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It's was a beautiful day in the San Gabrielle mountains outside Los Angeles. There was a gentle cool breeze blowing. Just a fabulous day to be outside and active. Johnny, Roy, Alex and Sam were hanging off the side of the mountain all decked out in climbing gear. They were looking up watching. Johnny was steadying the rope as Sam was climbing up the cliff face ahead of the others. She carefully reached up and grabbed a crease in the rock ahead of her. She made sure she had a great grip in the crevice before she pulled herself up. Alex, Johnny and Roy practically held their breath as they watched her climb.
"Johnny, Sam climbs like a mountain goat," Alex said.
Sam climbed up onto the ledge and waved down to the guys below so that they knew that they could start climbing.
"Okay! Come on up," she yelled.
Johnny looked over at Alex as she called down. "Yeah, tell me about it," He said.
Johnny connected the rope that was hanging down to his belt and began to climb carefully up. Alex and Roy followed.
The group slowly climbed the rest of the way to the top of the mountain. Once they reached the top, they sat down and looked out across the valley below. It was a multitude of different shades of green and the blue of a river running through the valley below with golden flecks of sun as it glinted off the water. The sun was warm on their faces as they admired the marvelous view.
"It's beautiful," Roy exclaimed as he looked across the magnificent sight. "I can't wait until the kids are old enough to do this."
"You got that right," Alex said, agreeing with Roy.
Johnny walked behind Sam and wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on Sam's shoulder as they both looked over the beautiful view below.
Evening came and the four sat around the camp fire drinking coffee. Fish were on sticks, cooking over the flame. The sound of crickets and small animals was all around. Sam stared out into the fire, deep in thought. Johnny leaned over and playfully bumped Sam.
"What cha thinking?" Johnny asked.
Sam took a deep breath. She grinned a little and looked over at Johnny. "I was just thinking about my Dad," Sam said. "He would have loved doing this."
"Hey Sam," Alex asked, "how did you learn to climb like that? Did you learn it from your Dad?"
"Yeah, I guess," Sam said. "I've been climbing and hiking for as long as I can remember."
"It sounds like you spent quite a bit of time growing up outdoors camping and things," Roy said.
"We did," Sam said. "Camping, fishing, hiking, hunting. Remember, I'm from a small town in Alaska where hunting and fishing is a way of life."
"You hunt?" Alex asked, surprised.
"Well sure," Sam answered. "Doesn't everybody?" Sam smiled and winked at Alex. She knew he was nervous around guns.
Alex chuckled, "is there anything you can't do?"
"Well, she can't cook," Johnny said smiling.
Sam playfully slapped Johnny across the shoulder. "Hey," she said. "I'm not that bad."
"So, when was the last time you went back to Alaska for a visit?" Alex asked.
Sam thought about it for a minute. "It's been a while," she answered.
Johnny and Roy looked over at Sam then to each other. They were just a small few who knew the pain she left back in Alaska. Roy quickly changed the subject.
"I'm surprised that Sarah even let you come out here this weekend," Roy said. "The baby's due soon, isn't it?"
"Well, not for another 30 days," Alex answered. "I guess Sarah thought that this would be the last hurrah before he gets here."
"So you think it's a boy?" Johnny said.
"Of course I think so," Alex answered. "But Sarah disagrees. I guess we'll find out in a few weeks either way."
Johnny stood up to check on the fish. Satisfied, he started to pull them off the fire. "Hey, I think these are done," he said. Johnny started putting the fish and a package of vegetables wrapped up in tin foil on everyone's plates. Sam wasn't really paying attention. She continued to stare into the fire as he worked. She was thinking back to a different time.
The sunlight was starting to shine through the walls of the tent. Birds were beginning to tweet with the rising sun. Squirrels and other small animals could be heard foraging nearby. Sam was curled up in her sleeping bag. Johnny was spooned around her with his arm wrapped around her middle. Sam slowly opened her eyes. She yawned and stretched away some of the achiness she felt from sleeping on the ground.
Johnny moaned and stretched a bit too. Sam slipped out of his embrace and out of the tent. The sun was just rising and even though the day was going to be a warm one, this morning in the mountains was a little chilly. She pulled her boots loosely on her feet, stretched again, then wrapped her coat around her. Sam's short brown hair was sticking up in all directions from sleep. Knowing the others would be awake soon, Sam gathered some of the firewood together to build nice warm fire in the fire pit. After that was done, She placed the coffee pot on to perk over the flames and sat on one of the logs around the fire, warming her hands. Not far in the distance a shot could be heard. Sam turned her head to look in the direction the shot was coming from but wasn't too concerned. While camping she had often heard shots from hunters. To her, that was nothing too far out of the ordinary. There was another shot, and the coffee pot flew out of the fire and coffee began leaking all over the ground.
"What the hell!" Sam yelled as she dove to the ground. Aroused from the noise, Alex, Roy and Johnny came tumbling confused from their tents.
"Get down," Sam yelled to them.
The three men dove to the ground just as another shot came through the campsite hitting the log that Sam had just been sitting on. Suddenly, Sam leaped up and ran full speed toward where the shots were coming from. Johnny jumped up and followed close behind. She dodged trees and easily leaped over logs. Alex and Roy shoved boots quickly on their feet and followed as fast as they could. Another shot came whizzing in their direction. After running a short distance, Sam came to a clearing where a couple guys were using a 20 caliber rifle to shoot at mice running around a small bush near their campsite. They had obviously been drinking all night and were giggling at the little mice running around. Sam looked at them in disbelief, as did Johnny, Roy and Alex as they all came into the clearing.
"What the hell are you shooting at?" Alex yelled at them.
"The morons are shooting at mice," Sam answered.
One of the men with a rifle staggered toward her attempting to intimidate her. "Who are you calling a moron?" He drunkenly asked.
The man came right up to Sam until they were almost nose to nose. She looked him right in the face, refusing to back down.
"I'm calling you a moron, in fact you're a stinking drunk moron," Sam said.
"You shot through our campsite," Johnny yelled. "You could have killed us."
"Who taught you how to use that thing anyway? Elmer Fudd?" Sam sarcastically said.
"What do you know about shooting anyway honey," The drunk slurred as he practically fell over.
The man turned around to look at his drunken friend who was giggling behind him. The drunk was giving his friend the I got her smile. Sam grabbed the rifle out of his hand. She cocked the weapon, quickly aimed then fired. She walked over toward the bush, picked the creature up off the ground, walked back over to the drunk. She grabbed his hand and turned it palm up then slapped the dead mouse into his hand. "I know enough to hit what I'm aiming at," she said.
Sam now pulled out the clip from the rifle, emptied the chamber, dropped the rifle to the ground and walked away. As she walked past Johnny, Roy and Alex, the man opened his hand to find a small dead mouse bleeding in his palm. The man screamed, dropped the mouse to the ground and began rubbing his hand on his pant leg, trying to wipe off the blood. Johnny, Roy and Alex laughed, then turned to follow Sam back to the campsite. When there, they all looked at the empty and leaking coffee pot. Roy let out a huge sigh as he looked at the mess.
"What do you say we pack up and go to that diner we passed for some breakfast," Roy said.
"Sounds good to me," said Alex.
So the four of them quickly packed up their camp and Johnny drove them down the mountain, in his Range Rover, to the nearby diner for a great breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. They ate, joked and had a wonderful breakfast.
In station 36, Alex and Sam were coming into the Rec. room after their first run of the morning. Terry was sitting at the table reading the sports section. He looked up at Sam and Alex as they walk into the room. "Hey, I guess we should be calling you Annie Oakley now?" Terry said.
Sam had a confused look on her face, then realized what he was talking about and turned to Alex who just shrugged and sat down looking at the other sections of the paper.
Captain Harrison said, "Do you really think it was the smartest thing to fire his rifle?"
"Probably not," Sam agreed as she walked over to get a cup of coffee. "But he really made me angry. Those two morons could have killed us all."
A tall thin man with dark hair came in the door of the Rec. room. He was dressed in jeans and a dark blue plaid flannel shirt rolled up at the elbows. The mans skin was dark and he looked like he was American Indian. The man smiled as he listened to the conversation then said, "Sam defiantly isn't someone you want to upset."
Sam was shocked by the voice she heard behind her. She turned and nearly dropped her coffee. A huge smile grew on her face. "Oh my God," She said as she walked forward. She set down her coffee cup on the table then quickly approached him and gave a big hug. "Buck, What are you doing here?"
"I came to check out this paramedic program you all have here," he answered.
"Captain Harrison, I would like you to meet Captain Randy Buck from the Fort Yukon Fire Department," Sam said.
"Actually, that's not quite true anymore. Its Chief Buck now," He explained.
Captain Harrison stood up to shake the hand of Chief Buck. "I was informed that you were coming this morning. Welcome to Station 36 Chief Buck." Harrison turned to Sam, "Why don't you get Chief Buck a helmet and turn out."
"Sure thing Cap", Sam said and she led the visitor to the apparatus bay. "Wow, Chief now. You sure have moved up the last couple years."
Sam opened the equipment closet and found a spare helmet and turnout and handed it over to him. "These should fit you," she said.
Buck took the gear, "I'm sure it'll work fine." He leaned against the wall. "I had a heck of a time finding out where you were. I knew you were in LA County but they didn't have any Samantha Anderson listed. They said your name is Samantha Gage. Do you care to tell me why? How could you have gotten married and not even called? You never even called to say that you had arrived safely. You didn't call at all in three years. What the hell Sam?"
Sam looked down and kicked the ground, "I'm sorry Buck, I..."
The tones sounded. "Squad 36, possible heart. 1672 Palm Dr. 1672 Palm Drive, Cross streets Elm. Time out 10:27."
Sam, Alex and Chief Buck climbed into the squad and they were off to their rescue. They pulled up in front of a beautiful Spanish style ranch house. A man was laying in the front yard. His lawnmower and a group on neighbors were next to him. A woman ran up to the squad as they were getting out, "My husband was mowing the yard and he collapsed," she excitedly said. "He said he has a pain in his chest."
The man was laying in the grass rubbing his chest. Alex and Sam grabbed their equipment and kneeled down next to the man. Chief Buck watched them work.
"Hi," Sam said to the man, "what's your name?"
"Jack," he said.
"Hi Jack, my name is Sam and this is Alex," she said. "So what's going on?"
"My chest really hurts," said Jack. "Like someone is standing on me."
Alex get Jacks vital signs and called Rampart with the information.
Sam took out the oxygen and put a nasal cannula on him. "Here, this oxygen will make you feel a whole lot better. Now, let me unbutton your shirt so we can take a look at your heart, okay?"
Jack nodded and Sam unbuttoned his shirt to hook him up the monitor. They looked and sent a strip to Rampart. Then got the medication out and start an IV as instructed when Jack started to V-fib. Buck stood back and watched Alex and Sam in action. They worked as a well oiled machine. Sam called out clear then zapped him, once, twice, and the third time was a charm. The wife screamed and cried in the background, not understanding what was happening and fearing for her husband. Buck worked to comfort the wife as Sam and Alex got Jack's heart back into sinus rhythm. The ambulance attendants came over and got the victim into the ambulance and on the way to the hospital. Sam climbed into the back of the ambulance for the ride over to Rampart while Captain Buck rode in the squad with Alex. Alex locked the ambulance doors and hit the back a couple times. The vehicle drove off.
Once they got their Victim to Rampart, Sam, Alex and Buck headed over to the desk to get a cup of coffee and introduce Buck to Dixie.
"So I guess you've known Sam quite a while," Dixie said.
"I have," Buck said. "Fort Yukon is a pretty small place. Everyone knows each other. I think I met her when she was about 6 years old."
Dixie smiled and Buck continued, "What a terror. This girl would never sit still. She was always climbing trees or mountains. Hiking with her father, even in the winter. Always getting into something."
As they were talking, Roy and Johnny come up behind them.
"Buck, I would like you to meet a couple of the best paramedics in the County," Sam said. This is Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage. This is Chief Randy Buck from the Fort Yukon Fire Department. He's here to look at the Paramedic Program."
