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House Divided; House United

Part 3

An Emergency Story By

Donato

Links To Parts 1. 2. 3.

 

Chapter Thirty One

It had now been over two hours and Susie hadn’t heard anything. She sat in the ICU waiting room just waiting and waiting, listening to the clock on the wall, tick. There were other people in the waiting room and they, like her, were waiting for word on their loved ones. Initially they shared a bit of polite chatter but soon the conversations stopped and they sat there each wrapped up in their own world of anxiety.

Susie talked to the parents of a young boy who was brain dead and they were donating his organs. He had been hurt in a fire at a warehouse. He was a good boy, his mother kept saying and they wanted his goodness to benefit others. It was the ultimate gift. They hoped that it might redeem their son in the eyes of God, the Merciful.

Susie sat there thinking how stoic the parents were, in what could only be their darkest hour. A young woman burst into the room, she saw her parents and ran over to them, crying the moment her father hugged her. The daughter, Susie thought correctly. The three sat there in white faced silence only broken by the occasional sob. She saw the parent’s lips moving from time to time and their hands moving the beads on their rosaries. They were obviously praying.

Susie wondered if Johnny had been involved in that fire. He had been hurt in a warehouse fire and so had the boy, what were the chances that it was the same fire she wondered.

Susie’s head was trained at the big window in the waiting room looking out into the corridor and ICU entrance. Susie sat for a while but couldn’t take it anymore. She started to pace back and forth, twisting her engagement ring on her finger.

I’ve had enough of waiting in waiting rooms today. They’re really torture chambers in disguise. How can people sit here and be so calm and patient? Susie thought.

Susie saw movement of the ICU doors. Her heart leapt in her chest. Then she saw Dr Brackett come out with another two Drs that she didn’t know. They stood briefly outside and spoke for a moment then the two doctors she didn’t know went to the elevators and Dr Brackett came into the ICU waiting room. He saw Susie and his mouth twitched but he didn’t acknowledge her, he went over to Mr and Mrs Simpson and introduced himself to the daughter. He sat down and took the mother’s hand.

“The transplant team have arrived. We have contacted the three recipients whose lives your son will change forever due to the gift of hope and life your son is about to make. If you want to come in and say your farewells before he goes to the OR now is the time.”

Brackett extended his hand and the parents, too emotional to speak, just nodded their heads. He led them in to see their son and hold his warm hand one last time. The mother gently kissed her sons’ warm cheek and wished him Godspeed. She then broke down into howling sobs and buried her face in her husbands’ chest. The daughter couldn’t see for crying. She squeezed her brother’s hand and whispered “Goodbye Carl, know that I love you and will always remember you in love and laughter. Be one with God, Rest in Peace with the heavenly angels,” She then kissed his cheek and stood back to allow her father in.

The father bent and kissed his son and wished him a safe journey into the arms of Our Lord and Savior. He then removed his necklace with the crucifix on it and placed it around his son’s neck. The family then all linked hands with the parents, on either side of their son’s bed, they held his hand, completing the circle. They then said an Our Father one last time as a complete family.

The transplant nurse, waited till they had finished, then confirmed details with the family to ensure they had the right patient and then giving the signal to the orderlies they proceeded to take the young man, machinery and all down to the OR. His bags of life preserving infusions swinging on the poles as the bed made its slow procession to the elevator doors.

Susie was watching this mournful procession and was totally lost in the family’s grief, her own worries temporarily forgotten.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

Dr House entered and Susie jumped at the sudden intrusion into her private thoughts. House told her Johnny was ready. They entered the ICU and saw Johnny just about back in his favorite spot. This time he was in the cubicle to the right of where he was last time.

House was explaining that there was no free blood in Johnny’s abdomen so they had ruled out internal bleeding and therefore no laparotomy was performed.

Johnny was breathing on his own. A thin tube was running from one of his nostrils, the tip of the tube had a spongy foam plug occluding any air leaks and it conformed to his nostril. It ran through his oxygen mask and connected to the CO port on the monitor. He had a central venous catheter in now on the left side of his neck. He also had EKG monitoring on and a temperature probe going into his rectum. He had an arterial line in his left wrist which was strapped to a splint immobilizing his wrist.

He had the levarterenol bitartrate infusion running into one of the ports on the triple lumen central venous catheter in his neck. Another port had a cable connection and went from the second lumen up to the machine giving out a central venous pressure reading. The last port had saline running through to help his blood pressure.

House went on to explain to Susie, when she commented about the PAWP cable, that because of the levarterenol infusion they wanted to measure the pressure in the left ventricle and pulmonary arteries so they could carefully gauge for any side effects. It would help them determine the hemodynamic state of Johnny’s circulatory system and possibly what was going on and help with their diagnosis and subsequent treatment. His left leg was restrained due to the PAWP catheter in his femoral artery.

He now had an hourly urine bag which was measuring the moderate hematuria that was dribbling into the first chamber.

There wasn’t anything that wasn’t being recorded, Susie thought as she looked at all the paraphernalia attached to her beloved. Johnny was under the influence of a sedative drug and wouldn’t be awake for some time.

Susie stayed until the end of visiting hours. Seeing that Johnny was in good hands, she bent over and whispered into his ear and kissed him goodnight. “I’ll see you tomorrow my love, sleep well and whatever you do, don’t you leave me. Promise me, you will fight whatever this is, and come back to me.” A tear fell onto his cheek and she kissed it away. “I love you, talaofo.” Susie then gave one last lingering look at Johnny. Before she went home, she checked that they had her phone number as next of kin. She then made her way to the parking lot and headed home with a heavy heart and fearful of her phone ringing.

Back in ICU, Johnny’s arterial blood pressure was hovering around the 88/51 mark according to the monitor and his pulse was 145. So far there hadn’t been a great change in his recordings.

He had two nurses working on him at all times. He was on two minute vitals and recordings. One nurse was checking his pedal pulses which were marked with a big X for easy finding and checking the warmth and color of his legs. She was measuring his blood glucose every hour and adjusting the Levarterenol infusion as required every two minutes according to Dr House’s guidelines. The other nurse was the scribe and documented all the recordings down and the findings of Johnny’s extremities as dictated by the other nurse. Johnny had already gone through four ICU charts and was halfway through his fifth already. There was a stack of labelled ICU charts underneath the current one.

A strict fluid balance chart was also the responsibility of the scribing nurse. So far Johnny had more fluid in him than what was coming out. There was an alteration in his PAWP showing that Johnny was developing a slight pulmonary edema which had been an expectation all along.

He remained hypotensive and critically ill. Yet the cause for this sudden change in his recordings remained unknown. Had something been overlooked?

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

Dr Brackett sat at the table, in the ICU doctor’s office, nursing a cup of coffee. He was now available as his patient was in the care of the transplant team. Drs. Early and House were sitting in the doctor’s office too and the three of them were reviewing all the data they had so far on Johnny.

Suggestions were put forward by all and they were either discarded or kept on the table.

Possibilities were challenged and when it looked like they may have a winner, tests were ordered to either confirm or deny the diagnosis.

So far sepsis was only partly ruled out and blood and urine cultures were taken to help with the diagnosis. Hyperparathyroidism, thyrotoxicosis and ETOH blood tests were added to the mix. Maybe Gage was going through alcohol or drug withdrawal. Cocaine addiction would fit with most of the symptoms. More blood tests were added checking for cocaine metabolites in Johnny’s blood. The timing and not all the symptoms fit but these were desperate times and nothing was to be ruled out until it couldn’t be ruled in.

Sadly, dysautonomia from paraneoplastic syndrome did fit most of the symptoms but the thought of Johnny having cancer was unthinkable. Bloods were drawn for cancer markers too.

Psychological illnesses with physiological symptoms were discussed including generalized anxiety disorder and an overactive stress response causing him to crash and burn were entertained at one stage. But even they wouldn’t cause this.  

Brackett was running with a rare form of medication reaction and Early although slightly reticent was favoring the neoplastic diagnosis. House, felt it was something else entirely but they just hadn’t done enough checking yet to determine what.

House wanted to study Johnny’s medical charts from previous admissions. “What if this is a chronic condition and has been under our noses all this time?” House put to the other doctors.

“We would have seen the symptoms or something at least and Johnny being Johnny would’ve been going on about it ad infinitum. Not to mention he’s been a patient here so often that something would’ve shown up.” Dr Brackett said.

Dr Early started to nod and then became very thoughtful. “Headaches! He’s had a large amount of headaches and migraines. I treated him for cluster headaches and had to repeat his pain prescription only a couple of weeks ago.”

“He had a migraine at that disciplinary meeting a while back, he also had hand tremors.” House said.

“I don’t know if you could call that a symptom, everyone was shaking, even me!” Dr Early said. “I’m stumped as to what could’ve caused this. Nothing that we know fits in with anything that is presenting like this. Once again Johnny’s putting us through our paces.”

“I guess we wait for the blood tests to come back and see if that helps our differential.” Dr Brackett said.

“Going back to these cluster headaches, what were his symptoms?” House asked Early.

"The symptoms were quite general, apart from the daily occurrence, nausea and having them continuously for weeks nothing else about them fit the criteria for cluster headache. They weren’t located to just one side of his head and other symptomology wasn’t there. "

“I don’t think he suffers from cluster headaches. There was no mass noted on his skull x-rays so I don’t think it’s a brain tumor but I think it’s something to do with now, today, just don’t ask me what, I don’t know? Any ideas, gentlemen?” House asked the two experienced doctors sitting around the table with him. They looked at each other, then at House. Early was fiddling with his silver bracelet and Brackett was frowning but both doctors were stumped.

Dr House not content with waiting made a bold suggestion. “I’m going to go through his medical files. I still think the answer lies in there somewhere.”

“Good luck with that. He must have a whole shelf dedicated to just his notes in medical records alone.” Dr Early said before chuckling at his own joke.

House phoned up medical records, while Gage remained critically ill and on the levarterenol infusion, House as attending wouldn’t be going far. He was off tomorrow but had every intention of getting to the root of this problem. He did like a good puzzle, and Johnny Gage was certainly giving him a good one.

In due course House, Brackett and Early were looking at copious notes from Johnny’s last few admissions. House had only asked for the last three folders, one each for the doctors to study and see if they could find any links. Dr Brackett was paged back to the ER. He tidied up his folder and made his apologies before going.

Neither doctor could find anything but each were looking at their own file so any chronic trends weren’t being seen as the information being shared wasn’t helping to form a picture. It was a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Different eyes were seeing different things or interpreting them differently.

Finally, Dr Early had to go, he was scheduled to perform brain surgery tomorrow and he needed to go reassure the patient and chart him sleeping tablets and a morning pre-med, and then get to bed himself. It was going to be a long surgery tomorrow to remove a brain tumor, and Dr Early needed to get a good night’s sleep.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

House was left alone with Johnny’s files. He got a fresh piece of paper and wrote signs and symptoms at the top of the page. He then wrote down what he knew, which wasn’t much. He decided that he needed to talk to people that knew him. Gage’s personal and work life had to be incorporated into the diagnosis. Could he have been exposed to an environmental toxin or biohazard? Was there something in his house slowly poisoning him? He went to check on Johnny and see if Susie was still there.

“Sorry, Doctor, but his fiancée left at the end of visiting hours.” The scribing nurse informed House. "

There was some slight improvement. Johnny’s blood pressure was coming up to 100/70. Some blood results were in and they were all negative or normal. Nothing was jumping out. They had ruled out a few of their ill-fitting differentials and somehow House wasn’t surprised. He thought they were still skating around the problem.

He reviewed all the recordings and slowed the normal saline infusion down.

House went back to Johnny’s medical records. He stopped at his last admission. The severe allergic reaction to chocolate. There was something there then that unsettled House if memory served him correctly. He got the chart out again and studied the notes well into the night.

Phoebe, who was the float nurse in ICU came and got House from the Dr’s office at 1AM.

“Sorry to wake you Dr House, but you said you wanted to be informed when Johnny’s blood pressure stabilized at 120/80. Well, he’s there now.”

House got up, stretched and rubbed the beginnings of a five o’clock shadow. He quite liked the feel of it. Maybe he should grow his sideburns longer and not shave and develop a beard and moustache. It might make him look older he mused. He made his way into ICU and walked over looking at the monitors and glancing at the notes.

“I’m stopping the infusion. His blood pressure has stabilized and I see his recordings are all holding well. We might just be on the precipice here as we will see how much is the action of the drug and how much is Johnny himself?”

House stood there for a minute. Mulling over what he had just said. Something was circling round the edges of his consciousness. Of course! It had to be something to do with his autonomic nervous system and within that system the sympathetic nervous system or SNS. His blood pressure and palpitations even the tremors would be a SNS response. A smile crossed Houses’ face. “Flight or fight.”

“Pardon?” the scribe nurse asked House.

House wasn’t even aware he had spoken out loud. “Sorry, I was thinking to myself. I think I might have narrowed it down a bit, or at least it gives me a new avenue to go down. Has the sedation worn off yet?”

“No, he hasn’t even stirred.” The nurse replied.

“How long ago did he have any sedation medication given to him? I want him awake as soon as possible.”

“Um, he had some midazolam three hours ago.”

House retrieved the drug chart from her and crossed out the sedation drug. He then looked at the drugs charted and mentally reviewed their actions on the SNS.

Having written the new orders and parameters, House left giving instructions to Johnny’s nurses to let him know if there were any changes, good or bad.

With a frisson of excitement, House went back to Johnny’s notes and charts in the doctor’s office. He phoned Radiology and requested all of Johnny’s abdominal x-rays. He had an idea.

He then looked at Johnny’s notes with renewed vigor. “Whatever you are, I’m gonna find ya. The body doesn’t lie.  People do, but not the body.”

 

 

Chapter Thirty Two

After finishing his third cup of coffee in an hour, House was like a man possessed. He looked at the drug charts and vital signs. He had made a timeline of medications given and Johnny’s reaction from his vital signs. He also had gleaned information from nursing notes and doctor’s findings. It was all there, his possible diagnosis glowed off the page.

House could’ve kicked himself. He was 90% sure he knew what was wrong with John Gage but the only problem was he couldn’t fit the latest decompensatory shock to the condition. Nothing had been done to remove the problem so why was Gage’s body acting like it had?

That was the conundrum that House was now working on solving. If he could answer that he would be 100% certain of Johnny’s illness. It had followed the normal pattern that it had been until the IM Compazine was given to him.

