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Educating Chester by Mypiot
Johnny Gage sat on the bench in front of the open door of his locker, as he prepared to start his twenty four hour shift.
He had arrived uncharacteristically early this morning, which was not usually his custom. But he had been too excited to sleep the night before, and so finally at a quarter to five in the morning, he got up and made himself a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and coffee.
Then he had gone out and taken care of his horses and allowed himself an extra-long hot shower afterwards.
He had been on the road shortly before seven, and had arrived at the station just at seven thirty. The reason for his excitement was simple. The day before had been the day they had celebrated Thanksgiving. It had been two days late, but the A shift had been scheduled to work a forty eight hour shift on the actual day.
In return they were going to get both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off this year. B shift would be working Christmas Eve, and C shift would take Christmas Day.
As was his usual habit these past three or four years, Johnny had dined with the DeSoto’s this Thanksgiving… his adopted family.
It had been during dessert that Joanne’s sister Elaine and her husband David announced that this year they had promised Joanne’s parents that they would fly upstate and share Christmas with them. This would be the first time in over five years that Elaine and David would not be at Roy and Joanne’s for the holidays.
As much as she was going to miss her sister’s company, Joanne had to reluctantly agree that it was only fair. She and Roy had not once, spent Christmas with her parents since they had been married and conversely, her parents had never been invited to their house for the holidays. And neither of those facts was ever likely to change.
The primary reason for that was Joanne’s mother. She had never forgiven Joanne for not marrying a wealthy doctor like Elaine had done. Whenever she visited with Joanne and the children, she seemed to spend every waking hour putting down everything about Roy, and everything he stood for.
Since her visits were sporadic at best, Joanne let her barbs pass. But Joanne had always flatly refused to let her mother ruin any holiday gatherings with her venomous attitude. So she had never been extended an invitation to come for any of the holiday celebrations.
After all they were holidays for her husband too, and Joanne was proud of who he was and what he did for a living, and she wouldn’t let her mother’s pettiness dampen the occasion for her family.
For the last four years, Johnny had also been spending his Christmas holidays at the DeSoto home. He had become part of their family shortly after he and Roy had become partners, and having no family of his own and living in a small dark apartment, he had always appreciated the inclusion in the DeSoto’s Yuletide festivities.
Last year, however he had purchased his own ranch and things had fallen into place nicely for the young man. As soon as he heard that it would be just him, Roy, Joanne and the kids this Christmas, his mind began to hatch a plan… Finally after Elaine and David had left, Johnny approached Roy and Joanne with his idea.
After years of going to the DeSoto’s for Christmas, he wanted to have them out to his ranch for the holidays for a change. Last Christmas he had only had his ranch for six weeks and he was still in the middle of renovating it in his spare time.
But this year, he had finished all the work, and it was certainly big enough to accommodate everyone for a few days. Johnny had been more than overjoyed, when both Roy and Joanne agreed to his request.
That conversation had been the reason Johnny hadn’t been able to sleep the night before… his mind was whirling with plans of how he wanted to decorate his home for the upcoming holiday season, and he hadn’t been able to settle down long enough to get any real sleep.
Even now, he was practically bouncing out of his skin in anticipation of the upcoming occasion. Smiling to himself he carefully slipped off the necklace that he always wore under his shirt, next to his heart, over the top of his head. He hung it carefully and lovingly on the special hook he had installed just especially for the item, in the back of his locker.
It was because those thoughts of Christmas were swirling around in his head that he didn’t notice that Chet had now arrived and had been watching him as he changed into his uniform.
It was only a moment later when Roy walked in and greeted his partner.
“Good morning Junior, what brings you into the station so early?”
Johnny grinned up at his partner. “I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited about all the things I want to do at the ranch to get ready for Christmas… I think I’m going to get a couple of trees, one for each end of the great room. Maybe we can all get together and go out to one of those tree farms and get one of those big ten footers to put in front of the big window. Then you guys can stay for supper and help me decorate it…do you think Joanne and the kids would go for that?”
Roy was about to tell Johnny not to go overboard, but stopped himself when he remembered how many Christmases as a child Johnny had had nothing. Seeing how excited he was over the whole idea, he just didn’t have the heart to try and rein him in.
He still remembered how awful he had felt earlier that summer, when Johnny had nearly been killed by a fire tornado, while fighting a brush fire.
As it was another firefighter had lost his life, and Johnny had spent months recovering from several broken bones, when he had jumped off the edge of a ravine to avoid being burned alive by the flames. For two days they had all thought Johnny had been killed. Even thinking back on it now, made Roy get a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
No, he decided. If going all out on Christmas was what would make Johnny happy, then he was all for it … and if anyone deserved a bit of happiness at Christmas time, it was Johnny Gage, because as far as Roy was concerned, he had a lot of Christmases to make up for.
“They’ll love it Junior, but only if you let us chip in on the cost of the trees… and we’ll bring something for supper with us. We’ll make an entire day of it… we’ll get together next weekend and see when will be a good time to plan for it.”
“Good deal.” Johnny said excitedly. “This is going to be a GREAT Christmas, Roy… you just wait and see.”
Chet watched as the two brothers, carried on with their companionable conversation as they finished getting dressed. As usual Chet was amazed, and maybe even a tad jealous at how well the two men got along together.
Gage and DeSoto and their friendship had become almost legendary in the department.
They could literally talk without speaking, communicating with a knowing glance or a small nod of the head. Most of the time Chet found the whole thing unnerving, but he also had moments where he was jealous over how close the two brothers were.
It was only a matter of a few minutes before both men were ready to start their shift. They closed up their lockers and made their way into the kitchen to join the outgoing C shift for a morning coffee.
Chet had seen Johnny slip something from around his neck and hang it in the back of his locker before he got dressed into his uniform.
He had seen John do this before; in fact it was a daily ritual with the young paramedic.
Chet’s curiosity was insatiable, and so as soon as roll call was over and everyone was going about doing their appointed chores, Chet slipped back into the locker room and opened the door to Johnny’s locker. He reached into the back to see what it was that Johnny was hiding back there.
Chet found the hook at the very back of Gage’s locker, and to his delight he discovered that the object in question was none other than a necklace.
It was obviously handmade, on a long strand of soft thin leather. It contained a small bone pendant with different symbols intricately carved on both sides of the bone, as well as finely coloured beads that had been just as intricately embroidered into the leather portions of the necklace.
Chet was in heaven … first of all, he could nail Johnny for wearing a necklace, (something Chet considered to be strictly for women and not for big, strong, strapping, macho, firemen.) Secondly, it was clearly native in design, so it was good for more jokes at Johnny’s expense from that angle.
Sure, Captain Stanley had suggested he lay off the native themed jokes a few months ago, after Johnny’s near death accident. But he hadn’t actually made it an order… it was more like a strongly worded suggestion, so he figured he could slip in one more prank about Johnny’s heritage before Cap actually did make it an order.
Chet carefully closed the door. He knew he would have to bide his time before he could put his plan into motion… besides he needed a few days to gather some “special” items to make his prank perfect.
By the time the next shift came, he was all prepared to pull off what he considered to be his best prank on Gage yet… Now all he needed was the opportune moment to set it all up. Just at that moment, the tones went off, calling the squad out to a man down call.
Bingo… it was now time to lay his trap.
Cap was in his office doing paper work. Mike and Marco were out back hanging hose. He had been assigned with kitchen duty. With Roy and Johnny out on a run, the timing couldn’t be any better.
Chet went over to the supply cupboard and retrieved the dummy they used when they practiced CPR or give demonstrations at the local schools.
He carefully dressed the dummy in the ‘Indian’ outfit he had bought at the local costume store. Once he had secured the feather headdress in place, he went out to Johnny’s locker, and quietly opened the door. He reached in and took the necklace from off its hook. He then slipped the necklace around the neck of the CPR dummy. Once he was satisfied with his work he took the dummy and hid it in the broom closet in the kitchen.
As soon Chet heard the squad back in, he grabbed the dummy and positioned it in as seductive a pose as he could, considering it was a dummy.
As soon as he heard Johnny and Roy’s voices out in the bay, he stuck his out the kitchen door and yelled, “Hey Gage, your sister’s here.”
He stood back against the fridge, already giggling as he imagined the look that he was about to see on Johnny’s face.
Johnny and Roy had just returned to the Station after their man down call. It turned out it was nothing more than a man who had climbed up onto the roof to fix some loose shingles, only to discover once he was up there, that he was terrified of heights and was afraid to move.
It hadn’t taken the paramedics long to help the man back down off the roof. Since the man hadn’t been injured there had been no reason to call for an ambulance.
All the way back to the station, Johnny had been talking animatedly and non-stop, about what his plans for their upcoming Christmas celebrations were going to entail. As much as Roy could find his constant chatter hard to take sometimes, he was pleased to see Johnny so happy.
In fact he was actually finding his enthusiasm and excitement contagious. But then Johnny had always brought out the lighter and more fun loving side of Roy. It was something Joanne had been grateful to his young partner for.
Johnny was just in the middle of listing off all of his favourite Christmas songs, when Chet’s voice drifted out into the bay… Hey Gage, your sister’s here…
Johnny looked over at Roy in confusion. “What on earth is he talking about Roy? I don’t have a sister.”
By this time Cap had come out of his office to see what Chet was yelling about now. Chet’s yells had also brought Mike and Marco in from out back of the station. It seemed that everyone wanted to meet Johnny’s sister… and no one was more curious than Johnny himself.
Johnny, Roy and Cap walked through the kitchen door to see what it was that Chet was yelling about.
Johnny took about four steps inside the room before he looked over and saw Chet’s homemade Indian woman lying on the couch, in what could best be described as an indecent pose.
Chet had expected Johnny’s usual rant, but instead his laugh stopped in his throat as he saw Johnny stop short and freeze in his tracks, as he let out a horrified gasp.
The entire crew looked over at their youngest crew member and saw a momentary flash of stunned agony cross Johnny’s features. The look of betrayal, pain and despair was overwhelming … it was as if Chet had physically walked over and cut out his heart.
It was then that Johnny noticed the necklace hanging around the neck of the dummy. The colour instantly drained out of his face and he began to tremble.
Johnny rushed over and snatched the necklace off of the dummy and he turned to face Chet. By now he was literally shaking uncontrollably and he had tears on his face. He could barely control the quiver in his voice as he practically screamed at Chet, “DON’T YOU EVER TOUCH THIS AGAIN!”
Suddenly Johnny stopped, as he looked around and saw that everyone was staring at him. The sudden silence in the room was almost suffocating.
Johnny just stood there trembling with tears on his face … all of his private anguish now openly exposed for all the guys to see. Raising his hand to cover his mouth, he turned and fled from the room.
The rest of them looked over at Roy. The older paramedic’s face was almost purple in anger. He was absolutely livid, and the utter look of rage on his face, made it look as if he really was about to murder Chet.
“You son of a bitch Kelly” Roy hissed out. “For two cents I’d knock you flat on your ass. Do you have any idea what you just did?” And with that he quickly turned and followed after his partner.
He had just stepped out the door, and was looking around for any indication as to where Johnny had fled to, when he felt Cap grab hold of his arm.