Buck shook the guys hands and said, "And I came to check on Sam too, while I was here." Buck took a good look at Johnny while he shook his hand, "So.... Johnny Gage, I take it you are the one who stole Sam's heart?"
From the glare Buck gave, Johnny felt like he was meeting Sam's father. Johnny smiled a big crooked smile and nervously said, "I am."
"It's nice to finally meet you," Captain Buck smiled as he said. "I wasn't sure there was anyone out there who could..."
"Squad 36 are you available?" The handy-talkie squawked.
Alex answered, "Squad 36 available."
The tones sounded on the handy-talkie, "Engine 36, Squad 36 traffic accident. Highway 5 at the 35th street north exit ramp. Highway 5 at the 35th street north exit ramp. Time out 11:07."
"Squad 36, responding from Rampart General," Alex answered.
Sam, Alex and Buck waved and rushed out the door to the squad.
Squad 36 arrived just moments behind the engine to find a car teetering on the edge of the ramp bridge. It was a delicate balance where if one person inside moved, the car would dive crashing down into the freeway below. Terry ran up and put his weight on the trunk end of the car in an attempt to steady it as the others grabbed ropes to tie the car off to the engine. Sam went up to the side of the car. She looked in to see five terrified teen boys.
"Stay still and don't move," Sam yelled to them. "Are any of you hurt?"
"No, but Kyle, he was driving. He's stuck," The boy in the seat closest said. "His seatbelt jammed."
"Ok, just hang on," Sam said.
Sam ran over to Captain Harrison who was supervising the securing of the vehicle, "There's 5 teen boys in there," she reported. "They say none of them are hurt but the drivers seatbelt is jammed and he can't get out."
"That car is caught on the undercarriage. There is no way we can safely pull it back," Harrison said. "Sam, get your gear. Alex, get her tied off. As soon as we get some ropes on this thing, let's get those boys out and Sam can cut that seatbelt off him."
Sam and Alex ran to get their gear.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Buck asked.
"Yeah, just grab the back of that car and keep it as stable as we can," Harrison answered.
Buck ran over and held onto the back end of the car, using his own weight along with the other three guys and two ropes tied to engine 36 to keep the car stable. Alex tied Sam's rope to the engine so he would have hands free as he needed them. Sam slowly opened the back door of the car and held it open for the first boy closest to the door.
"Ok, moving as slow as you can, slide across the seat and climb out," Sam said. "Make it as smooth as you can."
The boy closest to the door slid his legs slowly out and stood up. The back door was right on the edge. Sam grabbed his hand and pulled him forward and away from the exposed edge of the ramp. She pointed him away from the vehicle then turned her attention to the next boy. She had the next boy slide slowly across the seat as the first did, then continued to the next boy. She slowly led them away each time. When the third boy in the back seat slid out, the car started to tilt more. The men in back and Sam put their weight on the rear of the car to control the tilt. The driver screamed, "we're going to fall!"
"No we're not," she powerfully said.
With Sam's statement, the driver calmed down a little. Sam climbed slowly into the back seat of the car using her own weight in to steady it. When it seemed more solid, she talked to the passenger who was staring at her with terrified eyes.
"Ok, it's your turn," she told the passenger. "A slow as you can, move to the back seat here with me then slowly slide out."
Kyle started to panic, "What about me?"
"Just calm down," Sam calmly explained. "I'm not going to leave you. Just give me a minute to finish getting your friends out of the way, so I can get that seatbelt off of you, then we can both get out of here."
The passenger followed her instructions. He slowly and smoothly turned to climb over the front seat. He sat on the backseat next to Sam, then slowly slid out of the car. Alex grabbed his hand and pulled him away from the car as Sam did to the other boys. The passenger joined his friends on the freeway deck anxiously watching and waiting for their friend Kyle to join them. Sam looked through the back window at Buck holding onto the back end of the car. He saw her look at him and knew what she was about to do. He pushed a little harder on the back end using all his weight to keep it steady. Then she slowly moved forward a little. Kyle was trying real hard to stay calm but the panic was overwhelming. He was breathing fast and sweat was pouring off of him.
"I don't want to die," he cried.
"Your not going to," she calmly but firmly said.
Sam pulled her scissors out of her utility belt and carefully cut the seatbelt then pulled it out of the way and slid the scissors back into place. "Ok Kyle, just like the others," she explained. "Move slowly and smoothly into the back seat and slide out the door. Just follow me out."
Sam started to move further into the back seat and backed toward the door. Like the others Kyle slowly followed her into the back seat. Sam backed slowly out of the open car door and when she did the car shifted just a little. Kyle lost it and quickly leaped out of the car. He pushed off the door frame. As he did, the car shifted violently and pivoted. Kyle bumped into Sam as he leaped past and she fell backwards off the bridge deck. Alex reached over, grabbed Kyle by the wrist and pulled him away from the edge and to safety. Sam fell about 25 feet until the safety belt caught her and she jerked to a stop. All the men saw the rope grow taunt and knew that she was safe but the weight of the front end of the car now pushed even further off the overpass grew too much for the firefighters and even the ropes to handle. Each rope began to stretch, fray and finally snap. Alex grabbed at the car and everyone tried as hard as they could but they were all unable to stop the momentum.
Alex and Buck screamed "Sam," as the car fell toward where she was hanging from her lifeline. Then they heard the car crash as it hit the ground far below. Alex, Buck and Captain Harrison went to the edge and could see Sam hanging unconscious swinging back and forth on her lifeline.
"Get me a backboard and sandbags," Alex yelled over to Terry.
Terry ran to get the equipment while Buck and Captain Harrison grabbed Sam's life life and began to pull her up. Alex watched Sam carefully and urged them to be gentle as they pulled her up. Matt, the engineer was trying to keep the five boys calm and make sure that none of them were hurt as they claimed before.
Alex and Terry reached down and grabbed Sam as she came to the freeway deck. She was unconscious, hanging sideways in her belt. Her left arm hung in an unusual manner and blood was dripping from her fingertips. They could see bone protruding from the torn skin of her forearm. A huge black bruise was already beginning to spread on the left side of her face from the hairline of her forehead across her eye. A large goose egg was on her forehead above her left eye.
"Watch her head," Alex said.
Terry helped Alex bring Sam onto the ramp deck. Alex grabbed her by her shoulders and tried to cradle her head as they gently placed her directly on the back board. As soon as they had her laying down, Buck came to her side.
"Sam," he said with concern.
"Terry, can you get me the drug box, cervical collar and splints," Alex asked. "Cap, can you contact Rampart."
Harrison ran to the squad and brought back the bio phone so he could contact Rampart.
"Is she ok?" Buck asked Alex. "Is she alive?"
Alex was busy checking her carotid pulse and airway. As Buck talked to him Alex looked up.
"She's alive," Alex answered. "Let's try to keep her that way."
"Rampart this is County 36'" Harrison said. "We have a code I. Female, 27. Stand by for vital signs."
"Standing by 36," Dixie said.
Dixie turned and looked out the window of the base station. Dr. Early was standing there reading a report. She tapped on the window with her fingernails and Dr. Early looked up at Dixie and came into the Base Station.
"Joe, it's Sam," Dixie said, "She's been hurt."
Alex checked Sam's eyes, ears and got her vital signs. Alex began to report conditions out loud so Captain Harrison could repeat everything Alex said into the bio phone.
"Cap, pulse is 130. Respiration 35. Stand by for BP. She is unconscious and has a large hematoma on the left side of her forehead. Her left eye and cheek is beginning to swell. Her eyes are reactive but unequal. I don't see any fluid in her nose or ears. I'm going to immobilize her neck and we have her on a backboard. I suspect a possible skull fracture and possible neck & back injury. Compound fracture of her left ulna and radius. Moderate bleeding. BP 120/90."
"Buck, can you get the oxygen out of the squad?" Alex asked.
The five boys were watching all the activity. Kyle asked Matt, "Is she going to be all right?"
Matt looked over to where they were working on Sam then turned back to Kyle, "I don't know," he answered.
Kyle was very upset, "I didn't mean to hurt her," he said almost crying. "Really, I didn't mean to hurt her."
Matt tried real hard to calm him, "I know," he said. "It's going to be all right."
Buck jogged over to the squad, past the group of boys. He felt so bad for Kyle. He knew the boy was terrified. Buck brought the oxygen right back. Alex carefully put the cervical collar on Sam, then when Buck came back, He gently put the oxygen mask on her face. Buck removed the rope from Sam's belt. Alex put the sandbags next to Sam's head to keep her spine in line and wrapped a bandage around her head to keep her spine stable during transport. Terry handed Alex the kerlex and splint and he carefully bandaged and splinted her badly broken arm. Then Alex gently took off Sam's shoes and socks to check her reflexes, hoping she hadn't badly injured her back. All the information was reported to Rampart.
"How is the pain level County 36?" Dr. Early asked.
"No response to pain," Harrison reported.
"Start an IV D5W TKO," Dr Early said. "Is the ambulance there?"
Captain Harrison looked over as the ambulance pulled in. "it's just arrived," he said.
"Monitor vital signs and transport," Dr Early said.
"10-4 Rampart," Harrison said. "ETA 15 minutes."
Alex carried the drug box and followed the gurney into the ambulance. Terry slid the last of the equipment in behind Alex and shut the back door. He then hit the back windows and the ambulance pulled away. Buck worriedly watched as the ambulance drove away.
Dr. Early took a deep breath and looked over at Dixie.
"Bad?" She asked.
"Real Bad," he answered. "Have surgery standing by. I'm afraid we're going to need it."
Dixie picked up the phone right next to her to reserve a surgical suite to be ready, contacted X-ray, then rushed out of the room to make sure the treatment room was ready when Sam arrived. Dixie's heart was breaking, but had a job to do, so held her emotions in check.
Johnny and Roy came into the Rec. room. Johnny was smiling, talking excitedly about the interesting run they just had. He rushed over to pour a cup of coffee.
"You guys wouldn't believe that last run," Johnny said.
Captain Stanley walked into the room closely behind Roy. Stanley looked upset. He was about to say something when the phone rang. He answered the phone right next to him then looked over at Johnny.
"Johnny, it's for you" Captain Stanley said. "It's Dr. Brackett."
Johnny looked at him confused. He came over and took the receiver and began to talk. "Hi Doc," Johnny said.
Everyone could see from their Captain's face that there was a problem. They just watched & waited. Johnny listened carefully. The smile and the color faded from his face. Johnny put his head down, leaned against the wall and squatted down into his heels. He almost looked like he was trying not to faint. He ran his other hand through his hair as he listened.
"How bad?" Johnny asked. "But she's alive?" "Whatever you need, yeah I'll... Thanks Doc."
Johnny let his arm and the phone receiver move away from his ear. He sat there for a moment, not moving. He put his other hand up on his forehead again. Roy took the phone from Johnny's hand and hung it up.
Johnny didn't even move. Roy squatted down in front of him so they were face to face. The room had never been as quiet. Everyone was waiting to hear what happened.
"Johnny?" Roy said.
Johnny looked up into Roy's blue eyes. He took a deep breath and looked around. He realized that everyone was waiting to hear what was going on. He was choked up and spoke almost in a whisper. "Sam was in a bad accident," he cleared his throat and continued to explain what little he knew. "Dr. Brackett doesn't know much yet. She's still unconscious. They're doing X-rays now." Johnny paused, not really knowing what to do.
"Roy, why don't you take Johnny to Rampart and stay with him for a bit," Captain Stanley said. "I'll have Johnny's replacement sent there."
"Thanks Cap," Roy said. "Johnny, come on let's get to Rampart."
Roy stood up and grabbed Johnny by the elbow. Johnny stood up and silently allowed Roy to lead him out to the squad.
Everyone continued waiting as Johnny left the room. They listened to the squads engine start and drive away.
Chet finally asked "What the hell happened Cap?"
"Captain Harrison called right before they got here," Captain Stanley explained. He took a deep breath then continued. "Sam fell off an overpass. She was tied in but the car that was teetering there came loose and fell down on top of her."