He phoned the ER and was informed that Dr Brackett had left for home several hours earlier.

Johnny had finally woken. He wasn’t completely lucid, the after effects of the drugs and the concussion made getting information difficult. 

In the end to speed up the process House just asked Johnny to say yes or no to the following symptoms. House then threw every symptom he could think of, associated with the illness he suspected, and a few red herrings in as well, to see if Johnny was following and not just saying yes or no at random. He even repeated the same signs and symptoms to see if he got the same answers, seeing that Johnny was concussed.

House told Johnny he had done well and he could go back to sleep now. Then seeing Johnny settle down again he ordered blood and urine tests to be taken later that day. It was a pity they had needed the levarterenol infusion. Hopefully they wouldn’t need to use it again and he could perform the diagnostic tests that would ultimately confirm his diagnosis.

Another thought came to him and he phoned the lab. He was in luck. One of the main blood tests he wanted done could be done on blood taken earlier that day when Johnny had been brought in and before the levarterenol infusion started. He remembered sending the student nurse to the lab with the vials. He told the lab he wanted the results for that test ASAP. He then ordered an abdominal x-ray on a hunch.

He made a mental note to contact Dr Tim Ford. He looked at his watch and saw it was only 3 o’clock in the morning. Far too soon to phone him, but he was ever so tempted. With a huge amount of restraint, he refrained from phoning the Dr, till a more respectable hour, seven thirty should do it.

With a second wind, House went through Johnny’s notes and put torn up pieces of paper in the files that confirmed his diagnosis. He was right. It had been under their noses for quite a while. He started plotting out a timeline.

House decided he like the thrill of the hunt. He found he was fascinated by the puzzles and the feeling of euphoria when he got to the cause. He normally was presented with the effect and had to work back from there. Knocking off diagnosis like bowling pins when they were proved wrong, that is, until he got a strike and knocked the last pin down in victory.

Some illnesses had very few pins, some had a lot. Gage had had a few, but he had got his strike.

 

Chapter Thirty Three

At seven thirty House paged Dr Ford. He explained about his patient and his current condition and ultimately what he thought his illness was. Dr Ford was excited to say the least. He specialized in that area for over twenty years and had only had two patients with this condition. That’s how rare it was. He told House that he had some research to do but he would be there after his morning clinic.

Dr Ford requested the urine test to start now that the levarterenol infusion had stopped a few hours ago. He also warned House that Gage was not out of the woods yet and that they should keep up the 2 minute recordings as dangerous blood pressure spikes can happen instantly and be life threatening. Johnny could have a major stroke or heart attack, at the very least.

House went into the ICU and reviewed Gage who was fast asleep but rousing to voice now more easily. His blood pressure was slowly climbing and was currently 137/90. House instructed that they just continue to monitor. He ordered a 24-hour urine collection, and more blood tests.

“Johnny, Johnny can you hear me?” House asked. “I need you to open your eyes. I’ve got some questions I need to ask you.”

Johnny slowly opened his eyes and quickly shut them again “Lights.”

The nurse then lowered the brightness of the lights in his cubicle and turned off the overhead light that shone directly down on his face.

“Try opening them now Johnny, the lights have been dimmed.”

Johnny slowly opened his eyes and found he could tolerate it a bit better but it was still too bright. A cave would be good about now, he thought.

“Johnny, I need to ask you some questions, you have to answer them for me, OK?”

“Have you been getting chest palpitations at rest?”

“Yes. Thinking about court case”

“I know you’ve been getting headaches, have you been getting sweats and tremors”

House knew the answer to that before Johnny even answered it. He had seen it all at the disciplinary meeting. It had been misdiagnosed then as a migraine and a stress response to the gun going off.  He even had an elevated blood pressure then, with hand tremors and palpitations. They had missed the signs way back then.

“Yes and yes. I’m not handling the stress of the upcoming court case very well. I’ve cut back on my coffee intake and saw Doc Early. I get cluster headaches. What’s going on doc. Didn’t I answer some of these questions yesterday?”

His timeline was a little bit out but he was right about the questions.

“It wasn’t yesterday, Johnny, it was this morning. I think I know what’s causing all this. In a way you’re right about stress but it’s nothing to do with the court case. A specialist will be reviewing your case and if my suspicions are right we will be able to get you better. How does that sound?”

“Wonderful, can you do anything for my headache, I feel like my head is going to explode.”

House looked at the monitor as saw his arterial blood pressure was 143/95.

“I’m sorry, but I think that’s the concussion to a large degree. Only time will heal that. Johnny if we are right about your underlying condition then we need to be very careful about what we do.”

“‘Kay.” Johnny closed his eyes again and started to dose. Sleep was welcoming. He had no pain when he slept. His eyes snapped open. “What…. what underlying condition?”

House was still there, he didn’t think Johnny had taken it all in. The concussion and sedation drugs were muddling his brain.

“It’s ok, Johnny. I think that you have been ill for some time but I think maybe you have thought it was due to something else, court case, caffeine, work related stress, plain old headaches, that sort of thing. I’ll let you sleep. I will be back later with another doctor and maybe we will have some answers for you then. In the meantime, why don’t you just rest Johnny?”

Johnny had started to rest halfway through House’s explanation. The concussion had won out over personal interest and anxiety. I bet you’ve been anxious too, House thought as he went to see if Brackett was in. He needed to see if he agreed. He respected the head of the ER and would value his input one way or the other.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

“Brackett’s in his office.” Dixie told him as he came strolling down the corridor towards the base station. House was on a different mission after hearing that good news.

“Has he taken a coffee with him?” House asked.

Dixie just shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno, hey, aren’t you meant to be off today?”

House just smiled and said he thought he had cracked a case that had both Early and Brackett stumped.

“Really, and you think coffee might humor him when he finds out an intern has solved a case.” Dixie laughed.

“No, well, not completely! I haven’t slept much and I need some staying awake juice.

Our young paramedic friend has been keeping me up all night.” House ended on a yawn.

“Johnny, you’ve been working on Johnny’s case all night? Do you know what caused him to crash like that?” Dixie asked with urgency and concern coloring her question.

“Yep, I think so, but as to why his blood pressure bottomed out I’m still not sure of that, but Dr Ford is looking into it.” House didn’t have time to take his first sip of coffee. Dixie had him by the arm and was dragging him to Dr Brackett’s office, coffee spilling out of his cup along the way.

“Betty, I’m in Kel’s office if you need me, oh and get housekeeping to clean up the mess House has just made with the coffee on the floor.” Dixie said as she was propelling House towards the office in question.

Dixie knocked and then barged right in.

“Come…” Brackett was fixing his tie and was startled to see an excited Dixie dragging a tired looking intern sporting an unshaven look into his office “….in. I see that you already have, and to what do I owe this unexpected pleasure of you two barging into my office to?”

“Tell him? Greg thinks he knows what’s wrong with Johnny.”

Brackett was immediately all ears. His interest was piqued and he ushered House over to sit in his chair.

“Actually, it might be better if we go to the doctor’s office in ICU. It’s all laid out upstairs.”

Not one to waste time, Dr Brackett grabbed his coat and the party of three went to the elevator and pushed the button and waited. It was during this wait that Dixie remembered House mentioning Dr Ford.  They had three on staff. One was an OBGYN, so it couldn’t be him. The other two were an oncologist and an endocrinologist.

“Which Dr Ford did you consult with?” Dixie asked. Her voice tight with fear. Please not the oncologist she was repeating in her head like a mantra. The doors opened and they entered.

“Tim. Not his wife Christina.” House said as he pushed the button for Johnny’s floor, he immediately saw Dixie’s shoulders relax and her face soften “As far as I’m aware, Johnny doesn’t have cancer.”

The doors opened and they made their way to the doctor’s office. Other doctors were in there and were marvelling at the new decorations done to the room from the night before.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

“What the….” Brackett was speechless. Covering the walls was a timeline with cause and effect depicting Injury in blue marker pen, Treatment, mainly drugs, in red and Vitals in green marker pen.

“Um, I may have gotten a little bit carried away, but my initial signs and symptoms sheet wasn’t big enough.”

“You don’t say.” said an impressed Dixie.

“What’s this all in aid of?” one of the other doctors asked.

House was just about to explain when Dr Tim Ford came into the room.

“I was so excited, I’ve got my registrar doing my clinic without me. He’ll page if I’m needed. I don’t think he’ll need me. It’s just follow ups really. They should all be fine.

Right where’s the evidence?”

House now had an audience of several doctors and one head nurse.

“This is what I’ve been able to gather from his last three set of patients’ notes. We have been assuming that every symptom we saw was belonging to the cause of his injury. There are three main incidents that highlight what I mean.”

House went to the second wall and pointed to the incident where Johnny had smoke inhalation and a slight concussion from a wall collapse at a fire. “He was admitted for an overnight stay in a medical respiratory ward for breathing treatments and IV rehydration. He was complaining of a headache, nausea and chest pain then. He was noted to be tachycardic and sweaty. It was put down to heat exhaustion but if that was the case he should have had dry skin, not sweaty. I think he was having a hypertensive episode and what we saw was the tail end of it. His vitals soon settled after fluid and breathing treatments although I think his palpitations and tremors were masked by the side effect of the salbutamol effect on his alpha receptors.”

“The next incident, where we have evidence is the chocolate allergy reaction. His blood pressure was recorded as 80/55, pulse 89 and resps 12 and labored. I was running the call, from the base station. I ordered Adrenaline IM and dexamethasone IV.”

There was a gasp from Dr Ford.

Several doctors turned to see the said Dr had his hand covering his mouth. Dixie and Brackett didn’t like where this was going.

“What happened to the patient?” Dr Ford asked.

“Initially the patient was still struggling to get air in and the medications were making no noticeable inroad. Vitals at that stage weren’t the main priority. I ordered another dose of adrenaline IM and IV hydrocortisone. He went into a hypertensive crisis with a blood pressure of 235/120 and had what I can only presume to be palpitations with an EKG showing sinus tachycardia, rate 146. Pt was extremely diaphoretic. Pt went into V Tach, then cardiac arrested. He required several more doses of adrenaline including intra cardiac and four defib shocks before we got him back. You’ll see here how his blood pressure and pulse were weak 60/30 and 70 respectively. Within 5 minutes it was 210/105 and pulse 128.

Brackett was piecing it all together. The color drained from his face. “It can’t be.” Now he understood why Dr Tim Ford was sitting in on the consult.

Several doctors leaned forward in their chairs but those standing just stepped closer and stooped over listening intently. This was better than a ‘Marcus Welby MD’ show.

Murmurings broke out amongst the group.

Brackett started to laugh and everyone turned to him as it was the least expected response from the head of ER.  “The son of a gun has done it to me again.”

Receiving blank and confused looks from those who hadn’t clicked to the diagnosis, Brackett explained “Pheochromocytoma! That boy doesn’t do anything halfway!”

The looks of shock then genuine medical interest appeared on all the doctors in the room.

“Here are your blood results for the metanephrines you ordered from that blood tube when he arrived. It confirms your diagnosis, Dr House. I’ve been doing some research myself. There is evidence of an 18-year-old girl that had the same catastrophic circulatory shock that Gage had after IM Compazine. Now here’s the kicker,” Ford sat on the edge of the table swinging his leg back and forth, “She too had a pheochromocytoma and after the Compazine it was gone. It appeared the Compazine destroyed her tumor. She survived the ordeal, by the way, and is now living a normal life. Subsequent checks show no return of the tumor, and she is not requiring any medications in any way, shape or form.”

“You said there were three events which highlighted the pheochromocytoma effects. Where’s the third?” asked Brackett, thinking he had already missed one presentation, had he missed two?

“Yesterday, Gage was brought in with a severe concussion and a foreign body impaled in his abdomen following a blast off a ladder at a fire.”

One of the younger doctors was heard to say that the patient should get another line of work as he wasn’t very good at this one.

Dixie went up to the young doctor and made it quite clear that he was one of the best, if not, THE best firefighter paramedic in the county. It was because he cared so much that he got hurt as often as he did. Also, that his job held an intrinsic danger, one that they couldn’t even begin to understand.

“While we are all screaming and running out of burning buildings, they are running in, often without any additional support for their own safety. What can you say about your job that’s on par with that?” Dixie wanted to know.

The young doctor was suitably abashed. Brackett gave Dixie a wink and she went and sat next to him. She wanted to hear what Greg had to say about yesterday.

“As I was saying, when Gage was brought in, his vitals were all normal; bp was 115/70, pulse 89 and resps 20. However, his bp and pulse continued to climb to 230 systolic, and we attributed it to a stress response and pain, possibly thinking a touch of dehydration as well having been cornered in a hot and burning building with no escape route. He was given metoprolol for his blood pressure which being a beta blocker, we know is not the first line of anti -hypertensives for pheo’s. He would’ve been better with verapamil, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. You’ll see that he was given verapamil on his first admission when he had smoke inhalation and concussion. His vital signs showed no cause for concern.”

“However, with the metoprolol, his vital signs depicted a very slow response to that, naturally enough. What we didn’t know, which I now believe it to be, is that these recordings were depicting the pheochromocytoma in its active phase. His bp was slowly coming down after a few hours of being over 200 systolic, the active phase of the pheo was going back into its own rest cycle and we were thinking it was the effect of the metoprolol. Gage had a headache and a fever so the symptoms of the sweating, tremor and headache were disguised by the concussion and possible post op temp.”

“It was hiding in plain sight! I don’t believe it! We studied those charts last night and I never saw any of that.” Brackett said.

“’That’s because we were all fooled with what his presenting complaint was. It had me fooled too. It was only after I stopped the levarterenol infusion in the early hours of the morning when his blood pressure made it to 120/80 that I said something that made my brain go down this road.”

“Of course!” Brackett said out loud. Several heads nodded. They had followed the train of thought.

“Well, not all of us are doctors, and not all the doctors look like they are on the same road as you. Will someone care to tell me what some of you are looking so smug about?” Dixie said.

“In pheochromocytoma’s, the tumor in the adrenal gland produces a large amount of adrenaline and noradrenaline. It releases it without any stimulus, like the fight or flight that it would normally be released in. Johnny has been living off high doses of these hormones being released into his bloodstream every day for several months or more.  With pheo’s they run to their own cycle usually every 18 hrs or so, hence his complaint of headaches once sometimes twice a day. That was when his blood pressure would be sky high. Yesterday, after what I now know and believe to be the IM Compazine spontaneously destroying his pheochromocytoma during its active phase, the levels of those hormones drastically decreased. The circulatory effect, of those hormones, last only about two minutes. Johnny was going through a major withdrawal, for want of a better analogy. We inadvertently gave him the one drug he needed to survive without knowing at that stage that that was what he needed. We, in effect, became his pusher.”