“Roy, I’m going to stand the squad down, while I call Gage in sick. There’s no way I want him climbing up any cliffs on a rescue, when he is so clearly upset. I want you to drive him home and make sure he’s alright. Then I think it’s time we had a little station meeting.”
Roy just nodded his head… the only thing he could think of now, was finding Johnny and getting him the hell away from Chet Kelly.
Roy just hoped that Johnny hadn’t climbed up to the top of that bloody hose tower again. But he immediately remembered that Mike and Marco had been in the middle of hanging hose, so it was unlikely he was there.
In the end, he found him lying on his bunk with his face to the wall. He still had the necklace in his hands. Roy could tell that Johnny was still trying to get control of his tears.
Roy quietly came up behind him and laid his hands on Johnny’s shoulders.
“Come on Junior,” he said softly. “Let’s get out of here.”
Johnny just nodded; he had no desire to be here anymore this shift.
Normally when Chet pranked him, he would get angry, and rant. Then he would threaten to find some way to retaliate. But this one had left him shaken, off balance and wounded. He didn’t know how to handle this one.
How could he explain to the others what had just happened without delving into areas of his life that he wasn’t prepared to share with anyone other than Roy… and that was because Roy and Joanne already knew.
Johnny couldn’t believe he had just had that outburst… but he had been caught completely off guard. Chet had totally blindsided him with this one, and he hadn’t had time to slip his outer protective shell in place before hand.
In the course of his life, Johnny had learned how to close himself off. He had learned never to ask for anything. He learned to never cry, or complain or show fear and weakness… to never hint at what he was really feeling inside.
Johnny had learned to bear all the indignities that had been heaped upon him, with stoicism. He had learned to bear his grief and his emotions, as well as physical pain and illness in silence.
And so he had built his fortress walls around his heart, and he kept the doors to that fortress locked and barricaded to all…It had been Roy who had begun to finally convince Johnny to allow Roy inside those walls and had allowed Johnny to express his emotions openly… at least with Roy and Joanne.
But this morning Johnny had been so caught up in his joy over Christmas that Chet had caught him at a weak moment, and he had let his pain show through for everyone at the station to see.
Now he was at loose ends about what to do next… he needed to get away, and he was more than happy to let Roy get him out of there right now.
Johnny had learned his life lessons long ago. From the time he was a small child, he knew what was expected of him. As a half breed, he understood where he fit in the grand scheme of things in society. At least in the eyes of certain people… especially on the reservation. And if he had happened to suffer from a brief lapse in memory regarding his place, his grandfather or someone equally as vicious had always been quick to bring him back around to reality… generally through the use of violence and pain.
Chet, he now realized, was no different than the others who had hurt him in the past. Chet’s weapon of choice just happened to be humiliation and belittlement. The worst part of it all was, that up until this prank, he had really thought that underneath it all, Chet had been his friend, and had really liked him… but apparently he’d been sorely mistaken.
While Johnny went into the bathroom to wash his face, Roy excused himself to slip into Cap’s office to make a quick phone call to Jo. He had absolutely no intention of leaving Johnny all by himself at the ranch. Lord only knew where he’d let his mind take him. But he needed to give Joanne a bit of a heads up that he was bringing home their little brother, who was badly in need of some TLC and understanding… and maybe just a bit of space to collect himself and get his bearings.
He quietly let Cap know he was leaving, and that he’d be back as quickly as he could.
Cap informed him, not to worry. Bellingham was looking for some overtime to earn extra cash for the holidays, and that he was more than happy to come in. The only hitch was that he wouldn’t arrive for almost two hours. That meant Roy had plenty of time to take Johnny home.
Johnny started to head out to his Rover, only to be stopped by Roy.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to drive Junior… I don’t think your mind is on the road right now. We’ll get your Rover to you tomorrow, for now I’m going to drive you home in my car.
Johnny didn’t bother to argue; he simply didn’t have the will or desire to fight with anyone right now. He just wanted to go home and forget.
Roy could happily have beat the living shit out of Chet for what he had done to Johnny, and he knew that he needed a break away from the station as much as Johnny did right now.
It had only been an hour ago, that Johnny was laughing, and excited about all he was planning for the Christmas holidays, and now here he was, crushed, wounded and fighting to hold back his tears. All because Chet didn’t know where to draw the line.
For the entire ride home, Johnny remained silently staring out the passenger side window of Roy’s car. His jaw was clenched tight, and the corners of his mouth were pulled down into a frown.
There was absolutely no evidence of the usual Gage energy in his body…there was only sadness. This Johnny was rigid and tense, and Roy didn’t think he’d ever seen Johnny this stressed in the entire time he had known him. Not even when his Aunt had died, or when he’d recounted his terrible childhood to Roy and Joanne a couple years earlier.
But both of those times Johnny had more or less volunteered the information, as if he had finally decided he had found someone he trusted enough to help carry the load he had been hauling around all alone for most of his life.
But this time he had been hit from behind and taken by surprise. This time it had been a blatant intrusion; and it was done in a place where Johnny felt safe and at ease. And it was a place he had every right to expect to be safe and free from this kind of shit.
Roy just couldn’t believe Chet’s callous and cruel behavior. For the first time ever, Roy himself began to wonder if Chet’s pranks aimed almost solely at Johnny weren’t because of Chet’s propensity to be a joker, but out of malice. That maybe Chet really did dislike Johnny because of his race.
But it just didn’t make sense, because Chet and Marco were the best of friends, and Chet clearly had no problem with the fact that Marco was not white.
Maybe it was Johnny himself that Chet didn’t like… but that didn’t make sense to Roy either. Everybody liked Johnny Gage. He seemed to just draw people towards him, like a magnet, regardless of age or gender.
Johnny just had a knack for putting people at ease. For all that he was awkward and shy when it came to letting people into his personal world, he was very well versed in how to connect with those people he came in daily contact with… not only the hurt, frightened or injured; but the people he worked with as well.
Johnny could display a natural charm and intelligence that disarmed people and made them warm to him almost instantly. He just made friends easily and everyone liked him… at least he thought everyone did, until today.
Chet’s prank hadn’t been about surprising someone with a bucket of water or short sheeting a bed… this had been sheer meanness. But one thing was for sure…it ended now. Johnny wasn’t all alone in the world anymore and Roy wasn’t going to just stand by and watch Johnny be hurt. And he sure as hell wasn’t going to let him be the victim of prejudice or hate.
Maybe no one had been there for Johnny when he was a child, but Johnny had a family now…he was part of his family; and it was a family that loved and cared about him.
When he got back to the station today, he and Chet were going to have it out once and for all. He’d make damn sure that his torment of Johnny ended. At this point Roy was more than willing to go to HQ himself and file a written complaint.
And if HQ didn’t step in and do something about it; then as far as Roy was concerned, he and Johnny would leave L.A. County and 51’s altogether.
He and Johnny had often been assigned to other areas to give demonstrations, and on several of those trips they had found themselves called in to help with a rescue. And it seemed everywhere they went they impressed those who had a chance to see them in action.
Consequently Johnny and Roy had had many job offers, should the two of them ever tire of L.A. and want a change of scenery. There had been several other stations and Counties that had made it clear that they would be welcomed there. And if push came to shove, Roy was prepared to do exactly that. The paramedic program had grown and spread all over California in the last four years, and L.A. County and Station 51 weren’t the only game in town anymore.
The only reason they had never considered moving on, had been the fact that the Station 51, A shift was such a great crew and they all had a natural ease around each other… they had all liked each other and considered themselves their own brand of ‘family’. But now it seemed like Chet may have fractured that, to a point beyond repair.
When Roy finally pulled into his driveway, he shut off the engine and turned to Johnny.
“Are you going to be okay Junior?” he asked; his voice full of concern.
Johnny shook his head. “No,” he quietly answered.
Roy knew that Johnny was still badly shaken by this whole event, by the very fact that he hadn’t kicked up any fuss about Roy bringing him back to his house instead of the ranch.
For Johnny’s part, his mind had been so preoccupied with what had happened back at the station that he hadn’t even been paying attention to where Roy was taking him. When he looked up and saw he was at Roy’s, he’d just assumed it was because Roy needed to get back to the station and get the squad back in service as quickly as possible and Roy’s house was a good half hour closer to the station than Johnny’s ranch was.
It didn’t matter that much to Johnny, he felt as much at home at Roy’s house as he did at his ranch, and quite frankly, as long he was able to get away from Chet right now, Roy could have taken him to the moon for all he cared.
Finally Johnny began to speak.
“You know Roy, I can fight my own battles … you don’t need to get into it with Chet when you go back to the station… besides I don’t want you getting into trouble or getting dragged into my shit,” he said quietly.
Roy’s voice was serious and he used Johnny’s given name instead of one of the nicknames he usually used.
“This isn’t a battle, and you’re not dragging me into anything. And the only shit in this situation is that bullshit Chet just pulled.”
“This isn’t just some disagreement or fight between you and Chet. This was an attack for no other reason than to be cruel and demean another co-worker. Chet has stepped way over the line this time and Cap’s going to have no other choice but to do something about it.”
“This isn’t just about you anymore. It’s about racist actions…intended or not. But it’s also about breaking departmental regulations about going into another man’s locker and stealing. Oh, I know he wasn’t stealing it in that sense of the word. But he went into another man’s locker and went through their personal belongings and took something without permission."
“That’s against the regulations and it’s against the law. If Chet isn’t called up onto the carpet for it, then both Cap and HQ are setting a dangerous precedent by looking the other way when it comes to bigotry and theft. You aren’t the only minority in the department… you aren’t even the only minority in the station.”
“There’s just no way that this is just about you and Chet anymore. This has crossed over into the realm of harassment, persecution and invasion of privacy. And Chet has to be made to understand that it’s not acceptable and won’t be tolerated… he has to learn that his actions have consequences.”
Johnny took in a shuddering breath.
“I can’t believe I reacted that way in front of Cap and the other guys. What am I going to do Roy? I’m going to be the laughing stock of the department once the word gets around, because there’s no way I can tell them why that necklace is so important to me or why I wear it.”
Johnny’s eyes widened in panic and he groaned… “What am I going to say to Cap and the guys next shift Roy?”
Roy put a steadying hand on Johnny’s shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“You don’t have to say anything Johnny…not if you don’t want to. And I can pretty well guarantee that no one outside of our shift will hear about it. This isn’t the kind of scuttlebutt that either Cap or HQ and especially Chet, is going to want to get out… gossip like this has a way of finding its way into the media. And that would be a public relations nightmare for the department… and trust me, it wouldn’t be you folks thought badly about.”
“As for the guys at the station, I’m pretty sure they’re going to understand if you don’t want to talk about it, and they’ll be more than willing to let the entire matter drop… I can guarantee you that much.”
Johnny looked over at Roy and gave him a sad smile.
“You know Roy; it wasn’t my choice to be born a half breed. I just had to take the hand I was dealt in life. But I want to make sure that Chet makes no mistake about the fact that I’m not ashamed of it either. And I never was … not even as a child when I was being picked on at school, or when the doctors looked down on me like I was scum…and certainly not when my grandparents were abusing me. I’m proud to be the son of both my father and my mother… and I’ll make no apologies to anyone for it. I wouldn’t change it even if I could. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else for my mother or my father.”