"Oh God!" Marco said.
Captain Stanley continued, "She deflected most of the impact with her arm. It's pretty badly broken. Sam also may have a skull fracture and possibly a broken neck. She had no response to pain and still hasn't regained consciousness."
Chet's mouth hung open. His eyes started to well up in tears. For as much abuse as he had always given to Johnny over the years, they were still friends. Marco started to say a silent prayer.
"I better call the squad out of service and get Johnny a replacement," Captain Stanley said as he walked to his office.
The light in the hospital room was beginning to fade as the sun was setting. Johnny was sitting next to the bed that Sam was sleeping in. He was still dressed in his uniform. He was looking exhausted and wrinkled. Her face was horribly bruised, swollen and her left arm and hand was propped on a pillow bandaged and splinted with a clean new splint. There was a large ice pack on her arm and another on her hand as well. Sam was still wearing the cervical collar. She slowly opened her good eye and glanced over at Johnny sitting in a chair next to the bed looking at an old magazine he found.
"Johnny," Sam whispered.
Johnny smiled and leaned forward, "Hey, how are you feeling?"
"My arm really hurts," she answered. "My head hurts too."
"Ok," Johnny said as he pushed the call button. "Do you remember what happened?"
"No," she said then thought for a moment. "A car on an overpass?"
All of a sudden Sam had a panicked look on her face.
Johnny smiled and nodded to her. "Don't worry. You got everyone out of the car all right before it fell," He said. "You were the only one hurt."
Sam closed her eye and took a breath of relief then looked back at Johnny.
The nurse came in and checked the circulation in Sam's left hand. "Is that arm hurting you?" She asked.
Sam tried to nod but the pain in her neck stopped her. Sam grimaced from the pain. The nurse smiled. "I'll get you something for the pain and an ice pack for that eye. Maybe we can get that swelling down a little so you can see a bit better."
"Thank you," Sam squeaked out.
Johnny poured her a cup of water and lifted the straw to her lips. "Here, sip this," Johnny said. "I bet your throat is pretty dry and sore. They had you in surgery for a while repairing your arm."
Sam took a couple sips of water and rested her head back into the pillow.
"I've got some pretty good pictures of your arm, hand and head if you want to see them," Johnny said. "Not even a crack on that hard head of yours. But you have a pretty serious concussion."
Johnny smiled at her and she tried to smile back. "Maybe later," Sam answered. "Right now I have a miserable headache."
"I'm so glad your ok," Johnny said. "When they first told me what happened, I thought... I don't know what I thought. But, if you keep this up, I'm going to have grey hair ahead of my time."
Sam smiled up at Johnny then closed her eye. He gently brushed the hair off her forehead then took her right hand in his hands. He carefully avoided the IV as he kissed her hand. They had both been in this situation of worrying about each other too many times already. Sam smiled up at him as best she could and gave his hand a little squeeze.
"Johnny..." She said.
"I know," he answered. "Me too."
He gave her hand another gentle kiss. The nurse came back in and Johnny moved out of her way so she could add the pain medication to Sam's IV. The nurse smiled as she looked at the two of them together and the love that they obviously had for each other. Sam took a deep breath and closed her good eye again as the medicine quickly took effect. Johnny sat back down in the chair at the bedside as Sam drifted back into sleep.
Sam was dressed all in black sitting on the stairs in front of the house. She had obviously been sitting there for a while. Snow was falling all around her and she had a good coating of snow on her head and shoulders. There were the sounds of a large group of people gathered together in the house behind her. A tall thin clean shaven man came out of the house. Captain Buck's straight black hair touched the collar of his dark wool coat. He looked down at Sam sitting on the stairs. He pulled his coat tight around him as he walked down the stairs and sat next to Sam.
"You are going to freeze out here. Why don't you come on inside?" Buck said.
"I'm all right. Thanks Cap," Sam responded.
She continued to sit quietly and motionless. She looked very tired and drained.
"I talked to LA County as you asked me to," he said. "They said that they would be happy to have you as part of the department. In fact, there's a new para-something training class starting in about two weeks."
"That sounds great. Thanks Cap."
The Man shook his head in frustration. "Sam, I really wish you would reconsider. You have this house and your dad's store all free and clear. What are you going to do with that?"
"Right now nothing," she answered. "I'll cross that bridge later."
"And Sam, You're a great firefighter. I hate losing you. We all do. What happened to Vinnie and Becca was just a freak accident. It wasn't your fault. You know that right?"
Sam gently nodded her head. The tears were beginning to freeze on her cheeks. He continued, "And your Dad... There wasn't anything you could have done."
A woman dressed all in black walked in front of the house. She carried a couple bags of groceries. She stopped for a moment and looked up at Sam sitting on the stairs then she stomped off. The woman in black went into the house next door. Even with the falling snow muffling all the sound, the slamming of the front door of the house next door could be heard.
"Sam, this is your home. Martha is angry and grieving," he said. "She'll come around."
"Maybe," Sam said. "Maybe it would be easier if I was gone to LA. Maybe it would be easier for her if I wasn't right here everyday reminding her of Vinnie." Sam took a deep breath, "Maybe it would have been better if I hadn't turned my head away from the fire when that debris came at me."
The Captain became angry with what she was saying. "Sam, no! Look at me," he grabbed her face and turned her toward him, so she had to look him in the eyes. "Sam, listen to me. You are here for a reason," he said. "It will be all right." Sam put her head in her hands. She had been strong for so long, emotions couldn't be held back any more. The captain put his arms around her shoulders. He pulled her toward him and held her as she sobbed.
"It's going to be all right honey," Buck said. "I'll take care of everything for you."
Sam woke up a few hours later. The room was dark. It was a gloomy rainy day outside and with the curtains drawn it was as dark as night.. Sam could see a figure sitting in the corner in the dark. "Johnny?" She said.
"No, Sam, it's me," Buck said. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," she said. "Where's Johnny?"
Sam coughed gently and grimaced as her back spasmed and her head pounded. Buck poured a little water into a cup and helped give her a sip of the water.
"I sent Johnny to stretch his legs and get something to eat," Buck said. "I don't think he's eaten a thing or moved from this chair since you came in yesterday."
Just then an attendant brought in a tray of food for Sam. She set in on the table and left.
"Something smells good," Buck said.
He lifted the lid off the food tray. There was some beef broth, jello and a pot of tea.
"Yum," he said.
Sam let out a little giggle. She knew how bad the food would be and looking at the clear liquid diet on the tray, Sam knew yum just wasn't the word to describe it. But she also knew that to get something good to eat, she had to deal with the bad too. Sam grabbed the bed control and started to tilt her bed up to an almost seated position. She tried to adjust her body but was having a hard time. She only had one arm to use and it still had an IV in it. Her neck and back were stiff and ached. Her head throbbed almost as much as her arm. She sat still for a moment and took a breath, trying not to be sick.
"Take some breaths," Buck said.
Buck watched her for a few moments. The color seemed to come back into her face and she started to relax a little more. He took the cover off her broth then picked up the spoon and silently fed her some of the broth.
"I'm glad you like the food here because it sounds like your going to be in this place for at least a week," Buck said.
Buck continued to feed her more of the broth. "Do you remember the last time we were in this position?" Buck asked as he fed her a bit more broth.
"Yeah, I remember," she answered quietly.
Buck nodded in understanding of that difficult time in both their lives. That was when they had both lost two of their friends in the horrible explosion.
"So, how long have you been married?" Buck asked.
Sam smiled, "It'll be a year in December."
"Johnny seems like a great guy," Buck said.
He gave her another spoonful of broth. "Sam, I can understand you not coming to visit, but you didn't even call. Why didn't you call?" Buck asked.
Sam took another bite of the soup he was holding for her and thought about his question for a few seconds. "I'm sorry Buck," she said. "I had so much going on when I left, I just had to get away. I always meant to call. Then it got to be so long, the longer it got, the harder it was to make that call. After a while, I didn't know if you even wanted to hear from me. Vinnie's Mom blamed me for what happened and had no problem saying so to everyone she talked to."
Johnny came quietly walking into the room expecting Sam to still be asleep. Instead he saw Buck sitting on the edge of the bed feeding her. Johnny quietly listened to their conversation.
"Damn it Sam," Buck angrily said, "I was there that day, remember? I saw everything. I know it wasn't your fault and no matter what she says or who she says it to, its not going to change that fact." He took a deep breath and calmed himself. Getting angry at her really wasn't going to help the situation any. "Believe it or not, There are a whole bunch of people in Alaska who care a great deal about you and I care about you Sam. None of us would have turned our backs on you. We were just afraid you were out here alone all this time. We've been really worried about you. Do you think I came here just because of the paramedic program? I came to see you too."
"I'm sorry," she said.
Sam rested her head back into the pillow. She blinked, trying not to cry. Buck smiled at her. "I am glad you found someone. Everyone was happy to hear that when I called last night. Jerry was a little heartbroken though."
"Jerry," she said smiling remembering him.
Johnny saw her smiling and it lit him up too. Sam turned her head very slightly and saw Johnny approaching her bed.
"Hey, look who's awake," Johnny said. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," she answered.
"She even ate a little something," Buck said.
"Yeah, I see that," said Johnny as he leaned over and kissed the top of her head.
"Well, I better get going," Buck finally said. "I'm only here for two weeks on my whirlwind tour. I have another squad to ride with in just a little while."
Buck started to walk out the door then turned back, "Hey, you're going to be laid up for a bit recovering.
Maybe now is a good time to come back to the Fort for a bit. What better time for a vacation."
Buck waved and walked out the door. As he did, Sam said under her breath, "Some vacation."
Roy was busy tying his shoes when Johnny came bounding into the locker room. "Good mornin, good mornin, good mornin," he cheerfully said as he patted Roy on the back.
"Good morning," Roy answered. "How's Sam?"
"She's doing much better," Johnny answered.
"That's great to hear," Roy said. "We were all pretty worried about her."
"Thank you," Johnny said.
Chet came in and was listening to the conversation. "So how bad is it?" He asked.
Johnny started tucking in his shirt as he answered. "She has a pretty bad concussion and her back and neck are strained. The worst injury is her arm but there wasn't any arterial or nerve damage so it looks like it should mend just fine."
"It sounds like she got really lucky," Chet said.
Roy, Johnny and Chet joined the rest of the crew in the Rec. room. Captain Stanley came walking into the room. "I'm glad your both here. Dick Friend called this morning to tell me that you are going to have a representative from the Fort Yukon Alaska Fire Department riding with you today. He's here to learn all about the Paramedic program."
Just then, Dick Friend walked in with Buck right behind him. "Hank," Dick said, "it's good to see you."
Dick shook hands with Hank and was introduced to Buck.
"Hey Buck," Johnny said. "We were just talking about you. It sounds like you're going to be riding with us today."
Dick looked over at Johnny a little confused so Johnny explained. "We met a few days ago. Buck was Sam's Captain in Alaska."
"Welcome to Station 51," Captain Stanley said.
Dick Friend rubbed his hands together, "Well then, I better get going guys. Chief Buck, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Sounds great," Buck said and waved as Dick Friend left the station.
"So,You were Sam's Captain?" Roy asked. "That must have been something."
Chief Buck smiled and sat down at the table making himself comfortable as Johnny brought him over a cup of coffee.
"For a while I wasn't sure if I was going to go grey or bald," he explained. Everyone laughed at his comment then he continued. "That girl has tons of natural talent but she is fearless and one hell of a firefighter."
Captain Stanley sat down next to him, patted Buck on the shoulder and looked over at Johnny, "I know what you mean."
Everyone grinned at that comment and looked over at Johnny who started to turn a bright shade of red.
"Then, Were you there when she was hurt in the explosion?" Chet asked.
Bucks face just dropped and the smile left. He paused for a minute thinking back.
"Yes," he said. "I was there."
Buck paused a long time. Remembering all that happened. All that he witnessed. "Has Sam told you what happened?"
"She told us some," Roy said. "What she remembers."