“I would be happy to oversee his care, I take it you have ordered the 24 hour urine collection to check his catecholamine levels?” Dr Ford asked.

 House nodded his head and requested permission to be involved in Johnny’s care as the likelihood of him ever coming in contact with another patient with a pheochromocytoma was a long shot.

Brackett, could only nod his head but reminded House, his first priority was to the ER.

“I ordered an abdominal x-ray in the early hours of the morning too. I would like you to take a look at this.” House then put two pictures on the light box. “A before and after.”

The doctors all got up and peered at the x-rays. House was pointing to the right kidney. There was a small darkened area about the size of a pinhead where his adrenal gland would be.

“The only reason I know to look there is because of this picture taken in the small hours of this morning.”

The darkened irregular area was more easily discernible. It was the size of a dime and resembled a collection of blood as seen on x-rays in the past. It was nothing spectacular, but it was quite a diagnostic aid to support the findings.

“I’ve ordered an ultrasound to help confirm. It should be done sometime this morning.”

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

“Well. I’ll be. You did good work House. I’d have you on my team any day.” said Dr Ford.

“Hey, now hold on. Stop poaching my interns. I’m trying to get him to stay in ER.

Emergency medicine is just in it’s infancy.”

“Sorry gentlemen, but I really like diagnostics. I have to admit though it was fun going for that last bowling pin.” Seeing several confused looks, House just muttered, “Never mind.”

Various doctors went up to look at the walls and followed the fluctuating patterns of the pheochromocytoma and how it reacted to the drugs. Dr Ford had even pinned the metanephrine result to the last episode from yesterday.

House was picking up Gage’s files from the table. He had to return them to medical records.

He had found the answer to this puzzle and now he was looking for his next one. He gave a small chuckle, the way he saw it both he and Johnny were addicted. Johnny to his adrenaline and noradrenaline which admittedly kept him alive and as for himself, well he lived for the puzzle of the undiagnosed off the wall conditions he thought to himself as he walked down the corridor towards the elevators.

It was his day off and he had plans of going to bed sometime today. He was beyond tired now that his adrenaline buzz had worn off.

“House, House, wait up.” Brackett was calling from the doctor’s office.

When Brackett finally caught up to him, he suggested that House may like to present the case in next month’s Q and A. He would be the lead presenter since he had been the primary attending and had cracked the case. He would offer any assistance he needed.

House accepted and went back to retrieve his notes from the walls of the office.

Dixie was coming out. She held them in her hand. “You’ll be needing these.” she said as she gave him all the notes from the now empty walls. “You are going to make a helluva specialist someday. If I ever get sick I want you treating me, and Kel of course. She said when she eyed the dark haired doctor that set her heart aflutter many a time.

 

Chapter Thirty Four

Susan was back in the ICU waiting room. She was tired, she hadn’t slept well last night, and eventually she just had a shower and came back in time for visiting hours.

“Susie! Would you like to follow me and see Johnny?” Brackett asked. House, having returned from medical records, had gone in to ICU ahead of the others.

They went up to his cubicle and looked at the man sleeping there with a pillow tilting him slightly to his side. He still had his wrist splint and leg restrained due to the catheters in his arteries monitoring his different pressures. His blood pressure was slightly elevated and sat at 160/120. His abdomen was slightly distended.

Susie went up to Johnny and took his hand. “Good morning, Talaofo. How is my big strong palm tree? You stayed, you didn’t go away.” Susie bent down and kissed Johnny on his forehead. He felt slightly warm.

She looked up at the banks of monitors and IV fluids going into Johnny. There in the second bag was the antibiotic. She assessed the information on the monitors and taking a shaky breath asked if they were any the wiser what was going on with her fiancé.

Brackett, called House over and explained to Susie that House was going to be overseeing Johnny’s care with a Specialist, and that he had discovered what was wrong with Johnny.

House took Susie into the relative’s room and went through everything with her. The prognosis was looking favorable at this time. They were testing Johnny for a chance that the tumor was heredity, which held with it certain risks, and if that was proven to be the case they would discuss options then.

Susie was familiar with pheo’s. They were found in large animals too. Dr Ford entered the room and House introduced him to Susie.

“Dr Tim Ford, this is Johnny’s fiancée and next of kin, Dr Sommers.”

“Dr Sommers, I’m pleased to meet you. What is your specialty?”

“I’m a veterinarian surgeon, specializing in large animals. So my patients have four legs and up to four stomachs.” Susie laughed. “Please, call me Susie, and now if you can tell me about Johnny, and what is your proposed treatment?”

The group sat there and many questions were asked and answered on both sides of the table.

Susie went back to sit with Johnny for a short while before she was informed that there were some men out their enquiring after Johnny.

Susie left Johnny’s bedside and went out to meet Captain Stanley and the other men from 51, minus Chet who was downstairs hopefully being discharged today.

Susie was smiling and that made the men feel more relaxed which came as a surprise as they didn’t know they were feeling as anxious as they were to begin with.

“He’s is going to be alright. He still very sick but now they know what is wrong with him and he’s getting the treatment he needs. I don’t know about you but I can do with a coffee while I tell you all that I know.” Susie said.

Cap delegated Marco to make coffees for everyone and then they sat down and Susie explained everything as it had been told to her. The men had questions of their own, the most important being, would Johnny be able to continue to be a paramedic?

“There’s no reason why not. The Doctors are very hopeful that he won’t be on any medication and the prognosis is very good. Once he’s recovered we will have our Johnny back. He will be in ICU for a time to come, and won’t be out of hospital for a while after that, but barring any mishaps or complications he should be back with you in about eight to ten weeks. We just have to wait and see. He could bounce back quicker than that and be bugging you again real soon.”

“Is this tumor cancerous?” Marco asked.

“On the whole, no. There is a very small chance that it may be and they are checking for that. There is also a very small chance that it could return and they will continue to check for that too in the future. Right now it’s just his blood pressure that is of most concern. It will still be going up and down as his adrenal glands get back to normal. If his blood pressure gets too low, he can go into multi organ failure and we don’t want that to happen.” Susie told the quiet audience who were hanging on to her every word.

The men feeling that Johnny wasn’t out of the woods yet felt the heaviness of their worry press down on their tired bodies.

Mike was trying hard to stifle a yawn and Marco just gave in and yawned to his hearts delight.

“You all look tired. I think a good sleep is in line for all of you. The only ones getting a good night’s sleep are Johnny and Chet. Has anyone heard how Chet’s doing?”

“He’s being discharged today. He had an uneventful night. He’s moaning that he’s walking like his grandmother, apparently she had bad arthritic knees and hobbled everywhere.” Marco added into the conversation.

The men went in pairs, to see Johnny for a little while, but he was sleeping soundly, and given all that he had gone through, sleep was the best thing for him.

He had now been turned onto his left side and the bruising running down his right side had deepened and was now black as night. Dr Ford was overlooking his latest blood results and his hemoglobin was low and he was ordered two units of blood.

The men then left after checking on Johnny. They had been up most of the night fighting a three alarm fire and were all looking forward to a good sleep of their own.

Cap and Roy gave Susie a kiss on the cheek, Mike and Marco hugged her and told her to look after herself. They had all noticed how tired she was looking.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

Johnny’s days in ICU over the next few weeks consisted of blood and urine tests, machines beeping, medications being pumped in, fluorescent lights on for 24 hours seven days a week, disrupted sleep, indecipherable voices murmuring day and night and the swish of steps on the linoleum, phones ringing, pages going off. The continuous hustle and bustle routines of a very busy unit, which Johnny had learned while there.

There was nothing restful about the ICU. People crying as their loved ones didn’t make it, or tears and fears replaced by smiles as people got better and were moved out into the step down units. Johnny hadn’t seen the sun, felt its warmth on his face or even seen a window let alone an outside view for weeks now. He was living in a bubble and he never thought he would get out of ICU. He began to fret that his blood pressure would never normalize and he was doomed to spend eternity attached to machines measuring everything about him including how much he peed.

It took four days before Johnny was allowed any food that wasn’t in a bag. His bowel sounds had been absent since his second trip to the OR and they had explored his bowel for any nicks from the glass thinking that was responsible for his circulatory collapse. The first tinkling’s of normal bowel activity was rewarded with a cup of green Jello. Party time, Johnny thought.

On day nine, Johnny started believing that the staff were aiding and abetting the machines in trying to turn him into a robot. He was calling out for Roy, refused any staff near him and was busy trying to pull all the tubes out of him. It took five nurses to hold Johnny down and save all the lines going into his arteries and various body parts.

Dr House was summoned to ICU and was quickly apprised of the situation. Full restraints were ordered and then House reviewed all recordings and requested blood tests and oxygen to be given. He spoke to Johnny and found him to be delusional and combative. House found out that Johnny hadn’t been sleeping well for the last three nights and that coupled with being trapped in a windowless ICU and with all the usual trappings of a busy unit had brought on a spell of ICU psychosis. Johnny was given a sedative and kept asleep for 24 hours.

When the sedation was finally weaned off, Johnny awoke feeling foggy in the brain department, but no longer fearful of staff. Over the next few hours he became more cognizant of his whereabouts and recent events including what had happened to him.

He had come through the ICU psychosis unscathed but still held a fear of returning to that dark place that had captured his rational thoughts and held them hostage while he ranted and raved about robots taking over the world.

On day eleven they decided to run a hypertensive test and Johnny was given a dose of an antihypertensive medication. His blood pressure dropped from 168/120 to 98/62 within two minutes. Then it rose again to 166/100 within ten minutes. He was still plagued with headaches but nothing like before. The test showed that his body was still producing enough adrenaline and noradrenaline to keep him a guest at the ICU for a while yet. Johnny sunk into a depression.

By day thirteen his temperature was now reading 98.1 F. On the sixteenth day his blood pressure was down to 100/70. He was still having a cocktail of drugs being titrated depending on his body’s adrenal responses.

24-hour urine collections on day seven and thirteen remained high for catecholamines, the by-product of adrenaline and noradrenaline.

The first bright spot came back on day four, Johnny didn’t have the hereditary form of a pheochromocytoma. Johnny was feeling thankful for that at least. Those types ran a higher risk of being cancerous.

On day twenty-one his urine came back with normal levels of catecholamines. This was the second bright step in what had been a protracted and painful recovery.

He felt like celebrating, Dr Ford agreed, and he stopped two more anti -hypertensive drugs and Johnny was put back on to two minute recordings.

The guys from the Station and Susie were his mainstay visitors. Other paramedics popped in from time to time but Johnny had no conversation so it was left up to his guests to tell him what was going on in the big wide world.

It was during his time in ICU that the men of 51 came and individually apologized to Johnny for their cultural insensitivity. An open discourse of Johnny’s culture was shared to those who were interested. Marco, Roy and Captain Stanley showed a great interest.

Mike did too but he was too shy to ask. Johnny sensed that in Mike and he broached the subject first and then the two sat there for three hours talking of Johnny’s background and Indian traditions.

The biggest surprise of all though was Chet. He took to learning about Johnny’s culture before he saw Gage and apologized. He had gone to the library with Nellie and they had selected some autobiographical books written by Indian authors about their childhood and culture. It was an eye opener. Chet actually felt quite honored to have a real Indian as his friend.

After all the men had apologized and learnt something about his culture, Johnny decided to stay at 51. He sincerely hoped that there would be a new understanding amongst them all. He also decided to share more about his culture when an opportunity presented itself. The biggest way to dispel ignorance after all is through education, Johnny thought.

Other distractions were employed to keep Johnny entertained when his world was defined by the width between the curtains on either side of his bed.

Seeing no end in sight for Johnny’s eventual discharge from ICU, Susie then got him focused on wedding plans. It brightened up his days for a while but when it came to flower arrangements and bridesmaids dresses Johnny was at a loss.  That part was handed over to Susie.

On day twenty-five Johnny was down to only one IV medication and they were going to stop it at midnight and see how he went. All blood and urine tests were coming back normal. Johnny, as was everybody else, was hopeful that he wouldn’t need it and be put into a step down ward with windows and the sun. He had lost the urinary catheter, much to his relief, the femoral catheter had been removed the day before and the A line in his wrist would be removed tomorrow if his body managed without the last IV antihypertensive drug. He still had the central venous catheter but that too was looking like joining the A line if all went well. He would be basically needle free when he left ICU. Johnny couldn’t wait for midnight to come.

 

Chapter Thirty Five

The next day Johnny was moved into the step down ward and given a room with a view over the freeway and parking lot of the hospital. Johnny was elated to have a view, any view of the outside world.

The first thing Johnny did was go have a supervised shower, but he didn’t care. It felt wonderful being under the hot water and lathering up his skin and washing his hair. He felt so good he even broke out into a bad rendition of ‘Born Free.’ His singing could be heard down the corridor and made a few people laugh as he warbled his way through the song making up words as he went along when he got to parts he didn’t know.

They had also removed all his lines apart from the central venous catheter in his neck. Johnny could live with that too. Blood samples were taken from it so no more needles. Johnny was very happy about that.

Roy was partnered with Brice the day Johnny got moved out of ICU. Roy had brought a man in with chest pain, it sounded more musculoskeletal than cardiac but Morton went the whole nine yards as a precaution and he came in with lights but no sirens. Brice was following in the Squad.

It was Dixie who told Roy he was wanted in room 420, that a patient he had brought in wanted to thank him. She wouldn’t say any more than that really. Roy, wanted to go to ICU and check on Johnny first, but Dixie was insistent.

Roy made his way up to 420. He knocked on the door hearing a muffled “Enter” followed by a cough, Roy pushed the door and entered.

Roy’s curiosity for the room’s occupant dissipated like wisps of gossamer when he saw his best friend. He stepped up to the bed and looked at his partner. Johnny saw Roy and gave him a big smile in return. If it was a competition to see who was smiling the most, it would have been a draw.

“I can see why Susie calls you ‘palm tree’ or ‘talaofo’. You really need a haircut Junior. Your hair is sticking out in every direction. Right now it’s the widest thing about you. Did you dry it before getting back into bed?”