Roy smiled proudly.
“Good for you Junior, because I like you just the way you are, and there’s nothing about you that I would want changed either. You’re a hell of a man, a hell of a paramedic, and a hell of a kid brother. Don’t you ever forget that Junior… ever.”
Johnny smiled back, and then he looked down and began to gently finger the necklace he was still wearing. He looked over at Roy and then back at the necklace and he began to quietly speak once more.
“All that is left of my life with mom and dad, besides a few faded photographs and mementos that Vaska saved for me, are this necklace and my memories… And almost all my memories and certainly all my best memories are tied to this necklace. It’s a reminder of all my happiest moments with my parents. I associate this necklace with all their songs, their stories and their love for each other… and for me.”
“But this necklace also represents the last words I ever said to my mom…and the last words she ever said to me… the last time she told me that she loved me… it was the last gift she ever gave to me, and it was also the last time I ever saw them… and what Chet did to demean something that is so precious to me… well it just…”
Johnny’s voice began to break and the tears began to fall down his cheeks once more. At that point Roy pulled his distraught partner into a hug, as he let him release all the sadness that he had inside his heart. Roy’s anger welled up inside him once more. Chet had better be far, far away from him when he got back to the station… or at least he’d better hope he’d had a chance to cool down.
Roy stayed with Johnny at his house for another twenty minutes before he left him in the safety of Joanne’s tender loving care. Roy reluctantly made his way back outside to his car and headed back to the station.
Roy had briefly clued Joanne in when he had called her from the station, giving her all the basic details of what had happened. By the way Johnny was acting now, it was clear that he understood that Joanne had been told. But since Joanne already knew about his past, he hadn’t been bothered by that fact. And he seemed more than willing to accept Joanne’s support and love.
During the drive back to the station Roy began to mull over everything in his mind, trying to figure out when Chet’s attitude had changed… or if it even had. Maybe it had just been more about the fact that his own attitude had changed.
Chet had always been a prankster, and Johnny was usually his target… Roy had always assumed it was because Johnny always seemed to just innocently walk into Chet’s traps time and time again. But somewhere along the line, Chet’s pranks had gone from buckets of water, and flour in Johnny’s sheets to making fun of his heritage.
At first Roy had found his jokes as entertaining as Chet had, but the more he learned about Johnny’s childhood, the less and less amusing Chet’s jokes had been to him.
After Johnny finally trusted Roy enough to let him past the walled barriers he had constructed around himself, Roy began to recognize that the look in Johnny’s eyes whenever Chet pulled one of his ‘native jokes” wasn’t one of anger at being pranked… it was a look of genuine pain and hurt that was reflected in those dark eyes. It was at that point that Roy found himself increasingly running interference and acting as a buffer between Chet and Johnny.
But the biggest change had come after he had found a will Johnny had written when he was stranded in that crevasse several months back when he had almost died… as Johnny had lain there with his body broken, convinced that it was the end of the line for him, he had written each of his crewmates a final goodbye message.
It was when he had read the message Johnny had written to Marco, that Roy finally had empirical evidence about just how deeply Chet’s remarks had hurt his young partner.
That had been when he had taken Cap aside and he had secretly let Cap read the will. It had been his understanding that Cap had taken Chet aside and told him to knock off the native jokes… and until today, Chet had complied with Cap’s request.
Back at the station none of the others, including Captain Stanley were quite sure how to handle what had just transpired. They had all been shaken by Johnny’s apparent grief, and none of them, save Roy, were quite sure how to handle it.
They were all well trained in how to handle an upset victim at the scene of an emergency, but what had just happened here was a bit out of their depth.
The one thing Cap knew for sure was that he needed to get Johnny out of here. He highly doubted that his youngest crew member’s mind would be on the job anyway. Theirs was a profession that required total focus and concentration at all times. If he sent Johnny into any emergency situation right now, he would not only be endangering John’s life, but those of his victims and his shift mates.
He also realized he needed to get Roy out of there for a while as well, for the simple reason it was the probably the only plan of action that would guarantee Chet’s safety at the moment, because his senior paramedic was clearly on the verge of thrashing the Irishman to within an inch of his life.
Getting Roy out of the station and letting him focus on taking Johnny home would hopefully give him a chance to cool down enough to think rationally before he acted on his obvious anger.
Cap had been sitting in his office doing a little soul searching of his own while Roy was taking Johnny home. Bellingham would be arriving in a little under two hours and Hank wanted to have his little ‘staff meeting’ before he arrived. He wanted to stress to his men that for now, this was to be kept between the A shift only.
The last thing he needed was for this to get out and spread as gossip around the department. For one thing it would most certainly mean Chet would be suspended, possibly even fired. Hell he still could depending on what John wanted to do.
He still hadn’t talked to Chet yet. He had initially wanted to bring him into the office and do it in private, but he felt he needed to get a few things straightened out, and it was probably not a bad idea for the others to be told as well, and he figured he might as well do it all at the same time.
There would be time to speak to Chet privately after their shift had ended. But first he needed to decide what his next step was going to be concerning Chet. He wanted to think and get his bearings, before he brought the long arm of the law, down upon Chet. So after Johnny and Roy had left the station, Hank had sent Chet in to clean the latrines… almost out of habit.
A big part of the issue was that Hank didn’t count himself completely innocent in what had just happened.
Ever since he had taken over the job of Captain of Station 51, Chet had been the resident joker. He and his alter ego, the phantom, had been pulling pranks. And most, if not all of his pranks, had been at Johnny’s expense. In the beginning it had all been harmless, and there had even been occasions when Chet had got his comeuppance.
The trouble was that somewhere along the way, Chet’s pranks had changed in their nature, and his pranks had begun to get more and more personal in regards to Johnny’s half native status, and for a time everyone, including himself, had turned a blind eye, or looked the other way when Chet’s pranks got a bit personal against Johnny. In fact for the most part, he had just excused it as Chet being Chet.
The first time he had even seriously become aware at how bad they had gotten, was when Roy had given him the will Johnny had written several months ago. As soon as he had realized what was happening he had pulled Chet into his office and suggested that it was time to lay off any pranks of a personal nature against Johnny. Cap had actually thought he had gotten through to Chet, but one thing was for sure; Chet had crossed a huge line today.
First by going into someone else’s locker without permission and going through someone else’s personal property. And last but certainly not least, he had actually taken someone else’s property, and obviously a possession Johnny considered valuable, and Chet had taken it with the full intention of being malicious.
Hank had just assumed that he could count on his men to follow the honour system without him having to spell out the rules… but it had now become apparent that that was exactly what he was going to have to do.
He also knew he was going to have to deal with Chet more severely this time. Clearly the man needed some deeper and more significant life lessons to be taught to him.
Looking back on it now, he wondered why he hadn’t just made it an order, for all of Chet’s pranks to end. True Chet was an adult and responsible for his own actions, and Hanks warning should have been enough. But clearly it hadn’t been, and now he had the distinct feeling that his reticence to act more aggressively regarding the situation had in some small way made him a co-conspirator of sorts.
Johnny had every right to expect that as his Captain, he would make sure that he was allowed to come to work each shift without having to worry about whether or not he was going to be persecuted simply because of his heritage. He had a right to be treated with the same courtesy and respect as the rest of them.
Somehow he felt like in this instance he had failed in his duty to see that his men’s work environment was not hostile. He knew that he himself owed Johnny an apology, both as his Captain, and as his friend.
He was still going over all of these things in his mind, when he heard Roy’s raised voice calling Chet from the kitchen. Cap quickly headed out of his office so he could try and avert all hell breaking loose in the station…because Roy was definitely the one on the war-path now.
By the time he had got out to the kitchen, Roy had Chet backed up against the counter. Both Mike and Marco were standing nearby but neither man looked inclined to help Chet out.
Roy’s voice was laced with anger as he yelled at Chet.
“That wasn’t just any piece of jewelry you took Chet… it was something that’s very special to Johnny and you had absolutely no business going into his locker and taking it.”
Cap noticed that both Mike and Marco had nodded their head in agreement with Roy.
“I just hope you’re real proud of yourself Chet. By taking it and using it in such a demeaning way… well let’s just say you couldn’t have hurt Johnny any more than if you had driven a knife right into his heart.”
“Roy,” Cap spoke… “I think maybe we should all cool down a bit before we get into this.”
Roy turned around, his face still livid.
“No, Cap. With all due respect, I think Chet needs to answer me, because I really want to know what the hell he was thinking.”
Chet’s was clearly shaken to the core, as he spoke.
“If I could take it back, I would Roy… I’m really, really sorry man. You gotta believe that I never ever meant to hurt Johnny. It was just supposed to be a harmless prank… I swear it was.”
Roy, however, wasn’t going to let Chet off the hook. He turned back towards the man, as he continued his tirade.
“Frankly Chet, I find that last part of your statement hard to believe. How could you have ever thought stealing something that clearly meant a lot to Johnny and belittling it could ever be considered harmless fun? “
“You know I’m really curious Chet … just exactly what is it you want from Johnny anyway? “
“Do you want to see his tears, his anguish… do you get off on causing him hurt and pain? Is that it? Do you want to rip out a piece of his heart…or maybe you want something even deeper… like his soul. Or maybe your ultimate goal is to drive us away from Station 51… maybe out of L.A. altogether.”
Roy walked over to the sink and poured himself a glass of water to soothe his throat that was growing hoarse from his yelling.
At this last statement, Cap, Mike and Marco, all looked up in alarm. They hadn’t considered that Roy and Johnny were upset enough that they would request a transfer and leave. Cap inwardly groaned. It was just something else he had to worry about. He had the best crew around and he was proud of how everyone, including the chief bragged about the A shift of Station 51. They had the reputation in the department of being the best crew there was.
The thought that Chet’s prank had put that in jeopardy, just added more fuel to the fire that was eating away inside his gut.
Chet tried once again to convince Roy that he was sorry for everything.
“Roy, really you gotta believe me, it really was supposed to be a harmless little prank… I actually like Gage and I would never ever want to hurt him…you can’t imagine how bad I feel about all of this, and I promise I’m going to make it up to Gage as soon as I can.”
Roy put down his glass and wheeled around to face Chet once more.
“You stay the hell away from Johnny, you’ve done enough. You know pranks are all well and good, but this wasn’t a prank Chet, this was racist, mean and belittling.”
Once again Marco and Mike, who were both clearly angry with Chet, nodded their heads in agreement with Roy.
Roy continued on without giving Chet a chance to interject.
“Why don’t you do it to Marco, Chet? … Is it because Marco’s your friend and making fun of his heritage would be over the line? Well I got news for you Chet. If it’s over the line for Marco, then it’s equally wrong and over the line for Johnny.”
This time Marco actually spoke out loud as he said, “here, here.”
“And let me tell you one more thing Kelly,” Roy spat out.