"Yes, she had her injuries," Buck finally said, " "It sounds awful, but the best thing that happened was Sam being hurt so bad. She was so close to Vinnie and Becca. Being hurt, she didn't need to deal with the aftermath of that day. Between the head injury and burns, she spent weeks in the hospital. Her heart was broken from losing them of course, and she wasn't able to make it to the funerals, but if she knew the rest... It really was best her being hurt. I lost people before. Never like that. I hope to never see anything like that again. I pray no one ever will."
Buck stopped talking and just stared down into his cup of coffee. No one moved. It was so quiet, not even Henry made a sound. Then the Tones went off.
"Engine 8, Station 51, station 36 station 10. Structure fire, warehouse on pier 34. Warehouse on Pier 34. Time out 8:32."
Everyone rushed to their rigs. Johnny quickly pulled a turnout and helmet out of the supply closet for Buck and handed it to him. Buck slipped it on and slid into the squad as Johnny did the same right behind him. Captain Stanley answered the call, "Station 51 KMG 365."
Both vehicles rushed out to the fire.
They pulled up in front of the warehouse along with the other stations. The paper recycling warehouse was fully involved with flames shooting out of the windows. As they came to a hydrant, Mike stopped momentarily while Chet jumped off and pulled some hose. Then Mike drove further allowing the hose to start pulling off the end of the engine. Chet hooked the hose to the hydrant with great speed then ran back over to his engine and put on his mask and gear. Squad 51 pulled up near the engine. Buck watched as Johnny and Roy suited up for battle. He followed them as they ran over to Stanley for instruction. As they were heading over, an older man in a white dress shirt and black tie was approaching Captain Stanley.
"I have two people missing," he told him. "The last time I saw them, they were in the office in the back corner making sure everyone got out."
Captain Stanley told Johnny and Roy who ran over to the building followed by Chet and Marco to back them up. Alex and Brice also joined Johnny and Roy in the rescue. Captain Stanley reported the information on the Handy-Talkie to all the other engine companies and called another alarm so that he could get more manpower on the scene. Buck nervously stood by watching. It was really had for him to stand back and do nothing. He paced nervously.
Johnny, Roy, Alex and Brice were working their way into the warehouse followed by Chet and Marco. Fire was everywhere and the smoke was thick. There were pallets of compressed cardboard everywhere. Perfect kindling for such a large fire. They worked their way back to where the people were reported to be. They screamed "Is anybody here as they moved."
They continued forward and Johnny heard a voice calling, "over here!!!" A moment later, Roy heard it too. They found a man on the floor and his friend was trying desperately to get him out from under a heavy pallet of cardboard that had fallen over on top of him. Brice took the one man and he and Alex led him out while Johnny and Roy worked on getting the other man out.
"Are you hurt," Roy asked.
"My leg," the man answered. "I think it's broken."
The fire around them started to get more intense and the smoke was getting much thicker. "It's gonna flash," Marco yelled behind them as Johnny and Roy tried to shift the pallets so that they could free the man.
"Marco, give me a hand," Johnny yelled.
Marco left Chet to man the hose as he helped Johnny with the pallets. Johnny, Marco and Roy pushed the pallets with all their might. The pallets started to shift and the man began to crawl like a worm from under.
Roy reached down and grabbed the mans arm, pulling him out faster. Once he was out, Johnny and Roy grabbed the man by the arms and lifted him up between them while Marco went back to Chet. The pallets the man was under began to burn. "It's gonna Flash," Johnny yelled.
Buck was standing by the engine anxiously watching and waiting. He saw Alex and Brice run out with one victim, but where was Johnny and Roy. He continued to wait and worry. He saw five individuals running out the door. Two were carrying a man between them. Other firefighters began to back away, just as the building exploded. A flash of flame and smoke came out the warehouse door right behind the firefighters.
Buck held his breath watching Johnny, Roy and their victim duck as flames and debris flew over their heads. Then he saw them as they moved to the squad and laid the injured man down. Buck ran over to watch as Roy began to examine the man. He checked the mans leg and started taking his pulse and respiration as Johnny shrugged off his SCBA and began taking out needed equipment from the squad. Johnny started the man on oxygen and contacted Rampart with the information from Roy. Now it was Roy's turn to quickly slip his gear off. Buck grabbed the gear from Roy and moved it to the side so the men would have room to work. He watched and was impressed by the skill and smoothness in which they worked together.
Captain Stanley came over to check. He saw that everything was under control and called for an ambulance to be sent for the injured man as he moved back toward the fire area. It didn't take long for the man to be stabilized and prepped for transport. Roy rode in the ambulance with their injured man and Squad 36's minor smoke inhalation. Johnny and Buck climbed into the squad and followed the ambulance to Rampart.
"Sam is right," Buck said, "you two are Damn good."
Johnny smiled with pride, "Thanks Buck."
"How long have you been a paramedic?"
"About six years," Johnny answered.
"It really shows," Buck said.
"Would you be interested in coming up to Fort Yukon? " Buck asked. "You can take a look at what we have and see if we can find a way to start some kind of paramedic program there. You already have a house there to stay at. That would save some expense."
"Thanks Buck," Johnny said.
"Don't thank me," Buck explained. "It's Sam's house."
Johnny looked at him confused. "Sam's house?"
"I guess she never mentioned the house," Buck said. "It doesn't surprise me that she hasn't thought about it. Her last year was pretty hard. Vinnie and Becca's deaths, her injuries, Martha's accusations, then her Dads passing was the final straw," Buck explained. "She was pretty fragile at that time, if you can imagine Sam ever being fragile. She left for here just few days after her fathers funeral. She probably never even thought of the house as hers."
"I never realized it was so bad," Johnny said. "She's never really wanted to talk about it."
Buck turned to Johnny and strongly said, "I want you to know, Sam did nothing wrong."
"I know," Johnny answered.
Buck continued to explain, "We investigated and found it was a faulty valve that blew. Martha was so angry and grieving that she went around to everyone and blamed Sam for the deaths. Sam already had survivors guilt pretty bad and Martha made it worse. Sam knew Martha her whole life. They became really close after Sam's mother died. Martha was like a second mother. Sam lost everyone that mattered the most to her in less than a year."
The squad pulled up to Rampart and Johnny backed in next to the ambulance. Buck and Johnny went in and met up with Nurse Dixie at the base station. Roy came walking up to the base station wiping his hands on a paper towel. After bringing in the patient, he had stopped for a moment to clean up a little. Johnny still had some dirt on his face and smelled like smoke.
"Hi Buck," Dixie said. "I see you've made it around to our star paramedics today."
"This trip has been full of excitement, that's for sure," Buck answered.
"Well we don't want you getting bored," Roy said.
"So Dix, how's Sam doing this morning," Johnny asked.
"When I looked in on her, she was clambering to go home," Dixie explained. The physical therapist was in there this morning working on the kinks in her back. She really wasn't very happy at the time."
All four were smiling at the description. "Well I better go say hi", Johnny said. "See you later Dix."
Johnny, Roy and Buck went into Sam's room. Sam was sitting up in her bed. Sam looked much better than she had before. Her arm was now in a sling across her shoulders. The IV was gone and the swelling was gone from her eye & forehead. Her face was turning from a dark blue/black to more shades of purple and yellow. She still wore the cervical collar but she seemed to be much more comfortable and alert. Sam put down her book and smiled as Johnny walked into the room followed by Roy and Buck.
"You are looking much better today," Roy said.
"Thanks Roy," she said. "I feel better, no thanks to that torture this morning."
"Yeah, we heard you had a physical therapist this morning," Johnny said.
"Some therapist," she said. "He could teach classes in torture."
Everyone smiled at that. Sam looked closer at Johnny's face then reached up and tried to rub a smudge of dirt from his cheek. "Fire this morning?" She asked.
Johnny rubbed the dirt, remembering that it was there, then went over to the sink to wash his face and hands.
"Yeah," Roy answered. "It was at a paper recycling warehouse. We just dropped off our victim downstairs with a broken leg."
Johnny started walking back over toward the bed, drying his hands and face on the paper towel. "On the way in, I was talking to Buck about going to Alaska and checking out the department there. See about starting a paramedic program. He said you have a house there we can stay in."
Sam looked at him with realization. She hadn't thought about that house for a long while.
"Ah... Yeah," Sam said. "I forgot about that."
"Well listen," Roy said. "We need to get going. It's my turn to cook and we need to pick up a few things from the store."
"Okay," Sam said.
Johnny kissed her lightly on the forehead, then the guys left. She listened as they walked away and talked about the new recipe Roy was going to try.
A young girl was sitting in a small chair in her upstairs bedroom, looking out the window. She was dressed in a black dress and had a black ribbon in her long brown hair. She held a stuffed teddy bear. She was looking at all the butterflies, colorful flowers, green grass and all the other things in the spring. There were the sounds of a large group of people downstairs. A man came upstairs and looked into the bedroom. He was slender, tall, had dark brown hair & eyes and was wearing a black suit and tie. He saw the girl and started to walk into the room.
"Sammy, what are you doing up here?" He said. "Everyone is asking about you."
She didn't move a muscle. She just kept staring out the window into the garden below. The man came closer to her. He came down to one knee so that he could look at her face to face.
"Samantha honey," he said. "You can't just hide up here. Eventually you are going to have to see everyone. We are both going to need to face the world without your mother."
Samantha wiped her eyes with her hand, but still didn't turn away from the window. "Samantha, you are so much like your Momma," he said and smiled. "You are so strong."
Her father stood up and reached his hand down to her. "Come on sweetheart. We can do this together."
Samantha looked over at her fathers hand and looked up at his face. There were tears in her eyes. She sniffled a little then stood up and took her daddy's hand, still clutching the teddy bear in the other hand. She followed him downstairs to see all the funeral guests.
Johnny was happy that he had a relatively quiet night at the station and was able to leave on time. He even had a chance to take a shower before leaving for the hospital. It was an exciting day. Sam was suppose to be coming home this morning. Johnny opened the hospital room door and looked in. She was sitting in the corner of the room looking out the window. The sun was shining through the storm clouds on to her face.
Her partially eaten breakfast tray was on the table nearby. Sam was wearing some flannel pajamas bottoms and a tank top that Johnny had brought for her a couple days before. Her hair was wet as though she had just recently showered and a brand new solid cast was on her arm. Sam didn't hear Johnny walk up behind her.
He put his hands on her shoulders. Sam jumped a little and tried to turn her head but gasped in pain from the movement and reached up to rub her neck. She had only been a day without the cervical collar and still was sore from most movements. Sam closed her eyes and breathed until the pain lessened.
"Wow, you were really in another place," Johnny said. He leaned over and kissed the top of her head.
"So are you ready to go?" He asked. "Dixie said your release papers are signed."
Sam smiled, "I am so ready for that."
"Good, your wheelchair is just outside the door."
Johnny helped Sam gather her books and things. He found her badge and pins from her uniform in a small brown paper bag in the closet. He gathered a couple get well cards and a small bouquet of flowers from the windowsill then Johnny helped Sam to put on her shoes and jacket. He held out his hand to her. Sam smiled, grasped his hand and stood up so she could move to the waiting wheelchair. He loaded her lap with all her things then finally Johnny pushed her out the door and they moved down the hallway to the elevator.
"Did you have a chance to see Buck before he left?" Johnny asked.
"Yeah, he stopped by last night," Sam answered. "His flight left about an hour ago."
"I'm glad you had a chance to see him," Johnny said. "It's too bad you weren't able to spend more time together."
"That's okay," Sam replied.
"Remember me mentioning that Buck would like me and Roy to come check out his department and see how to add a paramedic program," Johnny said. "So, What would you think about taking a trip to Alaska?"
"Buck was right," Sam said. "I'm going to be recovering for weeks. I guess now would be as good a time as any to tie up all the loose ends."
Johnny smiled as the got into the elevator to go downstairs. Even though he knew this was going to be an emotional trip, he looked forward to seeing Alaska and to know more about Sam's past.
The flight from Los Angeles California into Fairbanks Alaska was relatively easy. It was a normal commuter flight into a major international airport, but when Johnny saw the little puddle jumper that they were now walking towards, he looked a little pale. Sam turned around and looked at the two a little confused at their hesitation.