Johnny was busy trying to plaster down his unruly mop of hair that had dried in ten different directions and resembled the fronds on a palm tree, his long lean body didn’t help either. Johnny was mumbling about never teaching her anymore Seminole words if all she was going to do was make fun of him.

“I’d give up if I were you, Junior.” Roy said as he sat down on the chair by the bed.

“When did you get moved into here?”

“About 1 o’clock. Look no drips. I’m a free man. I’m on four hourly vitals and a normalish diet. I’m not allowed coffee yet, but I can at least manage that decaffeinated stuff. I might even stick to it in the future as it must be better for my body than the caffeinated one.

To say Roy was pleased to see his best friend looking so well and back to his normal self was an understatement. Now that he was out of ICU and looking better, if a little pale and thin, he could bring the kids to see him. Jo had managed to see Johnny a few times but the strict visiting times had made it difficult on occasion.

“When are they next due, vitals that is?” Roy added on after seeing Johnny’s blank look.

“Not for another three hours. Why?”

Roy just tapped his nose and left the room. He located Johnny’s nurse and she agreed to the plan. Roy then returned with an empty wheelchair that was parked by the elevator.

When he returned to Johnny’s room, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Roy’s plan. Johnny was out of that bed in a shot and on his knees in the next instant.

The problem now wasn’t high blood pressure but too low a blood pressure when he stood up too quickly.

“Johnny, are you OK?” Roy asked as he helped Johnny get up from kneeling on the floor while hugging the seat of the wheelchair with his arms. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Let’s get you back into bed.” Roy said.

“No, I’m fine, Roy. Honest.”

Johnny, determined to get his way, and not wanting to go back to bed like Roy wanted, turned around and promptly deposited his small little tush in the seat of the wheelchair.

“It’s nothin’ Roy. I’m just still kinda weak from bein’ in this bed forever. Let’s go! I wanna feel the sun on my face.”

“Junior, it ain’t that warm out there today.”

“I don’t care Roy. I’ve spent just under a month not seeing any daylight. It could be blowing a blizzard out there and I’d still wanna go. Now let’s go outside so I can catch my death of cold.” Johnny laughed as he watched Roy fuss over him and put a blanket over his knees.

“Will you stop fussing and get us out of here, time’s a wastin’.” Johnny said.

They got out on the ground floor and Johnny wanted to go see Dixie before going out to sit in the courtyard.

Dixie saw her two handsome paramedics and smiled at the sight of them together again. It had been a long time since they had both graced the corridors or the ER together. It made a nice picture, even if one was in a wheelchair and trussed up like a mummy.

“Well, hello there, you two. How are you doing Johnny? You decided to pay us a visit? Tell you what, it’s my lunch break in five minutes why don’t you make it to the hospital cafeteria and I’ll meet you there.”

Johnny’s face lit up and Roy smiled at Dixie and turned the wheelchair back the way they had come and took his partner to the cafeteria.

Johnny ordered a strawberry malt. “Um, I’m sorry Roy, I don’t have any money on me.” Johnny said looking slightly sheepish.

“That’s Ok, I got it ….. It’s so good to have you back and out of ICU. You really had me concerned there, partner. I don’t think I could live through that again.” Roy told Johnny.

“You couldn’t live through it again? Neither could I, Pally! Once was enough, believe you me! I was really anxious that I wasn’t going to make it. I’ve got a bride to walk down the aisle and a partner I couldn’t leave in the hands of Brice. I have responsibilities. I don’t want you thinking I’ve been lying here shirking my duties, ya know.” Johnny teased back at Roy, lightening the mood.

It had been very touch and go for a while and Johnny wasn’t the only one who had lost weight. Susie had too.

Dixie made it to the table with an egg salad sandwich and a coffee.

“It’s so good to see you up again, Tiger.” Dixie grabbed Johnny’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “We’ve missed you. Roy may be playing it cool, but he’s come very close to killing Brice on several occasions.”

“Speaking of which, where is he? He’s a long time following in the squad. What, you have an outer space rescue and he’s stuck on the Milky Way or what?” Johnny asked looking around for the bespectacled walking rule book.

“I’m assuming he’s in with Brackett, going over some policy that he thinks needs to be clarified or improved or something. I stopped listening after a while and just mmmm’d him to death. He’s none the wiser.” Roy replied realizing too late what he had just said.

“You mmmm me to death too! Now I know you don’t listen to me.” Johnny pouted.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Junior. My mmm to you are listening mmmm’s, whereas my mmmm’s to Brice aren’t. They even sound different.” A flushed Roy was saying. He quickly picked up his malt and found it to be exceedingly interesting.

Dixie, seeing Johnny trying to work out Roy’s rationale and Roy being stuck in a corner, took pity on Roy and decided to leap into the silence by striking up a different conversation bound to distract Johnny from his current train of thought.

“So Johnny, I still don’t know much about your wedding plans. Have you picked a date, a venue or a theme? You can’t keep denying this girl’s interest in these things.”

Johnny took a mouthful of his malt, he too, finding it exceedingly interesting.

“Ah, Dix, I’ve been a bit busy and we, ah, well, we have made tentative plans but my getting sick kinda of, ah, halted the plan making a bit. We have narrowed down some venues and yes, we have picked a date but I don’t know if it’s up to me to tell people or the bride. I must check with Susie and see if she’s telling people the date yet. If she is you’ll be the first to know.”

Johnny then took a long draw of his malt making loud slurping noises.

“Johnny, you should know better than to do that, be more like Roy.” Dixie said. No sooner had she finished saying it than loud slurping noises emanated from Roy’s direction. Dixie looked over at Roy to see him blushing hotly.

 Johnny interrupted with “Who do you think taught me?” before they all laughed.

“When you see Chet, and if he’s phoning Nellie, can you tell Chet to tell Nellie to tell Susie that I’m in room 420 now.” Johnny asked Roy.

Roy was trying to work out what he had to do, “Who am I telling what to?”

“Really Roy, it’s easy.” Johnny then repeated it again until Roy looked less confused.

Brice came into the courtyard, “Carol told me you were here, oh, hello Gage. It’s good to see you looking well. I’m pleased you are on the road to recovery and I believe congratulations are in order for your upcoming nuptials, I wish you all the very best.

Brice held his hand out and Johnny shook it, thanking Brice.

Brice then gave the customary two slaps to Johnny’s back causing Johnny to gasp and grimace. His muscle tone was down and his serious weight loss had made any slight pressure over bony areas slightly painful.

It didn’t go unnoticed by anyone at the table.

“Are you OK, Tiger?” Dixie asked leaning over taking a closer look at the suddenly pale man.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Just need to build my strength and body weight up a bit, that’s all. The pain’s gone already.” Johnny said as he straightened up and took a breath.

Roy, Dixie and even Brice were giving him a critical eye appraisal. He looked alright and didn’t seem to be in pain and his color was good.  They gave him the benefit of the doubt and lunch resumed with even Brice taking a seat and joining in the conversation.

Dixie went with the guys up to Johnny’s room and helped to get him back into bed. This time Johnny remembered to stand up slowly and without feeling lightheaded he got into bed and Dixie pulled the covers up and the guys said a final farewell before leaving to return back to the station.

Dixie went with them as her lunch break was over.

Johnny settled back into his pillow and looked out to the cool blue sky. His thoughts drifting aimlessly while he watched the clouds do likewise. Before long Johnny was asleep with his arm flung over his face in its usual position.

That night Susie came in wearing all smiles. “Hello, Handsome. To see you in a ward and away from the machines and glare of the ICU is wonderful. How are you feeling?”

“Never better for seeing you,” Johnny said as he kissed her gently on the lips. “Here.” He said as he patted the bed indicating for her to sit on it.

“I don’t think so, sweetheart. I may not be held responsible for what I might do being that close to you, and this isn’t the right time or place.” Susie said as she settled into the chair by Johnny’s bed. She held his hand and the two lovebirds talked about her work and his day.

Visiting hours came to an end and they shared a lingering kiss before Susie picked up her handbag and finally left.

Johnny had had a great first day out of ICU. He settled back into his bed and turned the lights off from his remote, and assuming his preferred sleeping position, settled for the night and went to sleep. It was tiring work being a patient.

 

Chapter Thirty Six

After 33 days in the hospital, Johnny was finally discharged. He had physical therapy sessions to attend to help regain muscle tone and strength and a dietician had formulated a diet plan for Johnny to put on weight. He had lost over twenty pounds and was given a high protein and calorie diet, including specialized drinks. It was the type of diet that someone with a healthy appetite and excess weight problem knew only too well.

Susie had moved temporarily back into Johnny’s place to tend to the animals and take the horses out for rides. She collected Johnny from the hospital and finally took him home.

Once Johnny was reacquainted with his ranch, the horses and even Sotkazi, who was a little bit standoffish at first, he took Susie, and the two of them just sat on the swing seat on the porch and relaxed. It was good to be home, Johnny thought.

Dr Ford had arranged a follow up appointment in one and six months’ time. He had quite a few outpatient appointments to attend and he wasn’t expected back to work for another 10 weeks at the earliest. There was also the scheduled court case in 9 weeks. Johnny felt like he would never get back to work the way things were going. At least he was to receive full pay during the court case. He had gone through sick leave and most of his annual leave and money was tight.

Susie and Johnny were talking about the possibility of moving in together. Susie was spending more and more time at Johnny’s place and financially it made better sense to pool their resources together. They spent most of the day talking about it. In the end it was decided to give it a try. The way they saw it, it was a win-win for both parties.

Dennis popped over to see what, if any, chores needed to be done. He was invited to stay for dinner.

Dennis, being old school didn’t rally to the news of Johnny and Susie moving in together before wedlock at first, but then he could see some benefits to it and agreed to help Susie bring her belongings over when her apartment lease was up in a months’ time.

Life settled into a routine. Susie was bringing more and more of her smaller belongings over and they eventually found places for them to go. It was a little bit higgidy piggidy at first but soon the pieces looked like they always belonged there.

Johnny was slowly getting stronger and had put on a good ten pounds of muscle. He was feeling more fit and better each week. He went out jogging every day and when he finally found his stamina was improving, he added horseback riding into the mix and started his judo exercises for beginners. He increased his chores not only around his ranch but Dennis’ too.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

Sitting back over a pile of newly chopped wood that he had yet to stack, Dennis approached Johnny with a proposition.

“I would be very honored if you would consider having your wedding here at my ranch. There’s a lovely meadow and running stream down yonder and Susie always thinks of it as a special place. It holds special memories for her, ya see. It was the last happy place for her and her family, before the accident. They had gone down there to have a picnic and, the girls a play in the stream. I know she holds that place dear in her heart.

Whenever she wanted or needed to be close to her family that is where I would find her. I was just thinking that on her big day she would be wanting to be close to them, is ‘all.” Dennis said while idly kicking at some scraps of bark on the ground.

Johnny gave his lopsided grin before replying, “Sounds terrific, let’s go take a look. We aren’t rigid about a church do and I just want to make my little hummingbird happy.” Johnny then swung the axe into a rather large block of wood before wiping his face on his discarded shirt and then putting it on over his tanned torso.

It lay about 200 yards from the house and was just beyond a slight rise. Tall evergreen trees acted as a wind breaker smoothing the air around them. There was no traffic noise, just the stream babbling over the stones, if you listened hard enough, and birds and cicadas both singing away happily. Butterflies danced from one wildflower to another. The sweet smell of warm grass and pine scented the air.

It did look beautiful with a sweep of flat land nestled by trees and hills in the distance. Johnny could understand why Susie felt close to her family here. He could almost sense their blessing as well.

“It’s beautiful.” Johnny said.

“Ya think Susie will go for it.” Dennis asked, a bit shy now that it had come to reality.

“I have a plan.” Johnny told Dennis before he pulled a piece of long grass and nibbled on the emerald green stalk, tasting the sweetness that lay within.

Later that afternoon when Susie arrived home, Johnny was all excited and told her he had gone to a wedding venue that was just perfect. Susie was slightly miffed that he had gone without her and Johnny quickly said that they could go again, right now before it got too dark to see it as it was an outdoor setting.

“I’ll only take you if you let me blindfold you,” he said.

“What are you up too, Johnny?”

“Nothing.”

They went out to his Rover and climbed in. Johnny then put the blindfold over her eyes. He waved his hand in front of her and got no response. Happy that she couldn’t see, he then drove for ten miles around the back roads of the neighboring countryside before turning the car back to Dennis’s place.

He parked the car and told Susie to leave her blindfold on as he would walk her to the site.

Dennis had seen the Rover come up the driveway and realized that Johnny must have told Susie. He went out to greet them, only for Johnny to put a finger up to his mouth, signalling Dennis to be quiet. Dennis looked into the passenger seat to see Susie blindfolded and oblivious to her surroundings.

“This better be good, Johnny. If you have driven me through town looking like this, I’ll never speak to you again.”

“Would I do that to the woman I love more than words can say.” Johnny then helped Susie out and once steady he took her by the arm and hesitatingly she walked to her childhood meadow.

Standing at the crest in the early sunset rays, Johnny told her to close her eyes and he took the bandanna away from her eyes. “When you’re ready open them and tell me what you think?”

Susie opened her eyes and looked around her before recognition finally hit home and she put her hand up to her mouth and burst into tears. “Johnny, how did you know?” was all Susie was capable of saying.

“A little bird told me, does this make you happy? Would you like your wedding here?”

“Johnny, I love it. I’m so pleased a little bird told you about this. I didn’t want to imposed on Uncle Dennis and I didn’t think he knew what I thought about this place. I never told him, as I didn’t want to upset him. He did so much for me, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.”

Dennis had been standing a few feet behind them and approached the pair with a small cough to announce his presence.

“You were always so thoughtful of my feelings and yet you had lost the most. Do you want to get married in ‘Susie’s Field’, munchkin?”

At the use of her childhood name and their nickname of the meadow, Susie just nodded her head as tears of happiness rolled down her face. She went up and gave Dennis a huge hug and kiss, whispering thank you in his ear.

“Then, it’s settled. We have the venue and we have the date, now all we have to do is ask our friends and family if they want to be members of the bridal party.” Johnny said. He gave Susie a nudge and a look to say now’s the time.

Susie cleared her throat and asked her Uncle Dennis if he would do the honor of walking her down the aisle and give her away.

The smiling face and exuberant whoop left them in no doubt.