“I am personally putting you on notice… if Johnny doesn’t lay a complaint with HQ, then I just might. I know Johnny can fight his own battles, in fact he just told me that not more than half an hour ago, while I was trying to calm him down. But I’m here to tell you that I consider that Johnny is in every sense of the word a part of my family now … and when you attack a member of my family; you attack me. So you can make damn sure that I won’t be putting up with anymore of your shit. And that includes anything that I consider to be hurtful, mean, demeaning or racist, or anything that will cause physical or emotional harm or discomfort to John, or I’ll take it personally and you’ll have both Johnny and I to contend with.”
Roy finally walked over and sat at the table and ran his hand over his face in frustration. He took the cup of coffee Marco offered him, and let out a deep sigh in an effort to calm himself down.
Chet was standing by the counter, looking very contrite, not quite knowing what to say. He realized in hindsight what a huge error in judgment his prank had been. He was also feeling like a grade A heel. The moment he seen the look of hurt and anguish on Gage’s face, he knew he had gone too far, and he honestly was sorry. Deep down he considered Johnny a good friend, and he realized he may have just lost one, if not all of his friends, not to mention the fact that his career could also be in jeopardy.
The problem was; he just never thought things through sometimes. Chet had been raised in a large Irish family, with several older brothers and sisters. He had been raised with pranks… the more outrageous the better. In the hierarchy of siblings it had been a dog eat dog world…any sign of weakness was pounced upon and exploited to the fullest. He had forgotten that these men were not like his brothers back in Boston.
He wasn’t a bigot or a racist, and he didn’t think any less of Gage because of his heritage… it had simply been a means to an end of pranking him. But in the last half hour he had made himself think back to some of his jokes surrounding Indians, and in retrospect he had to admit… they had been racist in nature, even if that wasn’t how he had meant them.
And truthfully he was ashamed of himself. He was ashamed of the fact that he had gone into another man’s locker and taken something that didn’t belong to him. He was now being branded as a bigot and a thief… and he was not proud of that. But he was most ashamed of the pain he had inflicted on his friend Johnny.
Why didn’t he stop to think before he did these things? He just got so caught up in the joke that he had left common sense behind.
He didn’t think that he would ever forget the look of anguish on Johnny’s face, and he didn’t think he would ever forgive himself for causing so much pain to a man he considered a friend… a man who had put his life on the line to save his more than once in the last four years.
Somehow he had to make things right with Johnny… if Johnny would ever allow him to that is… or if Roy ever let him get within ten feet of Gage.
Cap watched as his crew men stood around the kitchen in awkward silence. He glanced up at the clock and saw that he only had a little less than an hour before Bellingham was due to arrive, and the squad would be back in service. He might as well get this little staff meeting going now, or he would lose his chance to do this in private… this was an A shift matter and he didn’t want the rest of the department finding out… not if he could help it. Of course that largely depended on Gage.
He walked over and stood at the head of the table and cleared his throat.
“Gentlemen, I would like you all to take a seat at the table, I think it’s time we had a talk, and I don’t want any interruptions until I have finished speaking… is that clear?”
“Yes Sir.” The men replied in unison.
He let his eye’s travel over each of his crew members until they at last settled onto Chet. The man looked positively ill… and so he should. But it also gave Cap a sense of hope that what Chet had done was nothing more than a supreme act of stupidity and lack of judgment and not a deliberate act of racism, or meanness.
He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts and then he began to speak.
“We’ve always worked on the honour system in this station. Largely because we have to… we have to be able to trust each other implicitly. We literally put our lives in each other’s hand each and every shift. When we head out to a rescue or run into a burning building, it’s always been understood that we’ve got each other’s backs. And this has just always gone without saying… no one has ever had to be reminded or told to do it… it’s always been about trust and respect for the brotherhood of our fellow firefighter.
Now I’ve always just assumed that that same respect and trust was carried over and continued on once we all got back here into quarters as well. I just assumed this was an understood agreement that we’d all respect each other’s privacy. I never thought that any one of my men would have to worry about having to put locks on his locker door, or that he wouldn’t feel safe about leaving personal letters, wallets and any other personal possession in his locker. All my men should be able to leave their stuff in their lockers with full confidence that their possessions would be safe. That no one would ever have to consider the possibility of anyone else going through their personal property”
“I took it for granted that we were all honourable adults and that we respected each other enough to not have to have these rules spelled out like this. But it’s become apparent after what happened here today, that some ground rules need to be reiterated, so I’m saying it now. Any more incidents like this will result in immediate suspension and possible dismissal. And yes Chet I am addressing you, but I am also doing this as a group, so that hopefully we can officially put this matter to bed for good.”
“Chet, I for one believe that you didn’t intend to cause any hurt to Johnny… but that doesn’t excuse the fact that you shattered a trust today. You did cause him emotional hurt, you invaded his privacy and disrespected him and his personal property. Your actions were unacceptable and there will be consequences to pay for those actions.”
“I also want to make it clear to everyone before Bellingham arrives, that I expect what happened here today to be kept between the six of us. And yes, that is an order. We owe it to Johnny to protect his privacy on this matter. Whether or not it goes any further will be entirely his decision and I expect everyone here to respect that. We will let him decide about whether or not he wants to talk about this incident or not… but if he doesn’t want to discuss what happened here today, then I expect every man here to respect that.”
“When he returns on his next shift, I expect it to be business as usual. Do I make myself clear?”
Once again the men all answered as one with “Yes, Sir.” The only difference was this time Roy added…”thanks Cap.”
Cap began to wind down this little meeting by saying, “As far as Bellingham or anyone else knows, Johnny went home sick with a stomach bug.”
“Now Chet, I want you to go into my office and close the door and wait for me there.”
Chet nodded his head, and quietly got up from the table and went into Cap’s office.
As soon as he left, Cap went over to Roy and put his hand on his shoulder.
“How was Johnny when you left him, Roy?”
“Well,” said Roy. “He was still pretty upset, and I would have been happier if I could have stayed to make sure he’s okay, but Jo is keeping an eye on things and she’ll call if she thinks it’s warranted. I know he was kind of embarrassed by his reaction this afternoon. It was just that his necklace isn’t just an ordinary piece of native jewelry and what Chet did was really inappropriate and hurtful, but I can’t explain why…not without breaking a confidence… and I won’t do that.”
“Johnny will be happy to hear that no one outside of us guys will ever hear about it. And I have no idea how he wants to handle Chet… he’s too upset to think about that today… but I’ll talk to him tomorrow and he’ll be fine once he gets a chance to regain his bearings… this just came out of left field and it was such a shock to him.”
“Okay,” Cap said. “I’ll let you handle him for now… but I trust you’ll let me know if you think it would help for me to call and talk to him. I’ll pull him aside at some point and reassure him that there will never be a repeat of today, and that Chet will be disciplined over what has happened… I’ll also need to know if he wants to file an official complaint with HQ over the matter.”
“One thing I do want you to know Roy; If Johnny does decide that he can no longer work with Chet that it will be Chet that will be asked to transfer out. John has done nothing wrong and he shouldn’t have to uproot himself… after all it was Chet who made this mess in the first place. But my hope is that we can eventually get past this and save the best damn crew in all of L.A. County.”
“Well I’m going to let Johnny make that call… if that’s what he wants, then I’ll do my best to make that happen too… but it won’t happen right away… Johnny’s too hurt and I’m too angry. But even at that, we can put that aside and do our jobs, just like we’ve always done… it won’t affect our performance on duty.”
Cap patted Roy on the back…”Thanks Roy, I never doubted that. But it’s good to hear you say it. Now why don’t you men get something to eat… we kind of missed lunch. Chet and I have some business to discuss and then we’ll be out to join you.”
Cap, stood outside his office door giving himself a moment to compose himself before he entered inside. This was definitely one of those times when being the Captain sucked, but unfortunately, this too came along with the job. He had just never thought he would have to be doing something like this… not with this group of men anyway.
Squaring his shoulders he opened up his office door and stepped through. He found Chet nervously sitting on the chair in front of his desk. As soon as Cap entered into the room, Chet rose to his feet.
“Sit down, Chet.” Cap said; the serious tone of his voice left no room for doubt that neither man was going to like what he had to do now.
“Cap… honestly, I never meant to upset Johnny. And I am so sorry for what I did. I realize now how wrong I was to not only go into to Gage’s locker, but to take his necklace and use it against him… I was just so caught up in pulling the prank, I never stopped to think…believe, me Cap, I wish I had, and I’d do anything if I could go back and change it.”
Cap sat down at his desk across from his linesman and shook his head.
“I have to say Chet, I certainly expected more from one of my men, than the behaviour I witnessed from you today. I’m extremely disappointed in you. But more than that, I’m saddened at how little regard you had for the feelings of one of your fellow crew mates. Especially since I thought we had settled the issue of your ceasing any and all Indian pranks months ago.”
“It’s especially disturbing to discover that one of my men invaded another’s privacy by going into his locker and not only went through his private and personal possessions, but you actually and knowingly with intent, took something that didn’t belong to you.”
“Both of these offenses are at the very least grounds for a period of suspension without pay and at the worst, dismissal. You’re a damn good lineman….in fact you’re one of the best, but damn it Kelly, you’ve gone way over the line this time. And I have no choice but to take action. My job requires that I do nothing less, and Gage deserves some kind of justice for your callous disregard of his privacy and his personal property.”
“So this is what’s going to happen…first and foremost you can just assume that you and the latrine are going to be best friends until further notice…and I can promise you, it’s going to be a very long time.”
“On top of that you will be required to give John both a written and a verbal apology. I’m afraid at the very least I am going to have to put a written reprimand into your personnel file as well.”
“Now as to suspension or dismissal…any further action will be up to John. He certainly has grounds to lodge a complaint and insist on justice on several different grounds… including discrimination, persecution, theft and invasion of privacy. And if he decides to take that course of action, I’ve checked into it, and for this type of offense you will be looking at a 30 day suspension minimum…dismissal if he decides to press criminal charges of petty theft with the police.”
Chet’s eyes grew round as saucers ... “Petty Theft?” Chet squeaked out. “But Cap I didn’t really steal it, I just borrowed it for my stupid prank.”
“Chet,” Cap sighed in exasperation. “Going into John’s locker and taking his necklace for any reason constitutes a theft… look at it this way. Suppose next shift Johnny comes in and discovers that a fifty dollar bill he had sitting in his locker on the shelf beside his necklace is missing, and he reports it as being stolen. Who do you think HQ, the police and the rest of us on A shift are going to assume took it?”
Chet’s face visibly paled as Cap’s point began to sink in….”Did Johnny tell you he was going to call HQ or the police Cap?” he asked nervously.
“No, Chet he didn’t, and I honestly doubt it will come to that, it’s my understanding from Roy, that Gage wants to keep this quiet. And you can thank your lucky stars he does. But there is a very real possibility that he won’t want to work with you anymore; and if he makes that decision, you will be the one who will have to transfer out. It’s not something I want to see happen. But under the circumstances I don’t think anyone would blame Gage if that’s what he decides he wants.”
“Now I suggest we go out there and get something to eat… and try to act like nothing is wrong. Bellingham will be here shortly and as I said before, I don’t want any gossip running rampant around the department.”
“Yes, sir. I understand…and I really am sorry about all of this Cap…” Chet quietly said.
“Okay Chet…that will be all. “ Chet got up and walked over to the door, but stopped when he heard Cap say; “Oh and Chet? I’ll expect you to have that written apology to Gage on my desk at the start of our next shift.”