"When I told you I lived in the middle of nowhere, did you think I was exaggerating?" Sam asked. "Come on Johnny, I'll hold your hand all the way," Sam teased.
Johnny and Roy continued to follow Sam to the small aircraft. They pulled their coats up around their ears. The November temperature in Alaska was quite a bit different than in Southern California. Johnny and Roy weren't quite as ready for it as Sam was. She wore the same heavy red coat that she originally wore when she moved to LA three years ago. The same one that kept her so warm on their adventure to Lake Tahoe two years before. She pulled on her knit cap then her hood up over her head and that protected her from the cold wind gusts that seemed to just cut through them. Johnny and Roy wore their ski coats from California. Those coats didn't quite handle the frigid temperatures as well as they had hoped. An Alaskan winter is a little colder than a ski weekend in Big Bear.
The pilot came out of the plane and started walking towards them. He looked like a crusty old mountain man. He had a worn leather pilots coat and a scraggly greying beard and mustache. His head was covered with a red and black plaid hat with ear flaps.
"Heading to Fort Yukon are you?" The pilot asked as Sam approached him.
"Yes we are!" Sam answered.
The pilot took the small bag that Sam was carrying and she followed him to the plane. Johnny and Roy followed just behind, carrying a couple larger suitcases.
"Short trip?" The pilot asked Sam.
"About a week," she answered.
When they got to the plane, the pilot helped Johnny and Roy to stow their suitcases in the hold as Sam confidently climbed on board the small aircraft. Sam was still recovering from her injuries just three weeks before. She still had lingering bruises on her face, moved very stiffly and her arm was still in a cast from past the elbow to her hand, including a splint on the fourth and fifth fingers. Once on board, Johnny helped Sam to buckle her seat belt before he buckled his own. Roy buckled up as well and waited for take off.
"I hope this guy knows what he's doing," Roy quietly said to Johnny as the pilot climbed up front and put his headphones on.
"He's fine," Sam said. "Would you feel more comfortable if I went up with him?"
Roy looked at her confused, "You know how to fly?"
"Not very well with this thing," Sam said waving to her casted arm.
"Don't worry about it," Johnny said taking her hand and holding tight.
Sam smiled and gripped Johnny's hand a little tighter. He gave her an uneasy smile in return.
"Well here we go," the pilot said.
They all listened to the pilot talking to the tower to get clearance for take off and before they knew it, they were airborne.
The flight itself was relatively short. In less than an hour they were already starting their descent into Fort Yukon. As they looked out of the window of their small single engine plane, everything was white. The river shimmered below and the area was polka dotted with trees and some buildings from Fort Yukon. As Johnny looked out the window during descent, he didn't see anything familiar. There was no tower guiding the plane in, no airport terminal. In fact he didn't even see any other planes on the ground. He looked over at Sam who was sitting back with her eyes closed as though she was asleep.
"Sam," he said nudging her.
Sam looked over at Johnny and smiled then glanced out the window at the landscape below and said, "Oh good, we're here."
Johnny raised his eyebrows as he looked over at Roy with concern and Roy just looked back.
"We are?" he said.
The plane completed it's descent and landed on a small gravel runway that was little more than a dirt strip lined with snow. He taxied to the one lone building and stopped. A fire chiefs car was waiting there. It was a bright red station wagon with white lettering on the side that said Fort Yukon Fire. As the plane approached, Johnny, Roy and Sam could see Chief Randy Buck getting out of the car to greet them. The pilot opened the door for his passengers and a blast of extremely frigid air hit all three of them right in the face. It was so cold it took the breath away from Johnny and Roy who immediately pulled their coats tightly around themselves and pulled their heads further into their coat collars. Sam pulled her knit cap on and flipped her hood over her head then just climbed down the few steps to the ground. After all, she had lived here for twenty-four years, the cold was just a normal part of life.
"Roy, John, welcome to Fort Yukon," Buck said as he walked toward the group extending his gloved hand.
He quickly shook hands with each and Sam received a quick hug.
"Sam, welcome home," Buck said.
The pilot brought out the luggage and dropped the suitcases in the snow. Buck grabbed Sam's bag for her.
"Come on, let's get you all out of the cold," Buck said. "I'm sure the weather here is a little colder than you're used to."They grabbed their bags and rushed to the car. Buck had the motor running and the heater on so he could warm his guests as they arrived. He opened the back end of the station wagon and they piled their suitcases among the ropes, climbing gear, spare hose,
towels and a large stack of wool blankets. They loaded the suitcases quickly and climbed into the warm car shivering from how cold it was outside.
"Wow is it cold out there," Roy exclaimed as he blew into his cupped hands. "What's the temperature?"
"It's about 3 degrees right now," Buck explained. "But we better get into town. Once the sun goes down, the temperature will probably drop to below zero. We need to get you into some proper snow gear."
"How far is it to town?" Roy asked.
"Oh, just a few miles," Buck answered.
"But it's only one o clock," Johnny said. "It should only take a few minutes to drive a few miles. We have hours until the sun goes down."
"Remember, we're pretty far north. This time of year we only have about three hours of day light," Buck explained. "The sun will be going down soon."
Buck drove down the Main Street of Fort Yukon. There wasn't much there. A gas station, a store, a church and a tavern/restaurant and a few houses scattered here and there. As they drove just a little further, they pulled up in front of a pretty little two story log home with a wrap around front porch that ran the whole front of the house and beyond. There was a tree in the corner of the front yard and a detached garage. The walkway leading up to the porch was shoveled so that the visitors would have an easy walk into the home. As they all looked at the house they were approaching, the air from inside of the car almost felt like it was sucked out. Sam just stared at her fathers house and in the moments of pulling up in front, all the emotions and memories flooded her mind. Johnny noticed the difference in her right away.
"Sam, are you okay?" He asked.
Sam let out the breath she didn't realize she was holding. "I'm fine she answered."
The car stopped and the four of them got out and quickly grabbed the suitcases out of the back of the station wagon and moved shivering out of the cold again and into the warm house.
The inside of the home had a musty smell from being closed up for so long. The waning light of the day shone through the big picture windows of the sun room, revealing comfortable wicker chairs with bright orange flowered cushions and a book shelf with many old books and magazines. Sam moved forward into the home. Johnny and Roy came in behind her and Buck closed the door. Sam ran her fingers along the long slender entry table on the right side of the entry. A bowl still sat there with the keys to her Dads snow machine inside. His coat still hung on the hook beside the door and his boots still on the floor under the bench seat in the entry. Johnny, Roy and Buck looked forward into a rather large but cozy family room with a stone fireplace on one wall, a staircase leading to the second floor on the right and a beautiful country kitchen on the left.
"Since you were going to stay here, I tried to get things ready for you," Buck explained. "I put some food in the kitchen and have been heating the house today so it wouldn't be too cold for you."
"Thanks Buck," Johnny said.
Roy looked all around the entry and the family rooms as they came further in. It had a rustic, comfortable cabin feel all around. The furniture was a well used mission style. Pictures of Sam, her parents and others were still on the tables.
"This is a beautiful house," Roy said.
Roy talking, pulled Sam back out of so many of her memories. "Thanks," was all she could say in response.
"I put some clean bedding on the beds and there are fresh towels in the rest rooms," Buck said. "Looking at your suitcases, I'm not sure you have enough clothes for this weather."
"It's okay Buck," Sam said. "There wasn't really anywhere in LA to get anything we could use. There's plenty of warm clothes here. Roy and Johnny are both about my Dads size. I think we can find clothes to fit them."
"Are you sure Sam," Roy said. "I'm sure we can pick up something here."
"I'm sure. It's okay," Sam said. "You don't need to buy anything for the short time that we're going to be here."
Sam pulled her fathers coat off the hook and handed it to Johnny. It was a heavy long dark leather coat with a fur lining and hood. She opened the closet door in the entry and found another coat much the same as the first, only a tan color and handed it to Roy. "There are some heavy warms sweaters and things in my dad's room upstairs," Sam said. "You're welcome to go through the closet and dresser to find whatever you like. It's the first door on the left at the top of the stairs."
"Well," Buck said, "I will leave you to settle in and rest. I will be back to pick you up in a few hours. We can go to the station for dinner and I can introduce you to the guys."
"That sounds great," Johnny said. "Thank you."
With that, Buck left them. Another burst of cold air coming through the door into the home as he scooted out.
"Let me show you where everything is," Sam said and started to lead them further into the house. Johnny grabbed her arm and stopped her.
"The only thing I'm interested in seeing right now is you laying down and getting some rest," Johnny said.
Sam scoffed at that idea. "I'm fine," she said.
"Sam, we promised Dr. Early that you would get some rest and not overdo things," Roy said. "You've only been out of the hospital for a week."
"We can both tell that you're tired," Johnny said. "You were falling asleep on the plane. So, come on, let's get you upstairs and to bed. I think we can figure out where everything is."
"I'm going to give Joann a call and let her know that we arrived safely," Roy said.
"The phone is right there in the kitchen," Sam instructed.
Johnny led Sam up the stairs so she could rest. Sam's old bedroom was at the end of the hall. There was a beautiful brass queen sized bed. It was covered in a feather comforter and a quilted bedspread. On the dresser was a picture of her class from the fire academy on graduation day hamming it up for the camera. It had Buck looking regal as always and Becca, Vinnie and herself. Johnny picked up the picture from the dresser and looked at it. He smiled at the goofy picture. He could finally match a face with the names he had heard about for so long. Sam went over to the window, pulled the blue curtain to the side and looked out. The sky was getting dark and snow was beginning to fall.
"Sam," Johnny said. "Have a seat and let me help you to get your shoes off."
Sam turned away from the window and sat on the bed. Johnny untied her shoes and helped to pull the boots off her feet.
"It's so strange being here again," Sam said as Johnny pulled on one of the boots.
"I bet it is," Johnny agreed.
Sam started to shrug out of her coat and Johnny helped her to get it past the cast on her arm. He laid the coat over the end of the bed.
"Now you lay back and try to sleep for a bit" Johnny said. "We can get settled in."
Johnny laid Sam back on the bed and covered her with the quilt, then he gave her a quick Kiss and headed out. Before Johnny left the room, he looked back at her as she pulled the quilt up to her chin and closed her eyes to sleep.
Roy was waiting in the hallway with the luggage as Johnny closed the door to Sam's room behind him.
"How is she doing?" Roy asked.
"She's still been having headaches," Johnny said. "I think she has one now, even though she won't say so. Being in this house, in her old room is pretty emotional for her."
"I can imagine," Roy agreed.
While Sam rested, Johnny and Roy went exploring upstairs and found everything they would need to be comfortable during their stay. Then, as Sam suggested, they took some time to rummage through Sam's Dads clothes. Her fathers old room had a window that faced the front of the house. The bed was a plain queen sized log frame bed. It had a big feather blanket, a brown, white and tan patterned knitted bedspread and lots of pillows on top. There was a 6 drawer dresser that matched the bed against the wall. On the dresser was a picture of a very young Sam standing with her father and mother taken right in front of this same house. It had a handmade wood frame around it. Next to the picture there was a ceramic bowl that looked like something Sam made as a child. In the bowl was a few coins and a gold colored watch with an elastic band. The room hadn't changed since the last time Sam's father was in it, just like the rest of the house. It was all the same as it was three years before.
Johnny and Roy found a few pieces of clothing that they could wear and stay warm. Wool cable knit sweaters, turtle necks and flannel shirts covered the bed in no time. Finally, for the first time that day they had a chance to relax. Johnny and Roy came down to the kitchen. Buck had left a bowl of fruit on the wooden kitchen table. The two men were sitting at the table talking and relaxing. They each had a glass of milk, had cut up an apple and some cheese that they had sitting on a plain white plate. They were nibbling on their snack and talking.
"There doesn't seem to be very much to this town," Roy said. "What do you think the population is?"
"I don't know," he answered. "But I would guess that it's pretty small. Maybe a thousand?"