“I’d love too. Hot diggity dog. I get to walk my niece down the aisle.” Dennis then did a little jig and slapped Johnny on the back and kissed Susie on the cheek while squeezing the breath out of her. “C’mon, this calls for a celebratory drink.”

The threesome made their way back to Dennis’s house and he poured them all a drink. Susie had her shandy and Johnny opted for a lite beer while Dennis had a whiskey.

“I suppose we better start asking the others and telling people the date so they can at least organize the day off if they are working it.” Johnny said.

“That sounds like a plan.” Susie said, they then told Dennis who they had selected to be in the bridal party.

The next day was a Saturday and Susie wasn’t on call and 51 was off. Johnny had phoned Roy earlier that morning to see what he was up to and hearing that he had a honey-do list with only two jobs on it, volunteered to come over and help, with Susie keeping Jo company.

Soon the couple were sitting on the De Soto’s deck downing a few and talking about everything and anything. It was when Jo asked how the wedding plans were coming along that Johnny then got serious.

“Funny you should ask that because we came over here to tell you a bit about the plans. I hope you have the 8th of June free next year as we were hoping you might like to come and watch me marry this beautiful woman here.”

“Let me go get the calendar and appointment book and see if there’s anything booked that far ahead.” Jo said as she got up to retrieve the mentioned items.

“I’m so sorry, Junior,” Roy said as he looked at the diary, “but it looks like Jo and I are booked. We are going to a wedding it seems.” He then looked up and saw the look of disappointment on Johnny’s face blossom into recognition that he had been had by Roy.

“You know, for that very reason, I should ask Chet to be my best man, at least that way I know I won’t get pranked”

“Are you asking me to be your best man?” Roy asked. “Cause if you are, then I accept.”

Roy put his hand out to shake with Johnny’s but Johnny being the demonstrative type, just grabbed Roy in a hug and slapped his back a few times.

“Jo, would you like to be my Matron of Honor?” Susie quietly asked, hoping that Jo would accept.

“Oh, Susie, that’s so lovely to be asked. I would be delighted.” Jo replied.

“Um, we haven’t finished. We were kinda hoping that Jenny could be the flower girl and Chris the ring bearer.” Johnny asked the happy De Soto’s.

“Sure, not a problem, Junior.”

“Can we do anything to help, as Matron Of Honor I’m at your disposal if you need anything done.” Jo offered.

“How good are you at sewing?” Susie asked.

With honey-do lists forgotten, Johnny and Roy found themselves alone on the deck sipping on beer and talking about sport and work, while watching over the children in the pool.

Jo and Susie decided to go to the mall to look at bridal dresses and outfits for the rest of the bridal party. Even though the wedding was over a year away there was a lot of planning to do and ideas to sort through.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

Johnny pulled up at the parking lot outside Station 51 the next day the guys were working. He had seen the Engine and Squad in the bay so knew that all the guys were there.

He sauntered over to the back door and let himself in.

The guys were sitting down having a late lunch, they had been out most of the morning attending a suspicious fire in the warehouse district. Marco had prepared cold cuts and iced tea. It was a hot day so no one was feeling particularly hungry.

“Hello, hello, hello” Johnny said as he entered the kitchen.

He was met with surprize then smiles broke out and chairs scraped back from the table and Cap and Roy got up to welcome Johnny with a pat on the back.

“Take a seat, John. Roy, grab another plate and glass. Have you eaten? There’s plenty here so help yourself.” Cap said as he re-sat in his chair.

“I’m good, Cap. I’ve already eaten. Thanks for the offer though. I came to ask a question of you all. But seeing as you’re busy maybe it should wait till another time?” Johnny pondered aloud.

“Nonsense, now is as good a time as any.” Roy said as he knew what Johnny wanted to ask.

“OK, then.” Johnny cleared his throat and then looked around at the men gathered at the table. “I was wondering if Cap, Mike, Marco and Chet if, um, you’d like to be my groomsmen. Roy’s already accepted to be my best man, and, well, since I could only have one best man, and you’re all my best friends I was hoping you would stand up there beside me on my wedding day.”

Johnny received four yes’. He then went on to tell them the date and venue for the wedding.

“Where’s the reception gonna be, then?” Chet asked.

“We are looking at hiring one or two marquees, and having caterers do the food and a DJ doing the music with a dance floor at the other end or maybe a separate tent for the dancing. It all depends on how big a marquee we can find, it will be set to the side of the field.”

“Susie wants a big white marquee with a three peaked roof and windows in the side so you can see the field and look out to where we got married. There’s going to be fairy lights and flowers hanging down and candles on the tables and mood lighting to help set the scene. She’s been in collaboration with the different suppliers to see who can deliver what she wants.” 

The guys nodded as they envisioned their own interpretation going by Johnny’s description. Chet tried hard to get the image of a circus tent with clowns running in and out, out of his mind. He immediately pictured anything that Johnny would be organizing to be a three ringed circus but then remembered Susie’s birthday and all the work Johnny had done then and changed his mind.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

Once Johnny’s business was done at the Station, he made his farewell and drove to the nearest swimming pool and did 20 laps. He was getting fitter and his body was starting to show the results of all his efforts. He was still underweight but the way he was going he would be in top shape in no time.

He was getting good reports from his outpatient appointments. Dr Ford was pleased with his progress as was the dietician and physical therapist. However, it was Dr Brackett that held the power over Johnny returning to the paramedics. He wanted to test the water so he went to the ER and found Dixie and Mike Morton at the base station.

45’s had a child with a fever and they were bringing the child in. When the call was completed, Dixie turned and saw Johnny standing at the nurse’s desk, his hair had dried in several directions from the pool and Dixie asked how her favorite palm tree was doing.

Johnny blushed bright red and started patting down his hair while cursing Susie’s fondness for her pet name for him. He didn’t think there was anybody who didn’t know it. Johnny was wrong, Mike Morton didn’t know it until just now. Now Johnny was cursing Dixie. Woman, he thought to himself, they hafta share everything.

 “I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d pop in and see how you guys were going?” Johnny said as he automatically went to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup.

“We’re just fine, works been busy but we are currently having a slight reprieve.” Dixie said as she looked at the quiet corridor and a waiting room with only 3 people sitting in it.

Johnny took a sip and made a face. “Argh, caffeinated. I’ve got so used to decaffeinated now that this stuff tastes awful. Do you have any Sanka?”

Dixie shook her head, “Sorry Johnny. We only have the real McCoy here.”

Johnny took the cup of coffee to the staffroom where he tipped it down the sink. He returned to Dixie and asked if Dr Brackett was in.

“He’s in his office. Everything OK, Tiger?”

“Yeah, I just need to know if there’s any new protocols to learn as I will have to recertify, more than likely, before I can start work.”

“He’s in his office, go on in, he’s just catching up on paperwork.” Morton told Johnny.

Brackett was pleased to see Johnny. He had been keeping tabs on him via his outpatient appointments and was very pleased to see the progress made. He came to the conclusion that second-hand reports weren’t doing Johnny any justice.  Johnny was glowing with health and vitality. The sparkle was back in his eye and although he was still underweight he looked fit and well. He had bulked up since his discharge and his musculature was getting very defined.

Johnny also had to pass the physical by the LACoFD physician. Johnny had already worked up to their required level but he wasn’t happy to just meet minimum requirements, he wanted to excel.

Brackett gave Johnny the new protocols, all two of them, and then set a tentative date for Johnny’s recertification exam. He couldn’t see Johnny failing to pass his health checks the way he was progressing he would beat the ten-week recovery plan by a week or more, Brackett thought.

 

 

Chapter Thirty Seven

Johnny stood in line at roll call, it was his first day back at work after eight weeks on sick leave. He was only 2lbs underweight but given how he was all muscle and no fat and had passed the physical with flying colors he was deemed fit to return to duty.

He had also passed the paramedic recertification exam, like Brackett knew he would. He scored the highest test results every time they had to recertify.

Johnny had worked hard to get back to work and it was with a great sense of pride that he handed his Captain his medical fitness and paramedic certification papers, two days previous.

After roll call the group went into the kitchen to have coffee, Johnny had slowly acquired the taste for caffeinated as hardly anyone had decaffeinated, so it was easier to join the masses. On the table was a sheet cake with ‘Welcome Back Johnny’ in blue icing and the squad underneath in red icing. The guys from C shift had stayed to share in the small party.

After much laughter and joking the C shift left and A shift got on with their assigned duties. The squad had to take a supply run to Rampart and test a few fire hydrants. Cap also had some drills lined up, they were really a refresher for Johnny and they all knew it.

Chet was hoping he wouldn’t come last in the full turnout and SCBA drill.  Once, just once, he would like to come second to last. He knew he would never be first that always went to Gage, but maybe this time Gage wouldn’t come first. If Johnny wasn’t up to par then maybe Chet did have a chance of coming second to last. He wasn’t asking for much and at the drill, he didn’t get much either. Once again he came at the bottom. Johnny had come first again, as usual. Johnny, seeing Chet’s disappointment, offered to help him with his speed and dexterity. Chet begrudgingly took Johnny up on the offer. He was tired of always being at the bottom.

It had been a quiet day. No tones had come for the engine or the squad. Lunch was eaten with some trepidation as they thought the tones must surely come then. They didn’t. It wasn’t until they had all worked up a sweat playing one on one basketball outside that the tones went off calling the Station out to a jumper.

The squad led to way with lights and sirens blazing. The engine followed. Johnny was giving directions to Roy and both were checking the intersections before cautiously entering them.

They pulled up at the scene to see onlookers looking high into the sky. The crew got out and craning their necks saw a woman perched on the roof edge of an eight story building. Cap called dispatch to send out Station 14 to their address, as they had the safety net, and if worse came to worse they might be able to catch her if she jumped.

Johnny and Roy made their way up to the top floor and then onto the roof. They approached cautiously and announced their arrival calmly as they didn’t want to frighten her and make her lose her precarious balance on the six-inch-wide ledge.

Her name was Melanie and she was 18 and had just broken up with her first ever boyfriend. It was Johnny who talked her down from the ledge. He told her about his turbulent love life and how he was always getting dumped by his girlfriends but how one day when he least expected it he found his soulmate. It was just a matter of taking one day at a time as you never knew when you were going to meet the one.

The girl stepped off the ledge and Johnny was there to comfort her as she cried into his shoulder. An ambulance was called and she was taken to Rampart where a psychiatric resident was waiting to talk to her.

Back at the Station, no sooner had they just got out of their respective vehicles than the klaxons went off sending the paramedics to meet the coast guard at the Pallister Parade Marina for a sea rescue. Johnny groaned out loud and Roy tossed him the Dramamine out of the  glovebox.

“There ya go, Junior, you better get these into ya.”

“There won’t be enough time for them to work, Roy.” Johnny whined as he dry swallowed two of them then replacing his helmet they set off to the marina.

A short time later the squad pulled up at the marina and the guys made their way over to the Coast Guard boat that was tied up at the dock waiting for them.

“He’s having chest pains, and the wife doesn’t know how to steer the boat. Harry here will bring their boat in, and the wife and husband will come back with us.” Neil, the skipper was saying as the coastguard boat crested over the waves.

The boat was bouncing up in the air and landing with a hard thump as it descended, usually hitting another wave making the boat judder and then go flying again. It sent jolts into one’s neck and back. Johnny was already green and breathing hard.

“He still gets seasick, I see.” Neil said to Roy with a nod to Johnny who was now throwing up what little there was in his stomach.

“Yep!” It was very hard to deny the truth of that when Johnny continued to dry retch over the side of the boat. They hit a particularly nasty wave and bounced quite steeply with the nose of the boat pointing just about perpendicular to the sea.

“HOLD ON!” yelled Neil.

As if we wouldn’t, thought Roy as he grabbed Johnny by the lifejacket. Johnny, who was holding on to the wet railings, just about went over the side, as his hands slid and he lost his grip. Little flakes of paint imbedded themselves into the palms of his hands.

Please let this call end sooner rather than later. I don’t know how much more I can take, Johnny thought as another spasm of vomiting overtook him. I’ll be needing rescuing myself if this keeps up.

They finally made it to the cabin cruiser bobbing in the water. The wife was waving frantically. Having safely made it on board the wife took them to her husband Jimbo, who was sitting inside the cabin, clutching the left side of his chest.

He had a history of angina and hadn’t brought his medication with him. Rampart was contacted and a nitro-glycerine tablet was ordered as was an IV and EKG. Dr Morton was reading the strip on lead 2 and noted the ischemia but no other indicators of a heart attack.

“How is the patient doing now?” Morton asked

“Patient reports chest pain is diminishing and he is feeling better. Patient’s color has improved and he is breathing easier and less diaphoretic, Squad 51 out.”

Johnny continued to heave over the side of the rocking boat. He would replenish his fluids once he got onto dry land. Doing it now while still out to sea was pointless.

The group then alighted onto the coast guard boat and Harry set forth steering the ‘Mermaid Princess’ back to port. Johnny sat in the corner hugging a bowl while Roy monitored the patient. The patient sat by his wife and watched his boat as it followed them in. Repeat vitals showed the patient was stable. The waters had become more choppier on the return trip. The swells were slightly bigger and Johnny just continued to moan into the bucket. He was just dry heaving now as nothing was left in his stomach to come out.

When they finally made it to dry land, a huge sigh of contentment was heard from Johnny followed by another painful spasm causing him to clutch the bowl with ferocity but nothing came up. The victim was taken off first and loaded into the ambulance. The wife sat in the front and Roy was the last to enter making sure the biophone and drug box were handy. The second ambulance sat in the back with Roy and Johnny drove the Squad in.

Morton greeted his patient as he came into Rampart. Jimbo was directed into room 1 with Dixie and Roy. They left the room a short while later after establishing the patient was going to be okay. The patient was feeling much better and had no chest pain. EKG showed normal sinus rhythm. Bloods were taken but it was looking more than likely he had had an angina attack and would be fine.

Johnny was lying on the couch in the Doctors lounge. He was feeling a bit queasy still and his stomach and abdominal muscles hurt from all the dry retching and vomiting.

Dixie went up and brushed the hair away from Johnny’s eyes and noted the slightly green tinged paleness of Johnny’s face. Dixie cajoled Johnny into a treatment room where Morton was already waiting. Roy had told them all about Johnny’s motion sickness and loss of fluid. Dixie went about getting Johnny’s vitals. His blood pressure was slightly low for him and Morton acknowledged this by ordering a liter of Normal Saline IV to be given stat. Johnny wasn’t feeling happy about being hoodwinked into having Morton treat him or having an IV.

