shrill sound of the smoke alarm jarred everyone. Cap closely followed by John entered the smoky kitchen.
Cap grabbed the fire extinguisher from the wall as a precaution before John opened the oven door. The thick black smoke rolled out of the oven causing the men nearest to the oven to start coughing. Carefully Johnny carried the blacken dish to the counter and sat it down.
Unfortunately, the wet counter caused the overheated baking dish to break.
The hot gooey mess splattered onto Johnny hand. The yelp of pain was followed by a few words that anyone seldom heard from Johnny. Without a word Chet went to the squad for the trauma box while Roy had pulled the injured hand underneath cold running water. Marco left the kitchen without a word when he remembered the pork chops on the grill. Johnny felt bad enough about the mac and cheese he didn’t want his friend to be upset if the chops burned.
Chet brought the box in and sat it down next to Roy then backed off. He was feeling really guilty. He had wanted to prove to Gage and the others that Gage wasn’t a master chef and his food wasn’t always perfect. He hadn’t intended for anyone to get hurt. Cap had noted the stove setting when he turned the oven off. It was set at 500 degrees. That didn’t seem like a mistake John would make.
“How’s it looking?”
Cap asked as Roy began wrapping the hand loosely with wet gauze.
“It’s blistered pretty bad…I think they need to check it out at Rampart.”
It did not escape anyone’s notice that Johnny did not protest the idea.
“Get going, I’ll call it in.”
Cap went over to the mike. “Dispatch we have a silent alarm here at the station. Squad 51 is not available until further notice."
“Station 51 do you need an ambulance?”
“No, we will be transporting by squad.”
To be continued
Posted to Site 7/9/16
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