Suddenly a blood curdling scream came from upstairs. Johnny and Roy both jumped from the sound then Johnny bounded up the stairs taking two stairs at a time with Roy running close behind. As they came to the top they heard Sam in the main second floor bathroom retching and crying. The two of them came to the open door and looked in at her leaning on the toilet. Her cast hanging over one side and gripping the other with her good hand. She was dry heaving and coughing. Johnny came up behind her and put his hand on her back. Sam jumped at the touch. Her hand was shaking and beads of sweat were on her face.
"Roy, can you get a wet washcloth for me," Johnny asked.
Roy grabbed a washcloth off the sink, ran it under the cold water from the faucet. He squeezed it out some of the water and then handed it to Johnny.
"Thanks," Johnny said.
Johnny rubbed the towel on the back of Sam's neck. She sat back and leaned against the edge of the claw foot bathtub. She was breathing fast and heavy as she took the washcloth from her neck and rubbed it on her pale drawn face.
"I can't breath," she gasped.
Roy looked around and grabbed the paper bag that was lining the small bathroom trash can and handed it to her. Sam shakily held the bag with her one hand with Johnny holding the other side for her. She started breathing in and out of it. She was taking a breath and trying to hold it. Trying to slow down her breathing.
Johnny was kneeling in front of her looking her in the eyes, trying to coach her through it. Roy looked over as Buck came to the bathroom door next to him. Roy motioned to Buck to move, leaving Johnny and Sam alone. They walked down the hall and stopped at the top of the stairs.
"I was just coming to get you and I heard a scream," Buck quietly said. "Is everything ok? What happened?"
Roy and Buck in the bathroom at the end of the hall at Sam and Johnny who were sitting on the bathroom floor. She was still breathing into the paper bag. Johnny had his arm around her and she leaned against his chest.
"Let's go downstairs," Roy said then he started down the stairs.
Buck took one more look at Johnny and Sam, then he followed Roy.
Sam was shivering in Johnny's arms. They both knew that the nightmare had been so intense that Sam was in mild shock. She was breathing better now but her color was still pale. She scooted off Johnny and laid on her back on the tile floor and put her feet up on the now closed toilet. Johnny grabbed a big towel off the towel rack and covered her with it to try to keep her warm. She handed him the paper bag. Sam looked up at Johnny as he ran his fingers through the hair on her forehead with worry. He seemed to be doing that more lately.
"I hope Buck cleaned the bathroom floor," Sam said.
Johnny smiled down at her and she smiled back.
"I hope so too," he said.
Roy and Buck came quietly into the family room and sat down. "Sam has nightmares," Roy explained. "It's usually when she's had a really stressful or emotional day. But I've never seen it this bad before."
Buck completely understood. Firefighters work so closely together for days at a time, it wasn't unusual to know about something as intimate as a person having recurring nightmares. Buck took the information in stride.
"Has she said what the nightmares are about," Buck asked.
"Yeah," Roy answered. "It's always been about the explosion at the refinery."
"I can understand that. Sometimes I have nightmares about that day too." Buck shook his head. "I didn't realize she remembered anything form that day. I guess I had always hoped that she didn't."
Roy and Buck looked up as Johnny came walking down the stairs. He was shaking his head as he saw them. Roy and Buck stood up as he approached. Johnny ran his hand through his hair again and took a big breath.
"How is she?" Buck asked.
"She's feeling better now," Johnny answered. "She's washing up and will be down in a couple minutes."
"Was it the same dream?" Roy asked.
"I don't know," Johnny answered. "Maybe. She wouldn't say. I don't think so. There's something different about this one. I knew this trip would be pretty emotional for her. She thought it would be a chance for her to get some closure. Maybe it was too soon after the accident."
Sam came to the top of the stairs and started walking down. She looked and saw that Buck was looking up at her with concern too.
"Are you okay, honey?" Buck said with concern.
"I'm fine," Sam answered. She never saw Buck outside the bathroom door and tried to act as though nothing had happened. "Is it time for dinner already?"
"If you're feeling up to it," he answered.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Sam said. "I had a pretty good nap."
Sam turned to Johnny and Roy, "Did you guys find some warm clothes to wear yet?" She asked them.
"Uh, yeah we did," Roy answered. "We have them laying on the bed upstairs."
"Johnny, I know you must be starving by now," Sam said. "Since you have some clothes picked out, let's get dressed and head over to the station."
Sam turned and started back upstairs, Johnny came up next to her. "Are you sure, babe?" Johnny asked.
"We can rest tonight and go first thing in the morning."
"I'm fine, really," Sam said. "But, would you mind helping me dress?"
At that Sam smiled and winked at Johnny and he smiled back to her as he answered, "Sure. It would be my pleasure."
A little while later Sam, Roy, Johnny and Buck pulled up in front of the small Fort Yukon Fire Department. It was a small one engine station built as so many others with a quaint log cabin feel. Tonight the station was surrounded by 4 wheel drives and snow machines. The kitchen and Rec. room was bursting with at least 15 men from the department there to greet Sam and to meet Johnny and Roy. Since the Fort Yukon Fire Department was mainly a volunteer department, there were quite a few more firefighters trained than normally would be based on the population of the community.
The first one that approached Johnny, Sam and Roy was Jerry. Johnny knew that Jerry was a longtime admirer of Sam. Jerry was the smallest of the group with short wavy, chocolate brown hair. Jerry was, as many of the others were, Native American. Johnny was excited and impressed by that. Having Native American firefighters was so different than what Johnny was used to. Jerry gave Sam a big hug. Sam made the rounds through the group. She had a smile so big for so long that her face started to ache. Before long everyone had a steaming bowl of beef stew in their hands. Sam sat on the Comfy couch with Johnny by her side and Roy on the arm of the leather couch. The rec. room chairs and the kitchen chairs were all pulled around in a circle, each chair filled and many others left standing. The biggest question on everyone's mind was how Johnny and Sam met. Johnny talked about the first time he saw her walk into station 51 for training and how they weren't sure how to handle a girl in the station full time or even if she could handle the rescues.
They told about her daring rescue of the man off the crane and even about the phantom; how he struck that day and how she got back at him a few months later. They shared stories about all their daring rescues and the men were fascinated by all that they got into. Finally, Buck told the story of how Sam sustained her last injury that left her arm in a cast and the lingering bruises that she still sported on her face. Until that point, Johnny hadn't really heard the full story of her last injury. The firefighters of Fort Yukon were awed at how many things Sam, Johnny and Roy had been doing. It was so much different than in this sleepy Alaskan city. In return they shared stories of hunting accidents, climbing rescues and other ways people could get in trouble in Fort Yukon. Johnny looked over at Sam in a way that he had only seen glimpses of her before. It warmed his heart and he couldn't help but grin.
Sam looked over at him and asked, "What is it?"
"Nothing," he answered, still smiling.
Before long, it had gotten very late. All the amazing rescues and stories of the pranks pulled came to an end. The time had come when everyone needed to get back home and let the crew clean up and get a good nights sleep. Johnny and Roy told them that they planned to come back the next morning to get a better idea of what the fire department was about and look into the possibility of adding paramedics.
Buck drove the trio back to Sam's house. Sam was still smiling as she sat in the back seat with Johnny.
"It was sure nice to see all the guys," she said.
"They had some pretty interesting stories to tell," Roy said smiling as big as Sam.
"Now don't you believe everything they said," Sam told him. "Those guys can be prone to exaggeration."
"Those guys," Johnny said. "What about you? Some of those rescues were a little higher than I remember."
Johnny smiled as he looked over at Sam. She crossed her arm over her cast and gave Johnny a be careful look. Before very long, Buck was pulling up in front of the house. Johnny Roy & Sam waved back at him as they climbed the stairs to the porch and back into the warm cozy home that Sam shared with her father for so many years. As they climbed onto the porch, Sam looked over at the house next door. She could see the silhouette of Vinnie's mother watching them through the curtains. Then the woman slammed the curtains closed.
"Sam, what is it?" Johnny asked.
"Nothing," Sam said as she came inside and closed the front door.
Sam woke in her usual position. She was sleeping on her side with Johnny spooned next to her. Even though it would be more comfortable for Sam and Johnny to sleep in her fathers room with the master bath attached, she allowed Roy to do that instead. Sam slipped out from under the pile of blankets. She untwisted her blue T-shirt and pulled on her navy blue sweat pants then strolled downstairs and into the kitchen. It was still dark, even though it was morning but Sam didn't need the lights. She knew the way down. Sam turned on the kitchen light. As she opened the pantry door, she was pleased to find a fresh can of coffee waiting for her.
Sam silently said "Thank You Buck," as she pulled the coffee from the pantry and put it in the coffee maker. As. Sam was filling the pot with water, she looked out the window at the backyard and the tree at Vinnie's mothers house.
A very young Sam was playing with a very young Vinnie. They were both wearing their snow suits. Vinnie's suit was a pastel blue and Sam was sporting a pink snowsuit. She was running around the yard and around the tree with a snowball in her hand. She came around the tree quickly and threw the snowball. It hit the tree just over Vinnie's head. Vinnie laughed, "I'm gonna get you Sammy," he yelled.
Sam ran away from Vinnie as he chased after her with an armful of snow. Sam tripped and Vinnie jumped on top of her and dropped the arm full of snow on her head. Sam screamed and they rolled around in the snow laughing. Sam smeared snow all over his face. Vinnie's Mom opened the back door and called out, "Come on you two. Lunch time."
Vinnie and Sam got up and ran up the stairs and through the kitchen door.
The water started overflowing the pot. Sam shut off the faucet and poured out a little bit into the sink, then poured the water into the coffee maker and started the coffee. Then she continued to look out into the yard as the coffee began to perk, filling the house with the wonderful scent of fresh coffee. A light came on in the family room. Johnny came behind Sam wearing only pajama bottoms. He walked across the floor stretching high over his head. Johnny reached around her waist and gave a hug as he kissed her neck. Sam tilted her head and nuzzled into Johnny's kiss, then reached up and put her hand on the side of his face. She could feel the rough sandpaper of morning whiskers.
"Good morning," Johnny said. "Did you sleep well?"
"I did," she answered. "I didn't realize how tired I was. I didn't think I would be after that long nap yesterday."
"Good," he responded. "That group last night was something else."
"I can't believe they all came," Sam said. "With so many people saying they wanted to take a trip to LA, maybe we better think about buying a house with a couple guest rooms."
Johnny laughed at that. "You're right," he said. "And Maybe they will share that stew recipe with you."
At that, Sam pulled away and looked at Johnny with fire in her eyes. "Johnny Roderick Gage, was that another comment about my cooking?"
Johnny smiled a big crooked smile. "Hey, it was just a suggestion."
Sam grabbed the wet sponge left on the sink from dishes the night before and hurled it at Johnny, hitting him square between the eyes.
"Sam!" He yelled as he picked up the sponge from the floor.
Johnny threw the sponge in Sam's direction. She ducked out of the way. The sponge flew past her and hit Roy right in the foot.
"Feeling better I see," Roy said.
"I would say so," Johnny agreed.
Sam smiled at both of them. "So, how about some breakfast," Sam said.
"How about I make breakfast," Johnny said.
"My cooking again? I'm not that bad," she complained.
"Sam, it would just be easier with two arms," Johnny said.
"Listen you two," Roy interrupted. "I will make breakfast. Why don't you both get dressed. Buck should be here in about an hour to give us the grand tour of the city."
"Okay," Sam agreed.
Johnny took her by the hand and led Sam upstairs while Roy got everything together for a nice breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. By the time Sam and Johnny had come back downstairs, Roy had not only cooked breakfast, but had eaten his and gone upstairs himself to get dressed. He was sitting in the family room sipping coffee and reading the paper he found on the porch when Johnny and Sam sauntered downstairs.
"Your breakfast is on the table," Roy said. "It might be a little cold though."
"I'm sorry it took so long, we... Ah...," Johnny stuttered.
"We were having trouble getting clothes around the cast," Sam interjected.
"Come on," Roy said. "I'm a married man. I know what you were doing and it had nothing to do with clothes around a cast."