“It’s either that, John, or I sign you off as sick, and you go home.” Morton told Johnny.

Johnny begrudgingly put his arm out and Dixie put a needle in and connected the stat bag of fluid. Johnny just glared at them all. He knew he had been set up and payback was best served cold he thought.

After the bag had run through and he had kept down some jello and a malt from the cafeteria, Morton passed him as fit to return to duty. Dixie removed the line, and Johnny jumped off the gurney and made a run for the door. He had had enough of this place and wanted to get back to the station away from any more needles and medicines.

Cap was waiting for them in the apparatus bay as Roy reversed in.

“How you doing, sport?” He asked as Johnny climbed out of the cab. He had been given a heads up by Dixie about Johnny’s severe seasickness and treatment.

“I’m good, Cap. Nothing that a good cup of coffee and Mike’s spaghetti won’t cure.”

“Yeah, well Chet got KP today in case you forgot. Do I need to call a replacement in, John?”

“Only after dinner, Cap. Heck, you might need to call in 5 replacements.”

“I heard that, Gage.” Chet bellowed out from the kitchen as he was chopping up carrots for his famous Irish stew.

“How does he do that? I swear, he’s got hearing like a bat. I’m sure under all those curls he’s got ears shaped like a bat too.” Johnny groused.

“Talking of hair, John, I think it’s time you got yours cut don’t you. The trial starts next week and we will all be under scrutiny. I don’t want to have to remind you again, OK?”

Cap said before heading into the kitchen for a coffee refill and to check what Chet was putting into his stew. Sometimes the one and only famous family recipe that was handed down from generation to generation had very different ingredients in it each time it was made.

“You are not putting maraschino cherries in it, Chet, and that’s an order. Now if you were making ice cream sundae’s that would be a different story. Don’t give me that look, maraschino cherries will never belong in a stew. We didn’t eat it last time and we won’t be eating it this time. What did I do in a past life to be surrounded by twits in this lifetime, dear Lord. Can you tell me?” Cap pleaded as he left the kitchen with his cup of coffee.

Johnny and Roy sauntered into the kitchen. Johnny went to get two cups from the cupboard but got a face full of water instead from one of Chet’s water bombs.

“I don’t believe you, Chet. I thought you had outgrown this phase.” Johnny said as he swiped the dish towel out of Chet’s hands and dried his face. He wasn’t worried about the wet shirt as he was going to change it anyway as it had sea spray over it and smelt briny.

“I thought you might need to replace ya fluids after the sea rescue. We all know you don’t handle the waves, Gage.”

Before Johnny could get in to it with Chet, Marco stepped in and asked about their victim.

“He’s going to be ok. He was lucky it was only a case of angina. I think next time he will remember to take his medicine with him.” Roy replied. As he reached out and accepted the coffee Johnny handed him.

Johnny went out for a minute and rummaged around in the squad and then came back with a pair of tweezers and started poking around on his palms.

“What ya doing?” Roy asked as he looked over at Johnny who was studiously plucking at his palms.

“I’ve got paint chips in my palms from the boat when it just about tipped over,” Johnny told Roy. Twenty minutes later and happy with his endeavors, he put the tweezers away and washed his hands. Some of the newly formed wounds stung but otherwise they were ok.

The shift settled into its normal routine. They ate dinner with various topics being discussed and then played a hand or two of cards to see who got dishes.

Cap was washing the last dish when Johnny walked back in to the dayroom. He had been on the phone to Susie as she wanted to know how his first day back at work was going.

Roy followed a short while later. He had spoken to Jo after Johnny and Susie were finished their talk. Susie was over at Jo’s and they were going through bridal books over a bottle of wine. Both women were sounding slightly merry. Susie was staying the night as she wasn’t fit to drive and Johnny was going to follow Roy home in the morning and they would all share breakfast before going their separate ways.

A false alarm and a structure fire had the station out twice through the night. The men returned at 5 AM and made their way into the latrine for a quick wash before stumbling back into bed. The morning tones woke them up and they donned their bunker pants and made their way into the dayroom for coffee and hopefully a quiet end to their shift.

 

Chapter Thirty Eight

The day of the trial arrived. A shift arrived in their dress blues and sat outside courtroom 3. Johnny was hoping for a miracle. Maybe Chip would plead guilty. Maybe he was mentally incompetent to stand trial. Just please don’t let it be a mistrial and have to do this all over again. Johnny had been too nervous to eat that morning and now his stomach was churning up acid making him rub his stomach trying to quell the nausea that was getting stronger with each passing minute.

To everyone’s surprise, including her own, Mrs Lopez was called first. She came out an hour later. Only to have Roy called next.

Everyone gathered around Mama Lopez to ask what had happened. She described how she took the stand, swore on the bible and then related how she and Marco had been at the Station the night of the incident and she had told Johnny he couldn’t have the chicken dish due to his chocolate allergy. She was adamant that Chip had heard her as she was sitting opposite him and saw him looking at her when she mentioned it.

Roy took a lot longer on the stand. It was almost lunchtime when he came out and when he did so he informed them that court was adjourned for lunch but they had to be back in an hour.

They all made their way over to Delores’ Diner. She greeted them like long lost friends and poured them all a coffee while getting their orders for food.

She gave Detective Crockett a big smoochie kiss and then laughed uproariously at his embarrassment.

Roy recited what had happened and how Chip’s D.A. was like a rabid dog and tried to pull apart everything that he had said but that the Prosecution played the tape of the call to the base station and that you could’ve heard a pin drop in the courtroom. The 12 jurors were all leaning forward in their seats, listening avidly, and could hear the struggle of one man trying to save his best friend’s life as he lay dying on the floor of the apparatus bay.

Roy felt hesitantly confident that his testimony had gone well. Although he still had some lingering doubts as the D.A. was good at attack and destroy, Roy thought.

After lunch Roy was called back. Johnny was feeling sick and the sandwich he had forced down him was not sitting well in his stomach. He made a mad dash to the toilets where he threw up what little he had eaten. Cap went after Johnny to see that he was ok.

Johnny was at the sink, splashing cold water over his face and rinsing his mouth out. He looked pale and his eyes slightly bloodshot.

“You OK, pal?” Cap asked as he handed Johnny a paper towel to dry his face.

“Yeah, at least I will be in a minute. I just wish this was over with, ya know. I never wanted it to come to this. Why couldn’t it have just ended with him being fired from the fire department and let it be at that?” Johnny asked Cap as he threw the used tissue into the trash receptacle and leaned back against the sink, facing Cap.

“I don’t know, pal, but I think Chip really brought this all upon himself. If it hadn’t been you and Crockett it would’ve been somebody else. Heck, I’ve often thought that he could’ve come across a victim from a different cultural background at a fire and instead of rescuing them, he could’ve left them to burn to death. So ya see, by doing this we are probably saving lives we don’t even know about.” Cap said.

Johnny hadn’t thought of that and in a way he felt he owed it to the people of Carson to do what he could to keep this madman off the streets. Straightening up he regained his composure and walked out of the washroom with a new steely resolve.

The first day came to an end after the testimony of Drs. Early and House. The men went home feeling a bit of the dread gone now that they knew what to expect. The next day, Captain Stanley was called to the stand. He was taken through his statement and then the statement he obtained from Chip.

The D.A. was hot on his tail and tried to bring reasonable doubt into the juror’s minds about the obtaining and wording of Chip’s statement. Cap stood firm. He never wavered from his convictions nor the statements taken that day Chip admitted trying to hurt Johnny.

Cap and the Prosecutor felt that the D.A. hadn’t won that round. Cap did agree with Roy, the D.A. was a clever manipulator of the facts and you had to be on your guard. 

Johnny thought that he would be called up the next day and he wasn’t wrong.

He entered the courtroom and took the stand. He was sworn in and then sat and looked out to the courtroom. It felt funny to be looking out to a room full of empty chairs. The two tables at the front had the Prosecutor with papers and a cardboard file box on one side and the D.A. with Chip sitting at the table on the other. Jugs of water and glasses adorned both tables. A bailiff stood to the side and Judge Mendoza sat at the top behind his podium, gavel at hand. The stenographer was silently tapping away as every word was spoken.

Johnny felt like he was auditioning for a part in a school play. It resembled an empty school auditorium with only the drama teacher and other principal actors. It felt slightly surreal and he was so out of his comfort zone.

The Prosecutor got up and took Johnny through the day in question after establishing his name, occupation, and relationship to the accused.

Johnny was led through the events of the dinner, in particular Mrs Lopez’s comments about his chocolate allergy. He was then asked to tell them in his own words what had transpired after returning from a callout when they were all sitting around the back of the station on the night in question.

Johnny relayed the events as he could remember them. The Prosecutor then played the tape of Roy calling Rampart as Johnny struggled to breathe. The D.A. tried to get the tape stopped.

“Your Honor, we have already heard this tape what more could we gain from hearing it again?”

The D.A. was over ruled and the tape played out in its entirety. Johnny subconsciously put his hand up to his throat. An action that did not go unnoticed by everyone in the room. He was looking pale and could barely keep the contempt out of his eyes as he looked at Chip throughout the playing of the tape.

The Prosecutor seeing the fleeting anger in Johnny’s eyes then asked how it felt to be dying at the hands of a man he called a brother.

“Objection, your Honor. Leading the witness.” The D.A. was quick on his feet trying to get this train of thought out of the juror’s minds.

“You will strike that question from the record,” the Judge told the court stenographer. He then instructed the jurors to ignore that question and warned the Prosecutor to not lead the witness.

The Prosecutor didn’t mind, he had made his point. The rest of the session had Johnny answering question after question with a few breaks when the attorneys were called up to the bar and points of law were fought out with wins and losses going to both parties.

It was during these times that Johnny looked at the jurors. There were seven women and five men sitting there looking back at him. At least four of the jurors were of Hispanic descent. What Johnny didn’t know was there were two women of Italian and Jewish descent also sitting in the juror’s box.  

Johnny was sipping at the water regularly as he gave answer upon answer to the Prosecutor and then the D.A. Roy was right, the guy did go for the jugular. Johnny felt mentally wiped out. The D.A. was making Johnny’s head spin. He was asking the same question again and again but in different ways hoping to trip Johnny up.

Johnny was finally dismissed from the stand with great relief. He remained under oath like everybody else that had taken the stand so far. He didn’t quite know how the D.A. had done it, but Johnny came out feeling like he had enticed Chip to try to kill him, and that Chip was unable to control himself because of this.

Detective Crockett was called the next day. He was on the stand to just before lunch. Finally, the prosecution rested and the court was adjourned for lunch. At 1.30pm the D.A. would present their case.

The group sat at a table with coffee and Delores’ special jerked chicken. The mood was low. Johnny was still feeling unsettled from the day before. He felt he had let the case down. They had played the racial card and he had risen to the bait. If they lost the case it would be because of him, Johnny thought.

The time came for the men to return to court. They were now allowed into the court room itself as their part was mainly done. They sat together taking up one row of chairs in the empty room.

The D.A. called Mrs McKendry to the stand.

The doors opened and in walked a woman in her 50’s with dyed bottle blond hair and a stern look on her face. She gave her son a look and her features softened for a moment before she took the stand, eyed Johnny and immediately set her face into an implacable scowl.

The acorn didn’t fall far from the tree, Johnny thought as he watched her being  sworn in. Apart from her initial strong look of distaste at Johnny, she came across as a weak woman who lived off her nerves. She sat down, took a drink of water with a shaking hand and then squared her shoulders and cleared her throat. She continued to give sly looks of ill will at Johnny as she was led through questions building her sons character as a gentle and loving boy that grew into a compassionate and humane man.

Yeah, as long as you were white, Johnny thought. He would’ve been amazed to know that his thoughts were shared by all the men sitting with him.

Next Chip’s father was called to the stand. He looked like an older version of Chip. He had an arrogance that exuded from him and made lesser men squirm. It was obvious that he enjoyed the belittling of people. While his wife might have been more succinct with her hatred of Johnny, her husband was not. His eyes alighted onto Johnny, Marco and Mrs Lopez and stayed focused on them the whole time during his testimony. The blatant look of hostility and contempt he threw at them was obvious to all.

The D.A. led the father through question after question that outlined what a brave and caring young man Chip was. He was proud of his son’s achievements and how he lived his life. It was while the father was extolling the virtues of his son he let slip about his affiliation with the white supremacy movement. He quickly tried to cover up his faux pas. It was too late, it had been heard and the Prosecutor jumped on it.  

If Johnny thought the D.A. was tricky during his cross examination he was just glad that the Prosecutor was on his side. He was good, no, he was very good, Johnny thought.

Within minutes he had the father admitting that the family were all supporters of the white supremacy. The father’s arrogance and pride took over his earlier cautiousness and now he was in his element. He was very proud of his sons as they were associates of the neo-Nazi charter. The D.A. was trying to quash the testimony but since it had been mentioned in the D.A.’s examination, his objections were overruled.

Sensing the trial going against them, the D.A. was only too glad when the day came to an end and he could talk to his client and his family. He was hoping he could make Chip possibly change his plea. The case was touch and go, until the father took the stand, then it had turned on a dime. With the revelations of the family’s predilection regarding neo-Nazi and white supremacy allegiances, the D.A. felt Chip’s fate was sealed.

With his father’s testimony and the findings of the psychiatric report stating that Chip was a sociopath with psychopathic tendencies, it was a forgone conclusion that his client was going behind bars. The D.A. now doing damage control, decided not to put Chip on the stand. The Prosecutor would have him for breakfast.

The Judge seeing the lateness of the afternoon adjourned the proceedings. The D.A. was only too happy with that, he had to go and do one of the hardest talks of his career with people that he would be glad to have no more to do with.

The Prosecutor caught up to the firemen as they were congregating outside. He wanted to prepare them for tomorrow. The Judge would give a closing speech and then the jurors would be out deciding Chip’s fate. The prosecutor was very optimistic that there would be a favorable outcome.

While the Prosecutor was talking to 51, the D.A. was talking to the McKendry family. Chip didn’t want to plea. His mother was crying into her white handkerchief, bemoaning the turn of events, and spitting tacks at her husband for putting their son in this position.  His father was telling his wife to be quiet and demanding that the D.A. save their son.