“Yes, sir.” Chet replied sadly.
Chet had barely made it out of the office before Bellingham arrived at the station to report for duty. That effectively ended any further discussion on the subject between any of the men.
Cap greeted the man, and while Bellingham went to the kitchen to get himself a mug of coffee; Cap called in and put the squad back in service. Cap turned and went back into his office to ponder the day’s events some more. He left the door open, to insure everything remained peaceful. As much as he had confidence in Roy’s ability to act professional, and that he would be able to keep his anger in check, he was still worried. He had never seen Roy so angry before… in fact he couldn’t recall ever seeing Roy lose his cool.
He’d seen Johnny and Chet get angry mostly with each other, and even he himself had had a moment or two where his anger threatened to come out… but rarely Roy or Marco. And Mike just never lost his composure. But by and large Roy was generally known to run on an even keel.
As luck would have it, the tones sounded sending the squad out to meet Copter 10 on the pier, for a water rescue. Those types of rescues usually kept the squad out for quite some time. That would also keep Chet and Roy apart too. After the squad pulled out of the station, Cap went back to his pondering.
Johnny’s reaction had startled everyone, and Cap began to wonder what it was about that necklace that had upset his youngest crew member to such an extreme.
It was then he recalled a quiet visit Roy had paid to his house several months earlier. It had been while John was in the hospital recovering from his near death experience with that fire tornado. Roy had found a will that Johnny had written when he thought that he wasn’t going to survive the ordeal. Roy had shown it to him, in order to let Cap see just how much Chet’s jokes about his heritage really hurt and upset Johnny.
At the time Cap had felt badly that he hadn’t noticed that before. It was shortly after reading John’s will that he pulled Kelly aside and asked him to cease any jokes that were in anyway based on Johnny’s race.
But that hadn’t been the only part Johnny’s will that had struck Hank. Although Roy hadn’t shown him the entire will, Hank had seen the section Johnny had personally written to him.
He had been touched when Johnny had written that he had lost his father when he was young and that he had wanted Hank to have the knife that had been his father’s… but the part that had really got to Hank was when Johnny had written how much he respected him and that he had considered him an honorary father.
Now in the light of everything Cap began to think more on those words. Like a bolt of lightning; Hank finally began to realize certain facts that had been staring him in the face ever since he had joined Station 51 that he had somehow over looked.
He couldn’t believe he hadn’t realized before now, that he had heard all his crew members speak of their families, but John. John never spoke of his family. In fact all Cap knew was that Johnny had been raised on a reservation somewhere. After reading the will it became clear that John had lost his father as a boy… but what about his mother? He never ever mentioned her.
He heard that John had had an aunt who had passed away just weeks before he had taken over as Captain at 51’s… but nothing more. Come to think of it, there had never been any family summoned to John’s bedside in all of his near death illnesses or injuries. After that Koki virus it was Roy’s he went to… in fact he went to Roy’s for everything… convalescence, holidays, birthdays. And if he was ill, it was Roy he asked for… never was there any mention of his family.
The more Cap thought about it, the more the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for him. He was now sure that Johnny’s family were no longer alive, and by his reaction today, he was guessing that the necklace was probably a cherished family heirloom… it was the only thing that made sense.
It was also obvious that whatever John’s story was, Roy clearly knew. That would also explain Roy’s reaction as well. The more he thought about it, the more Hank began to realize the true depth of Johnny and Roy’s friendship, trust and loyalty to each other.
Roy had even told Chet that afternoon that he considered Johnny to be a member of his family. More and more Hank began to understand just how true that was.
It also gave Hank a new insight into Roy’s protective nature when it came to Johnny, and why Johnny always tried to make sure he took the lead on the more hazardous rescues… they were each looking out for their brother … their family.
It was just then that the tones sounded sending the engine out to a junkyard fire. And that’s how the rest of the day progressed. When the squad was in quarters; the engine would be out on a run. And every time the engine was back at the barn, the squad would be out. In the end it was after nine thirty at night before both the squad and the engine were back at the station together.
Roy and Bellingham stated that they had grabbed supper at the cafeteria in Rampart, and so they didn’t bother to heat up any of the leftovers. It was obvious to everyone but Bellingham that Roy was still angry with Chet. Thankfully Bellingham seemed oblivious to the tension in the air.
Finally Roy asked Cap if he could use the phone in his office, so he could call Joanne in private. Of course there was no question of Cap saying no to the request.
When Roy came out of Hank’s office ten minutes later, he gave Cap a tight smile, and then announced that he was tired out after the long shift and he was going to hit the sack early.
By ten thirty all of the other men had made their way into the dorm… not one of them except maybe Bellingham was sad to see the day come to an end …Thankfully the tones stayed silent all night.
Johnny sat on the edge of the bed in his room at the DeSoto home. He had opened up the window to let the cool evening breeze inside. Fresh air always helped clear his mind so he could think. It was part of the reason why he liked to go up into the mountains alone. Johnny loved to just lie awake, staring up at the stars in the night skies. He found the experience both profound and soothing.
He lay back down on his bed and listened to the night sounds of the crickets while he watched the intricate and varied patterns of the shadows that were cast by the moonlight shining through the branched of the trees as they danced across the walls of the bedroom… The DeSoto home was at last silent and in total darkness.
He felt badly about excusing himself early and hiding away in his room, but he had so many disturbing thoughts running through his head. Right now he wasn’t sure which ones were strongest; but most assuredly his anger at Chet and his embarrassment at his overreaction earlier on at the station, both vied for top billing.
His mind was swirling as it tried to sort out his churning emotions. Like Roy, Johnny had a tendency to take ownership of a lot of guilt that wasn’t actually his to bear. Which is why he was laying there thinking that he needed to apologize to Cap for making him have to stand down the squad and call in a replacement. He also began to wonder if he would ever be able to look his shift mates in the eyes again … he had made a colossal fool out of himself.
It wasn’t long however, before his anger at Chet resurfaced… for as much as he blamed himself for his outburst, he blamed Chet even more… Damn you Chet Kelly…I’m done…we’re done. There won’t be any more double dates or invites to come on fishing trips ever again. Hell I’m not sure I can even work with you anymore.
Damn, was he going to have to transfer? What if what happened today got around the department or Rampart? He’d never live it down. He didn’t want to leave the department or Roy. He didn’t think he could stand to lose another family.
After his little internal conversation with himself the one overpowering thought that ran through his mind, were that he only had two options. Stay at 51’s and face not only Chet, but the men he had humiliated himself in front of, or transfer out and leave his family behind. Both options sucked, and both filled him with despair. Silently the tears began to slide down his cheeks as once more the feelings of hurt and despair overwhelmed him… and that is the way he stayed until eventually he fell asleep.
The next morning Roy couldn’t get out of the station fast enough.
He had talked to Joanne the night before, and she informed him that Johnny, for the most part had kept to himself out on the back deck. And even those moments when he had interacted with Chris and Jenny he had seemed distracted and sad. Although he had sat at the table with Joanne and the kids and tried to carry on some semblance of a conversation, Joanne had noticed that Johnny hadn’t eaten anything.
By the time Roy had called the shortly before ten the night before; Johnny had told Joanne he was going to bed. He had gone into his room and closed the door, and Joanne hadn’t heard a peep from him in over an hour.
The sun was just coming up on the eastern horizon and Johnny was sitting out on Roy and Joanne’s back deck. He hadn’t been able to sleep, so he finally decided to come outside and get some fresh air… He wished he was up camping in the mountains… the stars were always so bright up there.
The bright lights of Los Angeles, all but obscured the stars in the city. Unfortunately from Roy’s back yard, only the very brightest stars could be seen through the haze of artificial city lights and pollution.
Johnny sat going over the last twenty four hours in his mind. His senses had been run through the wringer in that short span of time. Right now he felt like he was being smothered by the crushing weight of his emotions.
Had it been only twenty four hours ago, that he had been too emotionally charged to sleep? But unlike this time, his inability to settle down and sleep the night before last had been for an entirely different reason. He had been so excited by the fact that this year, Roy, Jo, and the kids were coming to his place for Christmas… but then Chet had to go and ruin everything.
There was a large part of him that was embarrassed by the way he had reacted to Chet’s prank. But an even larger part of him felt a seething anger, and all of it was directed towards Chet Kelly.
Each time he closed his eyes; all he could picture was his mother’s necklace… the symbol that represented the pure, sweet, innocence of his parents young love for each other, and their deep abiding love for him; hanging around the station’s CPR dummy that was swathed in cheap imitation feathers. It had just been sitting there making a mockery of everything his parents love had meant, and everything that both his and his mother’s heritage had stood for… and it made him rage inside.
His parents love had been a love that crossed racial boundaries and had been uncorrupted by bigotry. For his parents; race was something that horses did… the colour of someone’s skin was irrelevant. The love they shared was good and pure, untainted and virtuous; and to them their love for each other had been all that mattered.
What Chet had done was tantamount to spitting on their graves as far as Johnny was concerned. He had taken something pure and unsullied and defiled it, mocked it and cheapened its value. To Johnny it had been an evil and vile act. It had disrespected him and it had disrespected his parents … and right at this moment, Johnny had doubts as to whether or not he could ever work side by side with the man again.
He wished he knew what it was about his being Native that had gotten under Chet’s skin. At first he thought it was teasing, but then Chet had actually taken the time to go out and get a book written by one of those moronic anthropologists… it had stopped being something to needle him with… it had almost become an obsession for the man.
He remembered how Chet had taken him off guard by his question of, why was it he had left the reservation. It was something Johnny hadn’t really thought about in years.
He knew why he had left when he did … His grandfather had nearly killed him.
His original plan had been to go and live with White Eagle up in the mountains when he turned sixteen, and then leave the rez for good when he reached legal age at eighteen.
But White Eagle had died during the time he was recovering from the beating he had received on his sixteenth birthday.
He had been planning to leave the rez at eighteen anyway … his grandfather, a Louisville slugger, and White Eagle’s death had just hastened the process.
He still remembered the night when he had first decided to leave the reservation. It was the spring before he turned sixteen and he was up in the hills, camping out with White Eagle. The old Indian had been silent; lost deep in his thoughts all evening, and finally just when Johnny was about to retire for the night, the old man spoke.
“Before you go to sleep young Gray Wolf, we must talk.”
“Talk about what White Eagle? Have I done something to offend you?”
“No… you have always made me proud… but my time in this world is coming to its end. I can feel it in my heart. I may have one summer left or perhaps two, but I fear I will not be here to see you reach eighteen …and I need you to make me a promise.”
Johnny had sat quietly and nodded at the Native Elder’s statement. As much as the thought of White Eagle’s dying hurt him to think about; Johnny respected his wisdom enough not to question his words.