Johnny and Sam both smiled and turned red.
"If you want to stick to clothes getting stuck on the cast, you might want to be a little quieter," Roy added, then took another sip of his coffee.
The shade of Sam and Johnny's faces became an even brighter shade of red as they both went into the kitchen to eat their cold breakfast and bicker about who was being the loud one. Just then there was a knock on the door. Roy answered the door and let Buck in. Buck followed Roy to the kitchen where Johnny and Sam were just finishing up breakfast. Johnny picked up both plates and washed them in the soapy warm water that Roy had left in the sink. Buck grabbed a coffee cup from the cabinet and helped himself to a cup, then sat with Roy
"So what are the plans for today?" Buck asked
"I think I'm going to stay with Sam a couple hours this morning so we can pick up boxes and get her started packing," Johnny said. "I can join you and Roy later."
"Sounds good," Roy and Buck both answered.
Johnny helped Sam get her cream colored turtleneck sweater on, then they both pulled on their coats.
"We'll swing by the store in a bit to pick up the boxes," Buck said.
Sam led Johnny out the door while Roy and Buck finished their coffee and talked about the details of the Fort Yukon fire department.
Johnny and Sam started walking down the snow covered road. Even though it was after nine in the morning, it was still relatively dark. Almost like it is at dusk. The snow was about a foot thick in spots on the sidewalk.
"So how far is the store from here?" Johnny asked.
"Less than a mile," Sam answered.
"It's beautiful around here," Johnny said.
"No Sandy beaches and palm trees," Sam replied.
"Still beautiful," he said.
Within ten minutes of walking, they were standing in front of the store that Sam's father owned. The lights were on inside, a snow machine was parked in front, but other than that it was pretty quiet. Sam and Johnny climbed the stairs to go inside. The store was much as Sam remembered. It sold everything that anyone in town would need. There were shelves of a variety of canned foods and cereal, some fresh goods like milk and a freezer section with frozen fruits and vegetables. There was the section that sold clothes, a section for hunting and fishing supplies, snowshoes, boots, oil. Just an interesting variety of items that took Johnny by surprise. He was so used to the type of stores in the big city in California. This was very different. Like an old fashioned general store from the past. As they came further inside, no one could be seen.
"Hello!!!!" Sam called out, but didn't hear anything. She felt a little panic at the quiet. She had found her father in an aisle of this store three years before after he suffered his fatal heart attack.
"Someone's got to be here," Johnny said. "The lights are on and the door is unlocked. Hello!! Is anyone here?"
Sam walked toward the office when the door suddenly flew open and an older blonde woman rushed out, almost running into Sam. The woman had a thick head of blonde hair and looked to be in her forties.
"I'm sorry, I was....," she said. Then the realization of who was standing before her came. "Oh my God!
Sammy," she exclaimed with a thick Russian accent. "I was told that you had left for California."
She gave Sam a huge hug. She looked down as she felt the cast against her stomach.
"Your arm, and look at your face. Are you all right? What happened? What are you doing here? Not that I'm not glad to see you. I am. You have so surprised me."
She made so many comments and questions in rapid fire succession that Sam had net been able to answer any of them. She gave Sam a hug again and finally Sam had a chance to say something.
"I have been in. California. I live in Los Angeles. I was hurt on the job and thought it was a great opportunity to come and take care of a few things."
Just then the door opened and the bell rang. An older woman in her sixties came walking in. She looked over at Sam as she went to the canned food section but Sam was so busy she didn't see the woman. The woman gave a look of disgust as she walked by. Johnny took a quick look at her then turned back to Sam and her friend.
"You were hurt on the job?" She asked confused, "What do you do in California?"
"I'm a firefighter/paramedic in Los Angeles County," Sam answered.
"Oh that is wonderful," she said.
The woman put her arm around Sam and began to walk with her. Johnny followed behind. The woman looked back at Johnny and was impressed by the handsome man she saw.
"So who is your friend?" She asked winking.
"I'm sorry," Sam said embarrassed. "Anna, I would like you to meet my husband John Gage."
Anna seemed thrilled at the revelation, "Congratulations both of you."
Anna hugged Sam again then Johnny too. "You must be someone pretty special to have married our little Sammy. This girl is a handful."
Anna grabbed Johnny's face in her hands and kissed both his cheeks then smiled. "This is wonderful news!" She exclaimed.
"So you are wanting to take care of some things while you are here? You don't plan to stay?" Anna asked.
"No, we're only going to be here for a week cleaning up my Dads house and hopefully find a buyer for the store," Sam explained. "Would maybe you and Ivan be interested?"
Anna squealed with delight, "I have always wanted to own my own little American business. Thank you so much Sammy."
"Perfect, I will let Buck know and we will get some things together on that," Sam said. "In the meantime, I was wondering if I could get some packing boxes from you," Sam asked.
"Oh, of course, of course," Anna said. "I will have Maxie bring them over to you."
"That sounds perfect, Thank You Anna," Sam said.
Sam and Johnny left the store and started to stroll back down the street.
"She seems really nice," Johnny said.
"They are," Sam said. "Anna and Ivan arrived from Russia when they were both teenagers. Anna worked for my Dad since she arrived and Ivan became the pastor at the church."
Instead of going the same way home Sam made a right turn across the street. Johnny followed, not quite knowing where she was going. They ended up in front of a small white church. There was a black iron fence around the church and a small cemetery. Sam walked through the squeaky snow covered gate and over to the cemetery. Johnny walked behind her as she found her parents tombstone. Sam delicately brushed the snow off the top and kneeled down in front of it. She took the mitten off her right hand with her teeth and ran her fingertips over the names. It said Sarah Anderson and Jason Anderson. Loving Wife and Mother. Loving Husband and Father. A few tears ran down Sam's cheek. She realized that it had been a while since she had cried over her parents passing.
"I think they would have liked you," Sam said to Johnny.
"I would have liked to have met them," Johnny said in response.
Sam stood up, left a small rock on top of the gravestone and moved a couple rows and a couple grave stones over. She found the grave stone for Vincent Englishoe. As Sam had done with her fathers stone, she brushed the snow off the top of Vinnie's stone and placed a small rock on top of his too. As they stood there, the woman who Johnny saw at the store came quietly behind them. The woman was a much older person to Sam's memory of Vinnie's Mom. Johnny and Sam heard the crunch of the snow as the woman walked and turned to look at her.
"What are you doing here?" The woman snarled.
"I'm paying my respects to Vinnie," Sam quietly answered.
"What respect," she hissed. "If it wasn't for you. Vinnie would still be here."
"That's not true," Sam said. "I did nothing wrong."
"Liar!" She screamed. "You killed them!"
"How can you say that? You have known me since before I was born," Sam angrily said. "I loved them and I loved you. I would have never done anything to any of you, and you know it. Why don't you admit it. You're just angry that I lived. You wanted me to die too."
"Sam," Johnny said and he put his hand on her shoulder. But Sam ignored Johnny and shrugged his hand off her shoulder. Martha Englishoe just stared at Sam, not believing what she was hearing. Not believing how Sam was talking back to her. Sam had been wanting to say these things for three years and nothing was going to hold her back now.
"Vinnie was a great firefighter and would have done the same thing, even knowing he would have been killed doing it. Vinnie would be so mad at you right now." Tears were streaming down Sam's face. All the anger and frustration. All the loss and grief, it all came pouring out.
"Your gossip and lies make it sound like he was a fool," Sam screamed at her. "You make it sound like he didn't know he was doing. He would have been so ashamed of how you're acting. If anyone is a disgrace, YOU are. YOU have disgraced Vinnie's memory and my mothers!"
Buck and Roy were driving down the street on their way back from touring the town. Even in the twilight, they could see Johnny, Sam and Martha in the cemetery. They could see Sam's emotion as she was yelling at her.
Buck said, "Oh Shit," just as Martha swung her cloth shopping bag filled with canned vegetables and clocked Sam across the left side of her face. Sam spun around into Johnny's chest then slid from his arms, into the snow, unconscious. Buck stopped the car and he leaped out of it with Roy right behind him. They ran over to help Johnny.
Johnny stepped forward over Sam's inert form to protect her from further harm. He grabbed Martha's arm before she could take another swing at Sam. As she tried to swing again, Johnny grabbed her and the bag struck him on the forearm.
"What the hell are you doing?" He screamed at her as Buck and Roy came up behind him.
"She killed my boy!" Martha screamed at them all.
"Martha," Buck explained. "We talked about this. Sam didn't kill him or Becca. It was a faulty valve. It was an accident."
"She should have never come back," Martha hissed then she turned and stormed off.
Johnny kneeled down over Sam's head and Roy helped him to carefully roll Sam onto her back. A fresh bruise and welt in the round shape of a can base was beginning to appear on her cheek. Johnny moved so he could look into her face while Roy checked her pulse.
"Sam," Johnny pleaded. "Sam."
Sam sleepily began to open her eyes and tried to focus on Johnny.
"That's a girl, look at me," he said.
"How far is the hospital?" Roy asked.
"There's a small clinic here, but the hospital is in Fairbanks," Buck answered. "The doctor is in. Fairbanks today. He won't be back until tomorrow morning. You two are the best and closest medical personnel we have right now. If we need to we can call an air ambulance to take her to Fairbanks."
"No air ambulance," Sam said trying to sit up. "I'm fine. I want to go home."
"Sam," Roy said. "Lay back and relax."
"Let's get her to the house and check her out," Johnny said. "We can decide what to do from there."
Johnny picked Sam up in his arms and carried her to the car. Roy and Buck walked next to him to make sure he didn't slip on the snow. Roy climbed into Bucks Chiefs station wagon and Johnny handed Sam into him. Johnny climbed into the front seat and they drove the mile to get to the house.
As they arrived at the house, Johnny rushed to open the car door so he could carry Sam up the stairs and into the house. It was almost noon and the sun was now beginning to rise. They could see Martha standing in her house looking out the window as Johnny carried Sam up the stairs and they went inside the house.
Johnny sat Sam on the couch in the family room. He helped her to get the coat off then helped to pull the turtleneck sweater over her head. As the sweater was pulled up, the T-shirt Sam was wearing started to come up, revealing to Buck the new scars on her right side that she acquired since she moved to LA.
"God Sam, what have you been doing in LA?" Buck said shocked at the scars.
"It's not the place, it's the business," Sam answered.
Johnny pulled her T-shirt down as he got the sweater off. He then put his hand behind Sam's neck and slowly laid her back as Roy lifted her feet onto the couch. Roy unlaced her boots and gently pulled them off her feet.
"I knew she was upset," Sam said. "I didn't realize how much she hated me."
A tear dropped from Sam's eye. Johnny took a better look at Sam's cheek and tried to check her eyes too.
"So you remember what happened?" Johnny asked.
"I do," Sam answered matter of factly. "Mrs. Englishoe clocked me with a bag of groceries. I think a bunch of them were cans."
Sam reached up and touched her bruised cheek.
"Since there's no doctor in the area, I think we should call Dr Early," Roy said.
Johnny looked over at Roy and gave him a concerned nod. Roy went over to the phone in the kitchen and made the call. Johnny, Buck and Sam could hear him talking in the distance.
"I have talked to her so many times over the past three years," Buck said. "That anger is just going to eat her up inside."
"What is her problem?" Johnny said angrily.
"For some reason she just got it in her head that Sam could have done something that would have saved Vinnie," Buck explained.
After hanging up with Dr. Early, Roy brought over a bag of frozen peas and handed the bag to Sam who daintily placed it on her bruised cheek.
"Dr. Early said Concussion protocol and have the local Dr. Take a look when he gets into town in the morning," Roy said.
"I guess that means the tours are done for the day," Buck said.
Johnny and Roy both nodded.
"After we get Sam to bed, I will get Johnny up to speed with what we talked about this morning and start to put together some ideas for you," Roy said. "Maybe we can meet in the morning over coffee."
"Okay then, I'll get going and let you get some rest," Buck said. "I'll check back with you in the morning. If you need anything just give me a call."
"Thanks Buck," Johnny and Roy said as Buck waved and headed out the door.