An hour later a decision was met. Chip was led away to the remand cells and his parents left to go home feeling bereft and angry for how they were being penalized for their beliefs.

The next day when everyone was settled into the court the Judge was about to give his closing speech when the D.A. asked to approach the bench with the prosecutor.

A few murmurs whispered around the courtroom. Johnny noticed that Chip’s parents weren’t looking surprised like the rest of them were. The mother was looking tired as if she hadn’t slept, she had bags under her eyes and looked ten years older. Johnny actually felt sorry for her. No mother wanted to see their son in this position. The father though was looking angry and fit to hit out. He scared Johnny a lot. His animosity was palpable and you could almost feel it in waves coming at you.

There was hushed tones and hands waving between the attorneys and the Judge. Finally, the two attorneys went and sat back down. The Judge cleared his throat and then nodded to the D.A.

“Your Honor, the accused would like to change his plea to guilty on all counts.” The D.A. then sat down.

There were shocked gasps from several firemen. Johnny sat frozen in his chair. Had he heard it right? He couldn’t believe it. As the realization dawned on him he suddenly felt a rush of relief followed closely by anger. All this mental and emotional torment he had gone through and in the end Chip pleaded guilty. Why couldn’t he have pleaded guilty at the onset and spared them all this? Johnny wanted to know.

The Judge banged his gavel. Silence was soon restored and the Judge looked at the Prosecution to see if there were any objections. There were none.

“Will the accused please stand?” Judge Mendoza directed at Chip.

Chip duly stood as did his counsel.

“You have changed your plea to that of guilty on two counts of attempted murder, illegal possession and discharge of a firearm, resisting arrest and one count of causing grievous bodily harm. In the case of the People versus Charles Callum McKendry the court sentences you to a term of 25 years for each attempted murder charge to be served consecutively, you are also sentenced to 5 years for the unlawful use of a firearm and illegal use of said weapon. The latter sentence is to run concurrently. You will serve a minimum of 40 years before you will be considered eligible for parole. During the course of your sentence you will undergo extensive psychiatric counselling. It is noted from the psychiatric report that your personality and psychological profile has you in the extreme end of sociopathy and psychopathy. You will have another psychiatric evaluation at the end of your therapy. If it is stated that you are not mentally fit then you will be moved to Patton State Hospital where you will remain for the term of your sentence.”

“Your actions have brought shame and disrepute onto not only yourself but to your family. The abhorrence of your deeds speaks of a mind so twisted that your removal from the population at large can only be viewed with positivity for all those concerned. It is the hope of this court that you not only benefit from the therapy imposed on you, but that you seek it fervently, if you wish to make reparation to your maker for your misdoings before your day of judgement by a power much greater than mine.”

Chip was led away, and his mother cried out “Chip, I love you, son.” Before breaking down into heart wrenching sobs, he went through the doors in handcuffs and was taken out of their sight.

The Judge then thanked and released the jurors for their patriotism and attendance to duty in what he summed up as a look into the depraved mind of a man poisoned by a skewered view of the world, a man who hadn’t a chance at seeing anything different due to his upbringing.  

“Court dismissed.” Judge Mendoza said before the bailiff ordered everyone to rise while the Judge left the room heading for his chambers.

The father gave his crying wife a look of disdain and told her she was an embarrassment to the family. He turned and abruptly left the courtroom but not before delivering the foulest look at Johnny and Marco. The wife stood up, and dabbing her bloodshot eyes with her sodden tissue, went after her husband.

The Prosecutor came over and shook the hands of the men from 51. He was all smiles and felt that justice had been served that day. It wasn’t yet lunch time but the men went over to Delores’ Diner and had a celebratory coffee and pie. Everybody was pleased it was over. Johnny felt a sense of weight being lifted from his shoulders. His body felt weightless, like he was floating in zero gravity. It was a wonderful feeling and he hadn’t felt like this for such a long time. Ever since he had woken up in hospital after Chip had doctored his coffee that fateful night. It was over, it was all finally over.

The mood around the booth was boisterous and raised voices and sporadic laughter added to the din already circulating through Delores’ Diner. Coffee and pie were eaten in-between snippets of the trial post mortem and the thoughts of the men around the table on this point and that point as they arose over what had transpired over the last week.

 

Chapter Thirty Nine

That night Johnny and Susie went for a walk out around the hills beyond the ranch.

Johnny had told Susie everything that had happened at court that day and she could see the relief in his eyes. She was glad it was over and that their lives could get back on track. They eventually made it back to the house and sat on the porch swing discussing the wedding and plans for their future.

Now that the court case was over and the men were all to return to work in two days’ time, Johnny was all for going away to the hills to camp and cleanse his soul with the fresh air and beauty of nature. Susie was working so was unable to go.

Roy was just enjoying being at home with Jo and the children. It had been quite a novelty being home every night during the trial. Jo had enjoyed it and deep down inside she would’ve loved Roy working 9 to 5 and home every night and no fear of getting a phone call or seeing the Battalion Chief’s car pull up outside. However, that was not her lot, and she had learned to live with it and as her love for Roy was as strong as the day they married, it wasn’t a hardship.

Cap and Mary went out to dinner with the girls. Family outings were harder to achieve now that the girls social life was expanding, and many a day off found just him and Mary at home by themselves till seven at night when the  girls would return from their after school activities.

Marco sat at his mother’s table surrounded by family and his good friend Chet. They were telling the story between them, about the day’s events to Mama Lopez. She couldn’t be there as her sister Lola had broken her ankle, and she had been looking after her for the last couple of days.

Mama Lopez was pleased that Chip was going away but as a mother her heart went out to another mother, who must be hurting right now. No mother wanted their son locked up for forty years minimum with the potential for fifty years maximum. He was only 21, he would be an old man when he got released. He could even die inside. It was a heartbreak for any mother. All your dreams and hopes for your child ended behind cold steel doors and barbed wire. It was a sad loss for the McKendry family tonight and she said a silent prayer to St Eugene de Mazenod, the patron saint of dysfunctional families.

Mike Stoker was driving to his parent’s house. He was staying there for his days off. His mother had recently come out of the hospital having had a heart attack and he wanted to spend some time with her. Seeing the McKendry family torn apart today, drove home how sacrosanct family was. He was looking forward to getting home and giving his parents a hug for being there for him and loving him unconditionally.

The men decompressed over their two days off. It was six rejuvenated men that arrived at work on Sunday. Their mood was still buoyant and there was lightness around the Station that had been missing for some time.

Roll call was over and the men all went and had a coffee before starting their chores. The normal routine of Station 51 soon resurfaced and before long Chet and Johnny were in an arm wrestle competition. Cap mentioned to Johnny that his physical fitness and return to full health had been remarkable and wanted to know what his fitness plan had been. Having explained he was running, swimming and going to the gym as well as doing physical jobs on not only his ranch but on Dennis’s too, to rebuild his muscle, Cap complimented him on his success and mentioned a few others could take a leaf out of his book, himself included. Cap made a point of looking at Chet with this last comment.

Chet boasted that he had a high muscle tone; Johnny interrupted and said “Yeah, it’s just hidden under all that body fat.”

“Put your money where your mouth is, Gage. I bet I could still beat you in an arm wrestling match, stickboy.”

“Yeah. Oh yeah! You’re on.”

Chairs were scuffled and places taken and hands met in a clasp as the two adversaries looked each other in the eye and Mike acting as referee started the countdown.

The two men squared off against each other. The arms wavered and went back and forth. Eventually Johnny got the upper hand and smashed Chet’s arm to the table.

“Not bad for a stickboy, don’t ya think, doughboy.” Johnny said as he raised his arms in triumph.

“It was a lucky break, is all. How about best of three?” Chet asked, not wanting to lose to Johnny.

“Ah ah, no way. Now hand it over.” Johnny said to Chet.

“Hand what over?”

“The money, I won the bet.” Johnny said to a perplexed Chet.

“Ah, Johnny, I hate to tell you this but you didn’t actually state what the wager was before you two arm wrestled.” Roy told Johnny.

Chet burst out laughing. “He’s right. We didn’t, therefore I don’t owe you anything. Oh, man. I can’t believe it. The pigeon ‘phantomed’ himself. Only you could do something like that Gage.”

The other men joined in as Chet had done it to Johnny again; or rather Johnny had done it to himself this time.

“What…..eh….what are you on about, Chet?” Then realization dawned on Johnny and he couldn’t believe how he had made such a mistake. “I don’t believe it.” Johnny mumbled before taking his empty coffee cup to the sink before starting to the dorm where six beds awaited his ministrations. He was still mumbling as he left the kitchen.

One by one the men left to start their tasks for the day. Life was back to normal at Station 51.

The Squad left to restock their supplies. They met Dixie and Joe Early at the base station. Morton was just replacing a chart at the nurse’s station and Brackett was coming back from a meeting when Roy and Johnny approached the desk.

“Welcome back. We missed you guys last week. I hear congratulations are in order for a successful outcome with the case.” Dixie said as she turned from the base station to see her two favorite paramedics standing there.

“Thank you. We’re just glad it’s all over with. Now life can get back to normal and we can hopefully put it behind us and move on.” Roy said.

“You got that right, pally. I don’t ever want to go through that or anything like it again. It’s far too stressful. I could’ve sworn I saw a grey hair in the mirror the other day. If it had gone on for any longer, I’d be prematurely grey” Johnny said as he mussed up his hair to make his point.

Dixie looked up and seeing the sleek black hair recently cut and now messed up smiled and said “If you did I’m sure it would make you look very distinguished.”

Johnny gave it some thought and agreed that Dixie was right.  “Huh, wonder what I’d look like grey?” Johnny said aloud.

While Johnny was contemplating that, Roy handed over the list of supplies needed and Dixie went ahead and got them for him.

“So next thing on the agenda must be the wedding, Johnny?” Kel said as he poured himself a coffee.

“Yep, Susie and I were only talking about it last night. We are thinking of bringing it closer. Susie was approached by the head partner and they are thinking of expanding the practice. They want to open one that deals with large animals only. It would be closer to home, commute wise, and they want Susie to be the lead veterinarian as she’s building up quite a bit of a reputation out there amongst the farmers and stud farms and what have you. It would mean that Susie will be taking exams around the time of the wedding.

So we think it might be wiser to bring the wedding forward so that Susie can devote more time to her study.”

“How far forward are you looking at?” Dixie said as she put the supplies on the desk in front of Roy.

“Um, well it might be in two months’ time. That way Susie can start seriously studying for the exams with the wedding out of the way and all.”

“Wow, that’s not long. Only two months. What about all the plans you’ve made so far.

You will have to start all over again.” Dixie said.

“Well, that’s the beauty of it all you see. So far the only things we had sorted that might be a problem is the marquee. It was okay for the original date but we don’t know how it’s gonna be for August. Susie is phoning them today to check it out.”

“Can I do anything to help?” Dixie said as she put her hand over Johnny’s.

“I’ll let you know, but I’m pretty sure we have got most things covered. Susie seems pretty confidant with her end of the plans she’s made so far. It looks like we might be on track with everything.”

The tones went off and the guys were called out to an unknown rescue.

“Catch ya later.” They said in unison as they hurried to the Squad.

 

Chapter Forty

It had been a whirlwind last two months. Johnny and Susie had been saving every last dime and Johnny had picked up extra shifts where he could and on their days off they had put out the invitations, organized their wedding and in his spare time, Johnny had even built a beautifully hand carved wedding altar where they would stand beneath it and say their vows.

Susie had her bridal shower with Nellie, Dixie, Joanne, Emily Stanley, Mama Lopez and friends from work and University. She was presented with a beautiful white silk and lace negligee ensemble for her wedding night. A knock at the door interrupted the evening and Jo got up to answer it. She let in a policeman looking for Susan Sommers. Susie’s alarm went down several notches thinking that something had happened to Johnny when the policeman turned on his tape deck and started to strip in front of Susie who was now a truly blushing bride.

 Johnny had his bachelor night the same night as Susie’s bridal shower. The guys piled into Roxy’s Strip Club having been at Jake’s Bar and Bistro. Several of the group were decidedly seven sheets to the wind and needed assistance to get out of the cab. Johnny was sadly one of them. Not being much of a drinker he had downed quite a few as being the guest of honor every man had brought him a drink. Luckily Cap and Kel Brackett had not imbibed as much and took care of those less fortunate. It was widely accepted that Johnny wouldn’t remember much of the evening. He was going to have a helluva hangover in the morning. To Cap and Kel’s surprise Roy wasn’t that far behind Johnny.

Chet and Marco were taking photos which became more and more haphazard and when they got processed would be a testament to the state of not only the subjects in front of the lens but the guys behind the lens as well. Marco’s thumb was in a lot of photos and Chet’s were so blurry no one could make out what they were of, least of all Chet.

The next morning saw Johnny asleep on Roy’s couch and Roy stretched out on his lazy boy chair with an afghan thrown over him. The heavy smell of beer and stale cigarette smoke permeated the air. Chris and Jenny were the first down followed by a subdued Jo and Susie. It had been a good night and more than enough wine had passed their lips last night. They had the sore heads to prove it.

Jenny saw her Uncle Johnny sprawled on the couch and went to jump on him to wake him up. Luckily for Johnny, Susie saw her intention and stopped her just in time.  Johnny gave out a low groan and then turned into the couch and continued to snore soundly with his head nestled in amongst the cushions.

The woman made their way into the kitchen where coffee was made in short order and aspirin with a large glass or two of water was downed. The children were fed and told to play quietly outside.

Susie went and sat next to Johnny on the couch and gently whispered in his ear it was time to wake up. Jo wasn’t as succinct as she shook Roy by the shoulder and called out his name. He snorted and woke up with bleary and bloodshot eyes staring back at her.

Johnny groaned again and turned over on the couch before opening his eyes. Two red orbs with dull brown centres and heavy lids stared out to the room. The view was slightly unfocused and as his senses came to order so did his stomach. Reading the signs of a pasty looking Johnny with wide eyes and his hand up to his mouth, Susie quickly stepped aside as Johnny made a mad dash to the washroom were he vomited up everything from last night and then some. Roy although not as sick as Johnny didn’t really improve until after midday. It was a very quiet house with four very subdued adults and two loud boisterous kids making far too much noise as far as the adults were concerned.