“I want you to make me a promise Gray Wolf...You are an intelligent, caring, honest and honorable young man, and the sorrows you have had to face in your life have made you wise beyond your years. You have seen more than any of us, what a harsh and unfair place the world can be. You have the burden of carrying within your skin, two very different heritages, both equally deserving of pride, but up here in this neck of the woods it has been a hard burden for you to bear. And although this has been the only home you have ever known; I want you to promise me now, that when you turn eighteen, you will leave the reservation. For in truth, it hasn’t really been a home to you for years now … I want you to go and find what joy you can somewhere else. Here you will always be perceived as insignificant and unworthy… for the eyes of the locals, both white and native, are clouded by ignorance and they cannot see the true worth of your soul. Leave the reservation Gray Wolf … leave this entire area and head to the big city."
"In the big city one can stand alone and remain anonymous; but here on the reservation, your mixed heritage will always be a vexation to your spirit and your soul, for as long as you draw a breath. Someday perhaps life will change … but sadly young Gray Wolf, I fear it won’t be in time for either one of us. So as soon as you turn eighteen; you must go. Promise me you will go and never look back. There is nothing here for you, and there never will be … Here there will only ever be pain and sorrow.
And so he had left at sixteen, and soon after he had found Aunt Marian. And for the most part White Eagle had been right. Here he was accepted for who he was… most of the time.
There would always be some bigotry. It was the way of the world. Johnny knew it didn’t matter what city, county, country or even what continent you lived on. Bigots existed everywhere.
For some it was all about your race, or nationality. For some it was about your religion, for some it was about gender, for some it was about status and wealth. For some it was all of the above. It was one of the darker aspects of human nature.
Johnny hadn’t been bitter against any one group of people… after all, he had experienced bigotry from both sides of his heritage in equal measure…natives and whites. One had been just as bad as the other.
Bigotry existed, and that was that.
People just never got it through their thick heads that everyone’s life had equal worth.
But that was a part of his life he had no intention of sharing with Chet … ever.
Johnny shivered in the cool morning air, and he pulled his jacket in tight against his body. He had a big problem here and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do about it. ~~~
Joanne met Roy at the front door when he arrived home from work, and gave him a long passionate kiss.
“Welcome home honey… I’d ask how the rest of your shift went, but I’m afraid to ask.”
“Thankfully Chet and I had very little contact with each other. But Cap did lay down the law. He called Chet into his office and they were in there for a while. Chet looked pretty shaken when he came out… and well he should have.”
“So how did everything go here on the home front? Is Johnny in a better frame of mind this morning?”
Joanne shook her head sadly.
“He turned down breakfast this morning, which kind of surprised me since he barely touched any of his supper last night. He’s really upset by all of this Roy… What in the world was Chet thinking?”
“He wasn’t” Roy said angrily. “Where’s Johnny now?”
Joanne pulled Roy on into the house and led him toward the kitchen.
“He’s out back on the deck. He was there when I got up this morning. I don’t think he slept at all last night. I left enough breakfast for the both of you in the oven to keep warm. I’m going to take Jenny and go do some shopping. I figured you could use the time alone to talk to Johnny, and hopefully get him to eat something.”
Roy pulled his wife into a tight embrace and shared a long intimate kiss with her.
“Thanks Jo… I love you honey.”
“I love you too,” she said as she playfully slapped his butt.
“Now go out there and talk to Johnny while Jenny and I go get some groceries… and make sure he eats something.”
Roy made his way out to the kitchen and glanced out through the sliders. He could see Johnny sitting on one of the Adirondacks, hunched into himself, and frowning.
He was nursing a cup of coffee that looked like it had gone cold, and by the way he was hunched over, Roy figured he was probably cold too. And if Johnny hadn’t bothered to get up and come inside where it was warmer, then he was obviously still very upset and seeking solitude away from Joanne and the kids.
For the hundredth time in the last twenty four hours, Roy felt that he could very happily kick Chet’s ass from here to kingdom come. It was apparent to Roy that Chet had torn open some old wounds in Johnny’s heart ... wounds that Roy had worked desperately hard to heal.
Roy walked outside onto the deck and sat down in the chair beside Johnny.
“Hey there Junior, how about you come in the kitchen and join me for some breakfast, and I’ll freshen up your coffee at the same time?”
Johnny shook his head.
“Naw, I’m not hungry Roy, but when you’ve finished with your breakfast you can drop me off at the station so I can pick up the Rover and head home.”
Roy refused to give up.
“Look, I’ll make you a deal; I’ll take you to get your Rover, but only if you eat some breakfast first.”
Once again Johnny shook his head negatively.
“So … how much trouble am I in?” he asked.
“What?” Roy asked incredulously. “What do you mean? It’s not you that’s in any trouble. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Johnny snorted in disgust.
“Sure Roy, I only caused a major uproar so that Cap had to stand the squad down and call in a replacement for me … all because of my little outburst… Who did you get stuck with anyway? Not Brice I hope.”
“Bellingham” Roy answered. “But that’s not important.”
“What is important is that we get a few things straight here John.”
Johnny turned and looked questioningly at Roy. He knew whenever Roy used his given name, he wasn’t fooling around.
“There is not one part of this whole mess that is your fault, and no one is angry with you or thinks any less of you. The only one that people are angry with is Chet. As far as HQ goes, Cap told them that you were going home sick. That’s what Bellingham thinks, and that’s what the department thinks.”
“Cap pulled me aside yesterday and he assured me that no one outside of us six on the A shift will ever know about this, not unless you decide you want to file a written complaint with HQ or file a petty theft report to the police.”
“As far as Mike and Marco are concerned, this is all Chet’s fault and their only concern is that you were alright. They told me to tell you that if you don’t want to talk about what happened they will respect your wishes, and consider the matter closed.”
Johnny sighed in relief.
“Well that does make me feel a little bit better.” Johnny admitted.
“Cap also said that if you feel you can’t work with Chet after this, that it will be Chet who transfers, and not us.”
“What do you mean us? Why would you have to leave? Just because I decide I can’t work with that jerk anymore… why should you have to uproot yourself?” Johnny asked.
“Did you forget about our pact there Junior? We’re a package deal to the very end. You go, then I go… and if I go, then you go… right?”
“Even if it’s because I’m having a temper tantrum?” Johnny asked
“Yep… even then. But we both know this is not a temper tantrum Junior.Besides it’s a moot point. If anyone is leaving 51’s it’s the person who made this whole mess. And that’s Chet Kelly, not you.”
“Don’t forget Johnny, Chet went into another person’s locker. If Chet isn’t called on it, then who is next? I know I sure as hell don’t want him going through my stuff. And both Marco and Mike have said if Chet had gone into their lockers and removed their personal possessions, they’d be pissed off too.”
“There is no way you should have to pay the punishment for Chet’s crime… Now, are you going to come in this house and eat something? Brackett’s on your case enough as it is about your weight. You can’t afford to go around skipping meals… and I already know you didn’t eat last night.”
Johnny looked over and gave Roy a small smile.
“Well, I guess it wouldn’t be right to let Joanne’s French toast go to waste, now would it.”
Johnny ended up spending the entire day at the DeSoto’s visiting with Roy and Joanne, and by the time the end of the day came, he had to admit, he was feeling a lot better.
He was still furious at Chet, but it warmed his heart to know he had the rest of the guys, including Cap in his corner. For once, it looked like the injustice done to him, wasn’t going to be swept under the carpet. For once his feelings were being validated.
Johnny had agreed to get up extra early before his next shift and meet at the DeSoto’s for breakfast. Then he and Roy would leave for the station together. Roy wanted to be there to ease any apprehension that Johnny might still be feeling.
Whatever fears may have been plaguing Johnny about his first shift back, where completely unfounded. When he and Roy walked into the kitchen it was business as usual… it was if nothing had happened, except that Chet was hanging around in the background keeping silent.
The departing C shift and the arriving A shift members stood around drinking coffee and eating doughnuts, until it was time for roll call.
Cap handed out the assignments, and no one questioned when Chet was given the latrines. After the announcements were read, and assignments doled out, the men all dispersed and Cap came up to Johnny.
“As soon as you and Roy have finished with the squad John, I’d like to speak with you for a moment in my office. You can come in alone, or if you’d rather, Roy can come in with you.”
Johnny looked over at Roy.
“Sure Cap, I’ll be right there.”
After Cap had left, Johnny turned to Roy.
“You might as well come in too. It will just save me telling you what happened later anyway. I wonder what he wants… I mean…exactly.”
“My guess would be that he wants to know if you feel if you are going to be able to work with Chet or not… and do you want to file a complaint?”
Johnny looked over at the office door for a moment, and then resumed checking out the drug box. He was about half way through his task, when he heard Roy ask;
“So can you work with Chet, Junior?”
Johnny just shook his head.
“I’m not sure yet… we’ll just have to wait and see.”
It took Johnny and Roy less than ten minutes to go over the squad and make their way into Captain Stanley’s office.
If it hadn’t been for the seriousness of the situation, Johnny would have laughed at how skittish their normally calm, cool and collected leader looked.
“Sit down fellas,” Cap said as he gestured towards the chairs in front of his desk.
Johnny and Roy sat down and waited for their Captain to speak.
Cap shifted uncomfortably in his chair; “Well first of all John, I want to apologize to you for what happened here last shift.”
Johnny looked confused.
“Apologize for what Cap? You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Well for starters, for not taking Chet in hand sooner. I guess I just got used to looking the other way and dismissing Chet’s behaviour, and I failed to notice how mean spirited his so called pranks had become. It wasn’t fair to you John and I’m sorry. I’m your Captain and you have every right to expect that you can come to work without having to put up with stunts like the one Chet pulled.”
“Cap,” Johnny interrupted.
“What Chet did last shift was over the line… even for Chet. But Cap; Chet is a full grown man and he knows right from wrong just as well as the rest of us do. He knows the rules, both written and implied, and it was his choice to break them, not yours … and Cap? I already know that you spoke to Chet a while ago and told him to lay off the Indian jokes. And I appreciated it. The only person to blame here is Chet.”
“Well, thank you for that John; I’m glad you see it that way. I want you to know that I have told Chet he is to give you an apology, both verbal and written. On top of that I have put a written reprimand in his file.”
“It might also interest you to know that you can officially change the name of his alter ego from ‘the phantom’ to, ‘the Ty-D-Bol man,’ because he and the latrines are going to be very close personal friends for a very, very long time.”
That brought a hint of a smile to Johnny’s face… the first smile Cap had seen all morning.
Cap’s voice took on a serious tone.
“Now, I need to know what you want to do about Chet. Do you want to file a formal written complaint with HQ?”
“I also need to know if you think you will be able to work with him John. In this business, we can’t risk our personal feelings getting in the way of the performance of our duties. I don’t want two men who can’t stand each other heading into a burning building together. I need to be sure that if push comes to shove that I can trust you to have Chet’s back… and that you feel that you can trust Chet to have yours.”
Johnny paused to collect his thoughts before he spoke.
“No, Cap I don’t want to make a big deal out of this. I’d rather keep this between those of us on A shift. I’m kinda private concerning my personal stuff, and I’d like to keep it that way. Roy told me that the guys were willing to let the matter drop, and that’s what I want too.”
“I can say with all honesty Cap, that I’m angry at Chet. In fact I’m angrier than I’ve ever been before in my entire life, but that notwithstanding, if Chet were trapped inside a burning building; I still wouldn’t hesitate to run in and save his sorry ass. I value all human life, and I take pride in my job. And I can promise you without any doubt, that I can separate my work and personal feelings.”