"As for you," Johnny said to Sam. "Let's get you upstairs and to bed where you can rest."
Sam wanted to argue, but the truth was, her head did hurt and after the confrontation she was looking forward to a little time alone. Johnny took her hand and helped Sam to stand. She was momentarily a little unsteady.
"Are you ok?" Roy said.
"Yeah, I'm fine, " Sam said.
She was a little steadier on her feet and Johnny led Sam upstairs and tucked her into the bed. Sam laid back and put the frozen peas back on her cheek. Johnny sat on the bed and looked at her.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Johnny asked.
"I'm fine," she answered. "I just hoped it would be different."
"I know," Johnny said.
Johnny kissed Sam on the forehead and left her alone to rest. "Now you rest. I will be back to check on you in an hour," he said.
She smiled back at him and Johnny went out the bedroom door and back downstairs with Roy.
It had been a quiet afternoon. As promised, Roy talked to Johnny about everything he saw that morning with Buck. They made some sandwiches for a late lunch and Roy brought Sam her lunch when he came in to do the next hourly neuro check. Roy quietly opened the door and looked in. When he looked, the bed was empty. Roy opened the door further and walked in carrying the food tray. Sam was sitting in a chair by the window, her old Teddy Bear cuddled in her arms like she did when she was a little girl. The bear was well worn. Much of the fur was loved off. It was now very late in the afternoon and darkness was upon Fort Yukon again. There was a gentle snowfall outside.
"Your suppose to be getting some rest," Roy said.
"I'm fine," she said without even looking over.
Roy came over, sat down on the edge of the bed and looked at the pictures that were there. Some family pictures and little things were laying on the comforter.
"Who's your friend?" Roy asked.
Sam looked down at the teddy bear in her arms and smiled.
"This is Teddy," she answered.
Roy smiled. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," Sam answered. "I know my name, I know what day it is and I know where I am."
"Ok," Roy said. "It looks like you've been going through some old pictures."
Roy picked up one of the pictures and looked at it. "Is this your mother?" He asked.
Sam nodded to him. He smiled. "You look a lot like her."
Sam smiled. "That's what I'm told," she said.
"You don't talk much about her."
"She died when I was very young," Sam explained. "She was so sick the last year or so. I try not to remember her like that, but there is so little I remember."
They sat their quietly for a minute. Neither had anything to say. Roy was just there for her.
Suddenly they heard a huge crash downstairs. Then another and another. Windows were breaking. They could hear people running around the house screaming murderer. Roy stood up and went to the door followed by Sam. They went out into the hallway. Smoke was pouring up from downstairs and flames were licking up the stair railings. There was no way either one of them could get down the stairway without their equipment. Roy and Sam put their arms in front of their mouthed & noses and coughed from the smoke.
"We can't get out that way," Roy yelled to her.
"Johnny?" Sam asked.
"We can't help him from here," Roy said. "We've got to get out. There may be another way to get to him from downstairs if he's not outside already."
"Then let's get moving," Sam said.
Sam led Roy to her fathers room and closed the door behind her. Roy pulled the blanket off the bed and dropped it at the base of the door as Sam went to the window. She slid the window open and pushed out the screen.
"Come on Roy," she said.
Roy helped Sam to climb onto the roof of the house and he followed her out.
"I get the feeling you've done this before," Roy said.
Sam slid to the edge of the roof. "This is going to be a little tricky one handed."
"I'll go first," Roy said.
Roy slid to the edge, hung by his hands and dropped off into the snow below. Sam was right behind him. She tried to grab with one hand and started to spin. She let go and Roy helped to catch her as she dropped. When they looked up at the house, it was fully involved. Flames were shooting through the windows, including the window they had just climbed out of. Neighbors started to gather round to watch, including Martha. A siren could be heard in the distance. Buck pulled up behind the engine and his crew. They crew jumped off the engine and began to pull lines and move in to fight the fire. Other cars started to pull up and grabbed their turnout gear from their cars and joined in the help. Buck came over to talk to Roy. Sam was looking through the gathering crowd.
"What happened?" Buck asked.
Roy answered, "Some kind of fire bomb thrown in down stairs. At least four of them. The whole lower level lit up like a candle. Johnny was downstairs doing dishes. I was upstairs checking on Sam."
"Johnny!" Sam called. "Johnny!"
Sam couldn't find Johnny anywhere in the crowd. Buck went to the Captain of the engine company to inform him of the missing man.
"We have a victim still inside," Buck told him.
"There is no way Buck," he explained. "It's so hot, we can't even get near the house."
Just then the upper floor collapsed and the flames burst up even higher and hotter. The captain turned and ran over grabbing a hose. They started working to protect the exposures and other structures.
"Johnny!" Sam screamed at the flames.
Roy came over behind Sam and they stood watching the flames. They knew that no one could survive that inferno. Tears were streaming down her face. Martha stood back behind everyone and watched what was happening. Sam and Roy didn't feel anything. They didn't even feel the cold of the snow on their feet or the ice pellets from the spray of the hoses as it hit them in the face. The light of the flames lit the sky like the sun as the house burned to the ground.
A firefighter came from the side of the house between Sam and Martha's house. He had his arm around a man who was injured and leaning heavily against him. They walked toward the engine. Sam looked over at the men as they approached. She recognized him and ran forward, followed by Roy. The injured man was Johnny. They each grabbed a hold of him from each side and led him to the back of the engine where they sat him down on the bumper. Sam brushed the hair from Johnny's forehead and looked into his face. He was dazed and had a large goose egg and cut on his head by his hairline. Blood ran down his face past his eye from the cut.
"What happened?" Roy asked.
"I was doing dishes when I heard the people running around outside in the yard, I stepped out back and one of them hit me with something," Johnny explained.
Buck looked over and saw Sam and Roy with Johnny. Sam put her hand on Johnny's face and looked at his wound. Buck got some blankets together and his first aid kit. He came over and put a blanket around Johnny's shoulders Roy's shoulders and around Sam's shoulders.
Sam looked right into Johnny's face. "We thought you were in there," she said.
Johnny looked into her eyes and smiled his crooked smile. She leaned into him and hugged him. Sam wrapped her arm around him and held Johnny tight. He wrapped his arms around her and they just held on. Glad that they were both safe. Roy looked over them with relief.
Buck walked over to Martha standing in the crowd watching.
"You did this you know," he said to her.
"I had nothing...." She started to say but Buck interrupted her.
"You had everything to do with it. I explained to you over and over again that what happened to Vinnie and Becca. It was just a tragic accident. Nothing Sam did or didn't do could change what happened. But you continue to gossip and accuse her of wrong doing," Buck explained. "Look where your anger led. A group surrounded the house yelling murderer and threw firebombs through the windows. When I was in California I watched Sam rescue five teen boys and nearly died doing it. That's how she broke her arm. Those three people are covered in scars and mended bones and have saved lives. I have watched all three of them do it."
Buck paused and looked over at Sam, Johnny and Roy.
"Do you really want her to die because of what you think she did?" Buck asked.
Martha looked over at them in a different light. The fire from the house finally started to burn down and come under control. Everything was becoming darker as the night began to engulf the scene.
"No," Martha admitted. "I don't."
"Then you need to let it go," Buck said.
Buck walked away from Martha and went to Johnny and Roy. They were shivering in the cold.
"Come on you guys," he said. "Let's get you warmed up."
Buck led the cold, injured trio to his car and took them to the station. There they had some coffee, long hot showers and Roy finally took a good look at Johnny's head and put a dressing on the wound. By the time the crew came back from the fire, Johnny, Roy and Sam were warm, cleaned up and wearing turnout pants and t-shirts. Sam and Johnny sat at the table eating a cup of hot tomato soup while Roy was on the phone with Joann getting her all caught up on what a was happening and to let her know that they were all safe. Sam and Johnny were holding hands.
The crew came back from mopping up the fire and joined Johnny and Sam in having soup. It was very late in the evening and everyone was dirty, cold and tired.
"I'm afraid the house is a total loss," Jerry informed Sam.
"That's ok," Sam said. "I have what I need. I'm just glad I was at least able to get back and see the house one more time. The worst part is loosing all the pictures."
Roy finished his soup and walked over to Johnny and Sam. "Well, we should probably hit the sac. It's going to be a long night tonight," Roy explained. "We're on concussion protocol for both of them now."
"Roy, I'm fine," Johnny protested.
"Come on junior," Roy said taking his elbow and leading Johnny to the dorm.
"It's just a scratch," Johnny said.
"Johnny, you were unconscious for at least 15 minutes," Roy explained. "You're lucky I don't call the air ambulance and have you both shipped to the hospital in Fairbanks."
The guys listened and laughed as they heard the two bicker back and forth all the way to the dorm.
Buck turned to Sam, "You too sweetheart."
"But I...." She started to say. Buck gave her a 'don't even' look and Sam knew there was no way she was going to win the argument. She stood and went on to the dorm to sleep.
"Those two are something else," Jerry said.
"They are two of a kind," said Buck.
Johnny Roy and Sam, with the help of the community of Fort Yukon, were given enough clothes and supplies to make it through the last few days of their trip. They figured out a way to have a very few paramedics supported by EMT1's in this rugged area of Alaska where medical care could be so very far away.
They packed some small bags of what little they had to go back to California. Buck came and took them out to breakfast at the local tavern. They sat finishing their breakfast and drinking coffee. Everyone looked tired and. Johnny still had the dressing on his head. The waitress came over and warmed up their cups as they visited.
"It was an interesting week we had," Buck said. "But with your help, I think we can save quite a few lives around here."
"I'm glad we could help," Roy said.
"Hey Sam, I got some good news for you," Buck said. "Anna and Ivan signed the papers for the store this morning. It's officially sold."
"That's great," Johnny said.
"Maybe now you can put a down payment on a house for all those Alaskan visitors," Buck teased.
Sam smiled at him. "Maybe" she said, and took another sip of her coffee.
Buck drove Sam, Roy and Johnny back to the station. Snow was falling as they drove through town on the way to the station. They drove past the general store and Sam saw Anna opening the door for a customer who was walking out with a large box of equipment. Then they drove past the house and she saw the burnt out ruin of what was once her home.
They arrived at the station and came back inside to pick up their things. Jerry was mopping the dorm as they came in. On Sam's bunk was a small shoe box.
"I wonder what that could be?" She said.
Johnny, Roy and Buck and Jerry watched as she opened the box. As the box was opened, a strong smell of smoke filled the room. Sam pushed the paper aside. In the box she found a special picture that was on the dresser in her fathers room of Sam and her parents. It was in a totally different frame than the wood one that was on the one in her fathers room. This was a pretty, shiny brass frame. Under the picture was the small stuffed teddy bear that Sam always cuddled on when she was upset. The fur was singed and the smoke smell emanated from the bear. Sam carefully picked the bear out of the box and held it smiling.
"Is it Teddy?" Roy asked. Sam looked at the bear closely then nodded to him.
"Where did this come from?" She asked.
Jerry said, "I don't know. The box was at the door when we came on shift this morning."
Sam held the bear smiling.
It was time to head back to California. Sam was sitting next to Johnny in the seat on the plane. She was holding her teddy bear in her arms. Roy and Johnny were talking and laughing across the aisle of the airplane. Sam had her headphones on and was listening to music as the big passenger jet started down the runway to take off. Sam looked out the window of the jet as it lifted off the ground. She could see all the snow glisten in the short time of sunshine for this day. Sam listened to the music of the Beach Boys singing sloop John B.
So hoist up the John B's sail
See how the mainsail sets
Call for the Captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I wanna go home, yeah yeah
Well I feel so broke up
I wanna go home
The poor cook he caught the fits
And threw away all my grits
And then he took and he ate up all of my corn
Let me go home
Why don't they let me go home
This is the worst trip I've ever been on
So hoist up the John B's sail
See how the mainsail sets
Call for the Captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I wanna go home, let me go home
Why don't you let me go home
"Sloop John B" is the seventh track on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album and was also a single which was released in 1966 on Capitol Records.
Posted To Site 06/23/14
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