After a late lunch Johnny and Susie made their way back home where Johnny promptly fell asleep on the hammock with Susie nestled beside him. They stayed like that for several hours when it was the need to relieve his full bladder that woke Johnny up. He nuzzled Susie on her neck until she too woke up and together they went inside and saw to themselves before seeing to the animals. It had on the whole been a very wasteful and blobby day. Energy levels were still a bit below par.

The next day saw the men all line up for roll call. It was Johnny’s second to last shift for the week. He wasn’t working on the Thursday as the wedding was on Friday and he had a few last minute jobs to do. A shift was rostered on to work that Thursday on a half shift – doing a 0800 to 2000hr shift. Barring any accidents they would all be present and standing next to Johnny on Friday.

The next two shifts found Roy taking the lead in rescues and Johnny more on the ground than up in the air. It dawned on Johnny that Roy was protecting him from injury before his big day.

---***---   ---***---   ---***---   ---***---

Johnny and Susie weren’t taking a honeymoon, their budget didn’t allow it and they figured they could take it after she had done her exams in June next year. Johnny was just taking that half shift off and Susie was taking two days off before her wedding to see to any last minute details.

The day before the wedding the marquee was put up. The wedding altar was transported to Susie’s field and placed at the end of the aisle just waiting to be decorated with boughs of flowers and ribbons the next day. Strings of lights were strung up inside the marquee and tested with the generator. They lit up the inside and gave a romantic light to everything they touched. Tables and chairs were festooned with white covers and bows. Candelabra’s adorned the tables. Wildflowers bloomed along the sides of the field. The wedding cake arrived and was put into Dennis’s dining room for safe keeping.

The bridal dress and bridesmaids dresses were upstairs in Dennis’s spare room.

Susie was spending the night in her old room at Dennis’s place. She went to her room and flounced on the bed looking up at the ceiling. Tomorrow was the day she would marry her soul mate. She was excited and nervous as only a bride would be. She was praying that the weather would stay warm and that everything would go to plan.

The wedding wasn’t until 2pm so there was still time to get any last minute things done. All she had to do was try to get to sleep, easier said than done. She finally got up and phoned Johnny at 11 pm. The phone was answered on its second ring and a very alert Johnny answered the phone. He too hadn’t been able to get to sleep. The two nervous lovebirds talked till midnight and kissed each other goodnight over the phone. The next time they would see each other she would be walking down the aisle towards him.

The next day broke with birdsong and the sun rising high in the sky. The florists arrived and were setting up the flowers in the marquee, and the outdoor pews. The wedding altar was decorated with flowers and ribbons with boughs of white wisteria hanging down. It looked beautiful.

The wedding cake was taken into the marquee and placed on its own table. The caterers had placed all the tableware out and were now setting up the buffet tables. The DJ had arrived and was running through the acoustics. Microphones were tested for the speeches and the DJ checked his recording of the first dance song for the married couple. Everything was in order.

Jo and the children turned up at Dennis’s house at 11am and went to see the preparations so far. It was beautiful. The field had been transformed and Jo and the children couldn’t help but be swept up in the festivities. The mood was buoyant. Susie was waltzing around in her robe with her hair pinned up. Jo was going to put the finishing touches to her hair later. The children were told to behave themselves and given instruction on what they had to do. Jenny was shown her basket of flower petals to sprinkle down the aisle, and Chris was shown how to take the cushion down with the rings tied on it.

Nellie, Dixie and two of Susie’s University friends completed her party of bridesmaids and turned up soon after Jo. They too were impressed with the field, and quickly made their way back to the house were they started getting ready. They wore long teal dresses with chiffon flowing scarves sewn in from the shoulders and tied behind their backs at the waist and hung low to the floor. Dennis was getting into his tuxedo and just had to put his boutonniere on.

Susie was dressed in her white flowing gown. It was an off the shoulder fitted dress with a starburst of rhinestones at the waist and highlighted her petite frame. The train draped from her waist and extended two meters behind her as it fanned out in a soft arc.

More rhinestones cascaded down the train and glittered as the sun shone upon it. Her veil was festooned with rhinestones and it set off the dress as the rhinestones sparkled brightly against her raven hair.

Meanwhile across the road a mile away a certain dark haired paramedic was nervously pacing the floor in his living room. Roy was there as were all the guys from Station 51. They were dressed in black tuxedos with teal waistcoats and black ties. With the boutonnieres in their lapels and one final check over the groom’s party was ready.

Johnny made sure Roy had the rings. He checked his pockets once again for his speech and looked at his watch for the umpteenth time that day. In less than 30 mins he would be standing in the field watching his beloved walk towards him.

Roy decided that it was time to go to the wedding. The four groomsmen all piled into their cars and drove the one mile to Dennis’s house. Cars were arriving and people were getting out. Dennis’s front paddock was used as a parking site and cars were lined up in an orderly fashion leaving room for driving out later that evening.

Johnny and Roy went to the corral and hitched Pretty Owl and Red Cloud to the carriage and with Johnny taking the reins they made their way to Dennis’s place.

At 1.45pm Johnny and Roy arrived at the house. The horses were led up to the trough of water and hay and then tied to the tree in the shade. They wouldn’t be used again until the photo shoot and then later that evening when Johnny was going to take Mrs Gage to their home together in a horse drawn carriage.

Johnny made his way to the front row and stood next to Roy who followed a short time later having gone and tied the rings onto the cushion. Chris sat on a chair guarding the rings for all he was worth, watching the last minute preparations going on in the house before the strains of the bridal march were heard.

“This is it, munchkin.” Dennis said as he looked at the beautiful woman standing in front of him dressed in white. “You look beautiful.” He then wiped his eyes and putting a smile on his face he turned to Susie and whispered in her ear. “Your family are with us today, love. Let’s go and make them proud.” Dennis put his hand out to Susie and together they joined the bridal procession.

 

Chapter Forty One

Jenny was in front, followed by Chris then Jo. Susie and Dennis were next with Dixie, Nellie, Connie and Samantha ending the procession as they left the house. The four bridesmaids were holding her train as she walked down to the field. When the bridal party got to the red carpet little Jenny started to sprinkle the flower petals as she walked up to her Uncle Johnny and father. Chris held on tight to the ring cushion. Jo came down the aisle and Roy beamed with pride and love as he saw the woman he loved more than anything walking towards him. She looked beautiful with her auburn hair swept up and the teal dress softly touching the ground.

Johnny gasped as he saw his betrothed walking towards him on the arm of Dennis. She looked radiant. The sun hitting the rhinestones on her veil and dress sparkled and made prisms of light reflect off them. His smile was matched by that of Susie’s as she looked at her tall dark and handsome man waiting for her in front of the altar.

Johnny stepped forward as she approached and stood beside her as she made her way up into the wedding altar. The bridesmaids laid out her train and the congregation sat as the ceremony began.

Dennis gave his niece away, and Chris held out the cushion and let Roy take the rings off so they could be blessed before being put on the bride and groom’s hands. Always’ was inscribed inside Susie’s ring, and ‘Forever’ was inside John’s; and both had their wedding day date next to the word, 8/24/1973

The priest then announced that Johnny and Susie had prepared their own vows and were now going to recite them.

Johnny took Susie’s hand and placing the ring on her finger recited, for all to hear, his vows to the woman he loved.

“I promise to encourage your compassion,

Because that is what makes you unique and wonderful.

I promise to nurture your dreams,

Because through them your soul shines.

I promise to shoulder our challenges,

For there is nothing we cannot face if we stand together.

I promise to be your partner in all things,

Not possessing you, but working with you as a part of the whole.

Lastly, I promise to you the perfect love and perfect trust,

For one lifetime with you could never be enough.

This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things.”

Susie gave a small gasp as she tried desperately not to cry. Jo and Dixie weren’t as strong and had their hankies out and were dabbing at their eyes.

Susie then took Johnny’s ring and reciting the same vows placed the ring on his finger.

The priest then went on to pronounce them husband and wife and gave consent for Johnny to kiss the bride.

Johnny lifted the veil away from Susie’s face and cupping her face in his hands kissed her gently on the lips. The guests clapped and cheered.

The priest then broke up the commotion by announcing in the microphone, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Mr and Mrs John and Susan Gage.”

The guests started throwing confetti and rice at the happy couple as they made their way down the aisle, with the rest of the bridal party following. Chris and Jenny, Roy and Joanne, then Cap and Dixie, Chet and Nellie, Marco and Samantha and finally Mike and Connie walked down the aisle. Cameras were clicking throughout the ceremony. The newlywed couple were congratulated by everyone present. They went over to the table and signed the registry then posed for their official wedding photos, the carriage and horses taking center stage in many a photo.

Soon the congregation were sitting in the marquee and the toasts began.

Dennis acknowledged Susie’s parents and sister and a toast were made to them. He then acknowledged Johnny’s parents and raised a toast to them. Johnny’s aunt couldn’t attend, she had severe dementia and so Johnny had no family present on his wedding day.

Roy then got up and gave his best man speech which had Johnny blushing, and the guests and Susie laughing. Having thoroughly embarrassed his partner and raised the roof with raucous laughter he sat down and gave the floor over to Dr Brackett. Johnny wasn’t expecting this and was quite alarmed as he carried on in the same thread as Roy.

Steve Walker, Susie’s boss, then got up and gave a speech levelling the playing field by embarrassing Susie which had her blushing and Johnny laughing. Connie and Samantha recalled many an adventure the two of them and Susie had shared in their years at University, including disastrous dates and dating calamities.

Towards the end of the speeches, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and many a guest had a sore stomach from laughing so much. Johnny then got up and finished off the speeches by thanking everyone for coming and sharing this special day with Susie and him. He asked them all to raise a glass to toast his beautiful bride and the bridal party.

With the speeches out of the way and people feeling relaxed and merry the wine flowed and conversations started around the tables.

Johnny and Susie made their way to every table to see all their guests and thank them for coming. The woman wanted to see the wedding ring which was a gold band with a lover’s knot set in diamonds. They sparkled in the sunlight and offset the engagement ring beautifully. Johnny’s ring was a simple gold band with a lover’s knot inlaid in white gold around the band. Richard Stoker had done a masterful job once again and the rings received many an admiring sigh.

Music was playing and some couples were up on the dance floor which caused others to join.

Eventually the food was brought out and people started to get their meals after the bridal party had been served.

The selection was wonderful. There was hot and cold food galore. The noises in the marquee dimmed as the people enjoyed their meals. Some were going back for seconds.

Johnny and Dennis led the charge. Desserts were at the second table and finally when everyone had had their full the food was cleared and Johnny and Susie took the floor for the bridal dance.

The soft, slow, melodious strains of Roberta Flack filled the marquee. Johnny led Susie in a slow waltz around the dance floor to the sounds of ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Johnny bestowed soft kisses on her lips and neck while they danced oblivious to everyone around them. Camera’s clicked and flashes went off but all Johnny and Susie could see was the look of love in the eyes of their soulmate.

The couple continued to dance and then the bridal party got up and made their way to the floor when the next song came on. Dennis was whirling Dixie around the floor, her laughter rang out as Dennis told her something funny and Kel was feeling a little bit jealous. At the next dance he cut in and took Dixie into a clinch as the song played was a slow number.

As the evening wore on the fairy lights were switched on inside the marquee and the candelabras were lit. The room took on a romantic hue and the newlyweds made their way over to the cake.

Guests were lined up with their cameras and flashes went off as together Johnny and Susie cut the two-tiered cake and then fed each other a piece. The caterers then finished off cutting slices for everyone and with cake and wine in hand another toast was made to the happy couple.

The dancing went on till the early hours of the morning. Johnny and Susie decided to leave the party at midnight. They had all the single woman line up as it was time to toss the bouquet.

It was Nellie who caught the bouquet and a very shocked Chet stood there with his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. Johnny saw his friend’s distress and told him to cheer up, Nellie Kelly, had a nice ring to it.

As the couple made their way towards the horses and carriage, the DJ informed everybody that the bridal couple were now leaving but they were welcome to stay and continue to party. Several guests followed the happy couple to the carriage where Johnny helped Susie get in before he got in beside her. He turned on the lights that were battery operated and taking the reins set the horses off into a slow walk back to their home. Cap followed in his car as the carriage was hard to see at night and a car wouldn’t be expecting a horse drawn carriage on the road at this time. He would see them as far as their front door before he would leave the newlyweds alone. Besides he had a very important gift to give them.

The guests returned to the marquee and laughter and dancing continued on for a few more hours. Across the road a mile away the carriage finally made it into the front of Johnny and Susie house. Cap got out of the car and helped to get Susie down with Johnny helping from the top.

He helped Johnny free the horses and take them into the stables. Johnny had prepared their stalls so he didn’t have much to do. He would take the tin cans and ‘Just Married’ sign off the carriage tomorrow.

Cap approached the couple and pulled an envelope out of his pocket. He cleared his throat and then made a small speech to the couple.

“We, that’s the guys and I have got together and organized a small honeymoon for you two. It’s not much; it’s a weekend at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, LA, honeymoon suite. All expenses paid including dinner reservations at Le Palais D’Or. Which Roy informs me is quite something. He recommends the fish by the way. It’s for next weekend as you will both be off then. We, um, already checked it with your boss, Susie, and he also pitched in as did your colleagues from work. With that Cap handed over the envelope to Johnny and then congratulated them again and kissing Susie on the cheek and shaking Johnny’s hand, he bid them a good night.

Johnny stammered out a thank you and Susie gave Cap a huge hug and kiss and thanked him for everything and then told him to go back to his wife and enjoy the party. Cap and Emily had been dancing up a storm and had been totally enjoying the evening.

“I think I will. It’s not often that Em and I get out, it’s a great party and everybody seems to be having fun. I won’t detain you anymore. Good night Mr and Mrs Gage.” Cap then returned to his car, and giving a final wave to the newlyweds he left them standing under the moonlit sky with just the porch light on to guide them to their new home together.

“I just realized, apart from the Priest that’s the second time we have been called Mr and Mrs Gage. It sounds odd, but it feels wonderful.”  Susie said as they made their way towards the porch steps.

Johnny then swooped her up and carried her over the threshold.

“I love you, Mrs Gage.”

“I love you, Mr Gage.”

With that Johnny heeled the door closed and carried his wife to their bedroom. There was champagne in the wine cooler, two glasses on the bedside table, and red rose petals on the bed. Candles were waiting to be lit and Susie’s portable record player with their song by Roberta Flack on it, all ready to go. The night was young.

 

THE END.

 

Posted to Site 3/24/16

Links To Parts 1. 2. 3.

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