“Having said that; I need to add that as to whether or not I want to continue working with him as a shift mate. I can’t say at this point. Right now I want nothing to do with him…or his apologies, written or verbal. I’d really like to give it a couple of shifts until I have put some distance between what happened and my feelings. It’s still a bit raw right now.”
“Maybe in time I can get past this… but I just don’t know right now. That’s why I’d like to give it a couple of shifts. But I promise you Cap… when we get toned out to a call, I can set aside my personal feelings, and yes, I can say without a doubt, that I would still have Chet’s back… and I am sure he would have mine…. I’d just like a bit a time to sort things out in my head.”
Cap was relieved, both because Johnny wanted to keep this a private matter between the A shift, and because he was willing to give it some time…and though he knew Chet may still end up having to transfer, he believed John was being sincere when he said what had happened wouldn’t interfere with him carrying out his duty.
“Okay John,” Cap said as he stood up and offered his hand.
“I appreciate you being so candid and honest with me about your feelings. And when you do decide on what you want to do. I trust you’ll come and see me. If you decide it’s just too much tension, then I want you to know, it will be Chet who will be asked to transfer. This is his mess, if there are any consequences from it, they’re his to bear.”
And so it was that life resumed at Station 51 for the A shift.
Johnny hadn’t been at all receptive to Chet’s apologies, as his ongoing feelings of anger and betrayal were still simmering just below the surface.
There was definite tension whenever Johnny and Chet were in the same room together. For that matter, there was tension whenever Roy and Chet were in the same room. But to his credit, Johnny did try his best to keep his conversation congenial and polite, and he would speak cordially to Chet … but only about things pertaining to work.
The one main difference was when their assignments were finished and they had some down time, there were no more impromptu games of basketball or checkers. The nights of sitting around the TV eating popcorn had disappeared too.
Whenever he had some down time, Johnny tended to be silent and withdrawn around everyone but Roy. And Roy made it perfectly obvious that his first allegiance was to Johnny.
This went on for three shifts and Captain Stanley began to despair of this situation having any chance of a satisfying outcome.
In fact he himself was almost ready to request a transfer for Chet. He finally decided that he would give it one more shift, and if things hadn’t resolved by then, he would have to call Chet and John into his office and tell them that in the best interest of Station morale, Chet would need to transfer.
Cap had just reluctantly settled all these things in his mind, when the tones went off, and the entire station was called out to the scene of a large warehouse fire. Hank shoved aside the inter-station dilemma and shifted his focus onto the job at hand.
As fires went, it was fairly straight forward. It had been an older building built back in the days, when timber had been used as the main support structures. Station 51 had been called in as the first responders, but it soon became apparent that a second alarm was going to have to be requested.
There had been no one inside to go and save, as the building was a secondary building on the site. It had been relegated to being used for storage purposes only, after the main hub of productivity had shifted to one of the sturdier, more modern structures over a decade earlier.
The run had gone very well, and the only casualty had been one of the linesmen from Engine 36 whose regulator had malfunctioned and he had taken on too much smoke. At this point all the other stations had been released and Hank and his men were now just doing the overhaul.
Mike stood guard at the engine, as the hoses were still in use, in order to quench any hot spots that might still be lurking around. Cap and Roy were at the back of the building. Chet was on the west side, and Marco was on the east, Johnny was going over the front section of the building. So far everything looked good, but there had been a lot of boxes and crates in storage that had been filled with water soluble materials that had soaked up with water from the hoses, and they were sodden and heavy laden and put a lot of extra weight on the already weakened floors.
Johnny had pretty well completed his overhaul, when he heard the tale tell sound of splintering timber, and a shout from Chet. Johnny was by far the closest to Chet’s position, and the moment he heard his shouts, he sprang into action. He never even stopped to pause and think about their recent grievance.
For Johnny there had been no question at all about what he was going to do… he was going to run to Chet’s aid. For him there was never a choice about not going in to save him, any more than he made a choice about taking a breath.
When he got around to the west side of the building he saw Chet’s hose, but no sign of the man himself. He quickly called out to the missing man.
“Chet, where are you?”
“Over here,” came a muffled reply.
Johnny pushed his way past the pile of smoldering wood and debris, and stepped further into the building. All around him he could hear the ominous sounds of creaking timbers. He had only gone in about twenty feet when he saw Chet hanging on to the edge of collapsed stairwell by both of his hands, his body was suspended in mid-air, hanging over a gaping hole that ended at the bottom of the buildings sub-basement.
Johnny pulled out his HT and called for assistance while he rushed over to where Chet was hanging. When he got to about six feet from where Chet was hanging, Johnny gingerly got down on his stomach and crawled over to the edge of the hole, not wanting to put any more weight than necessary on the weakened floor.
“Take my hold of my hands Chet, and hang on…help is on the way. Are you hurt anywhere?” Johnny asked, as he leaned over as far as he dared and braced himself as much as he could, and took hold of Chet’s wrists.
“No, I’m not hurt; I was putting out a hot spot when the stairwell gave out from underneath me, and collapsed into the basement below. I was just barely able to grab hold of the edge of the hole and hang on.”
“Okay, well just hang onto me… I already radioed for help. They should be here soon.”
The words no sooner left his mouth when once more there was an ominous groan, and it became apparent that the weight of the sodden crates on the floor above them was becoming too much of a stress load for the timbers above their heads. It became increasingly obvious to both men that help wasn’t going to arrive in time.
“Get out of here Gage, leave me here and get away from the ceiling, or we’re both goners.” Chet yelled.
“Shut up Chet, I’m not leaving you, now hang on, I’m going to try and pull you up myself.”
“Gage, there’s no way you can lift me from that position; I outweigh you by at least thirty pounds. There’s no point in both of us dying here today… now go.”
“I said shut up Kelly,” Johnny ground out as he tightened his grip on Chet’s wrists and rose up onto his knees.
Johnny could sense more than see the buckling of the ceiling above him, and with a final herculean effort, which was made up of pure adrenaline, he tugged on Chet one final time, and to his immense relief, he felt Chet’s body rise up out of the hole.
Without waiting to see if he was alright, the two men stood and made a mad dash for the door.
Unfortunately it was two seconds too late, as the ceiling gave one more death groan, and collapsed right over the two men.
The second Johnny felt the first pieces of wood and plaster from the ceiling hit his shoulders, he grabbed Chet and shoved him under an extremely large oak desk that was sitting directly to his left.
It was one of those huge ornate partners’ desks that had been popular in the Victorian era that had obviously been long ago abandoned by its original owner. It turned out to be a stroke of luck for the two firemen, and before Chet even had a chance to fully crawl underneath it, Johnny dove in after him. Thankfully the desk was sturdy and had suffered minimal damage in the blaze.
For one brief moment Johnny thought of the irony… his partner had saved his life many times over in the few short years they had been on the job… and now he was hoping that this partner’s desk would do the same for him and Chet now.
When the pandemonium and cacophony of noises ended, and the dust began to settle, both men looked up at each other. Both of them were coughing and gagging on the dust and residual smoke that hung in the air.
“Are you hurt?” Johnny managed to gasp out.
Chet was still coughing, but managed to shake his head no.
“How about you?” Chet finally managed to cough out.
“I’m good,” Johnny lied.
He knew his right shoulder had been pierced when the first pieces of ceiling had fallen on his back. He could feel it rip through his turnout coat and tear into his flesh. But he didn’t think it was too serious, because he could still use his arm and shoulder without too much difficulty or pain.
Slowly Johnny pushed his body out from under the desk. He sat on the floor and surveyed the carnage around him. It looked like the entire second floor had collapsed on top of them and that he and Chet were somehow cocooned in a small area that was no more than six by six, that had been sheltered by the desk and a single large support beam that had formed a small tent like area right above the desk.
Johnny shifted away from the desk another two feet in order to allow Chet a chance to get out too.
“Looks like were stuck here until someone comes and gets us Chet.”
He was just about to call in on the HT, when it came to life in his hands. Through the speaker came Cap’s frantic voice.
“Gage … Kelly… are you guys alright?”
Johnny depressed the talk button and replied.
“Yeah, Cap were both fine, but we’ve been trapped by a ceiling collapse. We were by the front stairwell, in the southwest corner of the building when she came down on us. We’re in a space of about six by six, but there’s a lot of timbers and heavy debris, blocking us in here.”
“You’re gonna need the K-12 to cut us out of here… I’m kind of afraid to move any of the timbers from this end of it… it would be kind of like playing a game of kerplunk, only with Chet and I as the marbles. We just can’t see enough of what’s around us to know which ones are supporting the rest of the debris over our heads.”
“Okay guys, you just hang tight, we’re coming in to get you out of there.”
Johnny slid the HT back into his pocket and turned around to size up the situation one more time. It was when he turned around that Chet noticed the blood on the back of Johnny’s turnout coat.
“I thought you said you weren’t hurt Gage… you’re right shoulder’s covered in blood.”
“No Chet, I said I was good… and I am. I think it’s only superficial. I still have full range and motion of my arm and shoulder. It isn’t anything major to worry about. Brackett will sew me up, shove a syringe full of antibiotic in my ass, and I’ll be fine. We have bigger issues to worry about here… this timber looks pretty dicey… like it or not we need to crawl back under that desk for protection.”
Once they had got situated back underneath the relative safety of the desk, Johnny settled back against the polished oak wood, taking care to shift his weight off of his right shoulder. There was nothing he could do to treat the wound… hell, he couldn’t even see it. He’d just leave it alone and let Roy look at it when they got out of here.
For a long moment Chet stared down at the floor, frowning in concentration. He seemed lost in some private thought that was demanding his full attention.
Johnny put his head back and closed his eyes. He might as well rest while he waited. He was just drifting off into a light doze when he heard Chet’s voice.
“Why did ya do it Gage?”
“Do what Chet?” Johnny asked tiredly without opening his eyes.
“Why did ya come back and save me? … I mean after what I did to you it would have served me right if you had left me to fry… I was just wondering why’d ya do it? …you could have been killed.” Johnny opened his eyes, long enough to roll them at Chet and give him a snort of derision.
“Oh I dunno Chet, I guess maybe to prove that a village can have more than one idiot.”
He sighed and closed his eyes once again.
“Well thanks… you saved my ass back there… and… well just, thanks, because I know how much you hate me right now.”
Johnny lifted his head and opened his eyes as he glanced over at Chet. Finally he let out a huge sigh, and pulled himself up into a more upright position.
“Look Chet; number one; I came back because it was the right thing to do. Number two; I was the one who was closest to you and the only one who heard you… no one else would have made it over to you in time. And number three; you’re confusing anger with hate Chet. I’m angry with you Chet… hell, I’m furious with you… but I don’t hate you.”
“I don’t hate anyone … I’ve seen what hate can do first hand Chet, and I would never allow myself to feel an emotion that would perpetuate that kind of evil… Now are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yeah, thanks to you I got away without a scratch. How’s your shoulder feeling?”
“I’ll live, it doesn’t hurt that much, just aches a bit… like I said it’s probably just gonna need some stitches and antibiotics… my tetanus is current.”
Chet sat back and was silent for a while more, and Johnny once again leaned back and closed his eyes.
Suddenly the HT in Johnny’s pocket crackled to life and the two trapped men heard Roy voice. There was no mistaking the concern.
“How are you two doing?”
“Well, we haven’t killed each other yet, if that’s what’s worrying you. We’re good Roy, there’s a huge oak desk here and we’re pretty well sheltered underneath it. We’re both fine… we just want to get out of here, grab a hot shower and get something to eat. How are things progressing on your end?”
“It’s going to be a little while. There’s a lot of debris to cut through before we get to the area where you said you are, but there’s another engine here now, so we got lots of hands working on it… just hang tight Junior, I’m coming to get ya.”
Johnny smiled as he heard the affection behind Roy’s words.
“I never doubted ya Pally… I never doubted ya.”
Johnny put the HT back in his pocket, and pulled his turnout coat closer around him. He was beginning to feel cold. I must be a bit shocky… maybe I’m bleeding worse than I thought.
Chet’s voice came out of the dim recesses from underneath the desk once more.
“Look John, I know you wouldn’t let me say it before, but I just want you to know that I really am sorry about what I did. I was a total asshole.”
“Well what do you know Chet,” Johnny said with some amusement in his voice. “For once we completely agree about something.”
“Yeah, well anyway, I want you to know that as soon as this shift is over I’m going to put in for a transfer out of 51’s. That way you won’t have to put up with me anymore.”
Johnny put his head back against the side of the desk and heaved a frustrated sigh.
“Nobody is going to transfer out of 51’s Chet… and who knows; maybe one day I may even forgive you for what you did… But just tell me something Chet, because I’m really curious, what in the Sam Hill did I ever do to you to make you hate me so much?”
“Aw, shit John…Is that what you’ve been thinking? Because I don’t hate you… I have never hated you. I ‘ll admit that I’ve been a little bit jealous of you and Roy on occasion, but I’ve never hated you.”
“Well then what is it about me Chet? … because you sure as hell have singled me out, and I’ve been wracking my brain, going over and over it in my head, trying to figure it out, and that’s the only thing I can come up with. I mean what is it with you? Was your great great grandfather General Custer or something? Is that why you despise Indians so much?”
“No, Gage. It has nothing to do with you being part Indian. I don’t actually care about that. That was just a way to needle you.”
“It’s mainly because, of all the guys on our shift, you’re the only one who is a good enough sport to handle it. If I pulled the pranks that I pull on you, on any one of the other guys, they would probably kick the living shit out of me.”
“Well … there’s that, and the fact that you do have a tendency to walk right into the traps I set. Me and my brothers, we spent our whole childhood pranking each other. And when I came to L.A. from Boston, I left them all behind. It wasn’t till I came to Station 51 and met you that I finally found someone worthy enough to prank.”
“But you gotta believe me John; I didn’t mean to hurt you. I had no idea that your necklace meant so much to you… really I didn’t.”
Johnny smirked in disbelief.
“Do you really expect me to believe you had no idea what it meant to me? What are you blind? … or just plain stupid? You watched me treat that necklace with the utmost care. You saw me going to great pains to make sure it was safe and out of harm’s way. That should have been a huge clue to you about how important it was to me Chet.”
“I’m not going to tell you why it means so much to me Chet; because frankly it’s none of your damn business … and what’s more it never was.”
“You took something that was very personal and dear to me, and you treated both it, and my feelings like a piece of shit.”
Chet hung his head and quietly replied.
“I know John, and if I could take it back, I would… but I can’t.”
“No Chet… you can’t.”
“I guess I got so used to pranking you that I didn’t realize I was going over the line… especially about your being Indian. I know I made fun of things that mean a lot to your heritage, and I made light of a lot of things that have to do with the native people in general…and I see how wrong that was now… and I’m not proud of some of the things I said and did… It won’t happen again. I promise you.”
“And I’m not just saying this because Cap ordered me not to do it anymore…I’m saying it because I mean it…and because It’s wrong… I was wrong. But mostly it’s because I really hurt someone who I consider to be a good friend.”
Johnny nodded his head.
“You know Chet; you fell into a dangerous trap that has caused a lot of heartache for a lot of people over the years. You do things and say things under the pretense that it’s all just a joke and harmless. The trouble is that if you say those things enough and do them enough; you face the inherent danger that you become completely desensitized to their effects, and soon you lose sight of the fact that some of those comments regarding natives are hurtful and cruel. You have to remember there are some of us that lived that life… and some are still living it. And some of those so called jokes stem from very real and unpleasant conditions that still exist today.”
“Maybe instead of clumping all Native Americans into one group and painting them with some preconceived stereotypical paint brush; maybe you should go and actually visit a reservation and take the time to get to know some of them as individuals.”
Just then the HT came to life again, and Caps voice came over the speaker.
“Were still here, Cap.”
“Okay Pal, just hang on, we think we’re right above you, it won’t be long now.”
“Okay Cap.” Johnny replied.
It was only an instant later that they heard the sound of the K-12 come to life somewhere close by.
Chet fell silent and seemed to be lost deep in thought. After several minutes had passed, he reached over and took hold of Johnny’s arm.
“Is there anything I can say or do to make things right again between us Johnny? I know I screwed up big time, and even though I know I don’t deserve it; I’d like to think that someday we could be friends again.
Johnny could hear a sincerity in Chet’s voice he had never heard before, and when he looked up, he saw nothing but sadness and regret in his eyes.
In all honesty, Johnny had to admit that this past week or so at work had been tough. He missed the easy flow and natural camaraderie that had existed between all of the guys on A shift, before all of this had happened.
After listening to Chet, and getting the chance to let Chet know how much he had been hurt by what he did, Johnny had to admit that he believed Chet, when he said he was sorry and that he hadn’t meant to hurt him. And that as much as Chet had been a complete ass, he also believed that he didn’t think less of Johnny because of his half native status.
Besides being angry for such a long time, took a lot of energy and work; and frankly he was tired of being angry and upset. Plus it was giving him headaches and interrupting his sleep at night. So finally after several long moments he looked up at Chet and held out his hand.
“Okay Chet… I accept your apology.”
“Friends?” asked Chet hopefully.
Johnny looked over and gave Chet a lopsided grin.
Suddenly Johnny’s face took on a more serious look and he said warningly;
“But if you ever pull a stunt like that again…”
Chet held up his hands and spoke before Johnny could finish his thought.
“Say no more Johnny, I’ve seen the light. I can honestly say that I’ve learned my lesson. In fact I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last week or so, and I didn’t like what I saw. I now know the difference between a harmless prank and being mean…”
Whatever else it was Chet was going to say was interrupted by the sound of a large chunk of debris being moved, and a second later Roy’s head popped through the opening.
“You two just about ready to get out of there?”
Johnny looked over and grinned at Chet.
“I dunno… are we all done here Chet?”
Chet grinned back… “I’d say so.”
Johnny stood up and offered his good arm to Chet and hoisted him up to his feet.
As the two men walked out into the open light, it was apparent to everyone else on the A shift, that whatever else had gone on in the warehouse in those last two hours that Chet and Johnny had been trapped, they had obviously come to an understanding and had made up.
Once they were outside it was clear that Chet had indeed come out of the whole ordeal unscathed, but the gash on Johnny’s shoulder turned out to be fairly long and deep.
Fortunately for Johnny, it wasn’t deep enough to do any damage to the tissue or the muscles, but it had still taken over twenty stitches to close, and as he had predicted, his left hip was going to be sore from the shot of antibiotic he had been given.
Brackett had reluctantly cleared him to return to duty, but warned him that he was to let Roy do all the heavy stuff for the rest of the shift, and he was to concentrate on the medical end of the rescues if at all possible. He then made sure he had covered the wound with a water proof dressing so that the tired and dirty paramedic could return to quarters and take a much desired and much needed shower.
It was on the way back to the station that Johnny gave Roy a complete play by play of the entire conversation he and Chet had had while they were trapped.
Roy decided that as long as Johnny was content to let bygones be bygones and give Chet another chance, then he too would let his anger go. But he silently made a vow to himself to keep a very close watch on Chet from now on.
It was now well past eight o’clock at night, and all of the men had missed supper. When they got back, Cap informed them that they had been stood down for the next two hours in order to allow all the men to shower, eat and rest.
It was later on and Johnny had had a chance to eat and shower. It was a pleasant relief to everyone at the table when Johnny stood up and looked over at Chet and said.
“Well Chet, what are we watching tonight on the TV?”
Chet walked over to the set and picked up the TV guide and thumbed through it and exclaimed;
“Hey, The thing that ate Cleveland is on tonight, that’s a classic.”
“Good deal,” Johnny replied. “I’ll make the popcorn while you get the soda’s.”
The rest of the men looked around at each other for a minute, and then they all broke out into big grins and made their way over to the television set. Finally it looked like their family was back on track again.
It was later on in the evening and Cap was in his office making out the incident report, when he heard a soft knock at his door.
“Can I come in Cap?”
Hank looked up and saw Johnny standing there in the doorway. “Sure thing Pal, come on in and take a seat.”
Johnny sat down and shifted restlessly in his chair. “Uh Cap?" “Yes, John. What is it?”
“Well, I guess you kinda guessed that while we were stuck in that warehouse today, Chet and I had a chance to work things out. Anyway, I got a lot of things off my chest, and he apologized. We kinda hashed some stuff out and in the end we shook hands and made up.”
“That was very big of you Johnny. I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear it.”
Johnny nodded his head,
“Well anyway Cap, I got thinking about it, and I was kind of wondering if you might consider going into Chet’s file and tearing up that written reprimand you gave him. Me and him are square now, and I don’t think he’ll be doing anything like that again. And it would be a shame for that reprimand to be a bad mark on Chet’s record… I mean he might want to try for Engineer again someday, and I’d hate for that to follow him around.”
“I kinda figured a big part of why you did it in the first place was for my sake… and I just was wondering if you might consider ripping it up?”
Cap looked up and slowly nodded his head… “Okay John, if that’s what you want. I hope Chet knows and appreciates what you just did for him.”
Johnny just gave a self-deprecating shrug of his shoulders.
"Thanks Cap,” he said and he went back into the kitchen to watch the end of the movie with the rest of the guys.
By the time the A shift were ready to head for home the next morning, it was as if nothing had ever happened, and for that Cap was extremely thankful.
He had pulled Chet aside earlier and made sure that he knew what Johnny had done for him the night before, by asking to have the written reprimand removed from his file.
As Hank watched his crew get into their respective vehicles and one by one head out of the parking lot to go home, he wore a self-satisfied smile.
Everything was back to the way it had been before this whole ugly incident had occurred… well save for the fact that Chet and the latrines were still married … and there was little chance of an annulment in the foreseeable future.
After all, even though Chet had learned his lesson, there still had to be some consequences for his actions.
Cap turned around and let his eyes sweep over the kitchen of Station 51 and smiled.Yes sir… all was right with the world once more.
And with that thought in his head, he walked out the door, got into his car, and went home to his beautiful wife.
Emergency and its characters are the property of Mark VII Productions Inc. and Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
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This is a fictional story written for entertainment purposes only. No financial gain is being realized from it.
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
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