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Beautiful and rich is an old friendship, Grateful to the touch as ancient ivory, Smooth as aged wine, or sheen of tapestry where light has lingered, intimate and long. Full of tears and warm is an old friendship that asks no longer deeds of gallantry, or any deed at all – save that the friend shall be alive and breathing somewhere, like a song…Eunice Tietjens.
Roy was in early the morning of their next shift and dressed quickly before heading to Hanks office. “Mornin Cap.”
“Good morning Roy. How’s John?”
“He’s good Cap and he should be in any time now.”
“His head still on straight…?”
“Yeah Cap, but we need to do something about Gayle.”
“I’ll talk to her this morning but I’ve already spoken to McConnikee…He said he’d make a couple of phone calls this afternoon but he thought maybe we were over reacting to the whole situation.”
“Over reacting…?” Roy barked. “Cap, this woman is tearing this station apart.”
“I know…I know and I agree but unfortunately I’m not the one making this decision.”
“Cap…,” Roy began.
“Roy…I understand believe me and McConnikee may not be willing to do much but I was thinking that maybe you and I can drive up to San Francisco tomorrow morning.”
“Gayle’s last posting. I think we should see what we can find out and her Captain there has already agreed to talk to me.”
“Alright Cap…We can leave….”
A female scream shattered the quiet of station house. Roy and Hank threw each other a worried glance and ran from the office.
Johnny sat on the bench tying his shoes. He’d been running a bit late but still managed to beat Cap’s summons to roll call. B-shift’s paramedics were getting ready to leave when he came through the apparatus bay and he needed to hurry in case the control unit went off.
Johnny jumped as two soft hands suddenly caressed the back of his neck. The dark haired paramedic jerked away, climbing rapidly to his feet and whirling to face Gayle Markson. “You’re not supposed to be in here…What do you want?” He asked warily, annoyed at being touched so familiarly by this woman. He hadn’t been kidding when he’d told Roy and Jo she gave him the chills.
She advanced toward him. “I want you Johnny,” she replied huskily.
John shook his head. “Look Gayle I don’t know what game you think you’re playin but I’m not interested okay?”
“Oh Johnny…Now you’ve hurt my feelings,” she said with a pretty pout…Her fingers reached out to tweak the buttons on John’s shirt.
Johnny brushed her hands aside and backed away. She followed until his back was against the wall. “Are you afraid of me baby?” She teased as she slid her hands up his arms and around his neck.
John swallowed uncomfortably not wanting to admit that the look in her eyes scared him a bit. He wasn’t sure what it was exactly but it reminded him of his Uncle. “Look lady…You’re crazy you know that?” He snapped trying to pull her hands free. “You just need to back off.”
Her hands slid down his chest to rest on his belt buckle. “C’mon baby,” she whispered huskily. “I know you want me. I’ve seen the way you look at me…C’mon Johnny…Right here, right now.”
John froze, trying to decide his best course of action. He tried to fend off her hands as best he could without getting too physical as she tugged at his belt, after all he didn’t want to hurt her… Just make her go away. “Leave me alone…Have you lost your mind? We’re on duty here.” He glanced around almost praying someone would walk in.
Her eyes took on a vicious light and he suddenly realized from the insane gleam that entered the violet orbs that he was right. John felt a warning twinge of fear.
Her hand lashed out slapping him hard across the face. His head reeled from the force of it. His dark eyes looked at the woman in shock. She leaned into him once again, hoping to change his mind one final time by locking her mouth with his but the kiss only lasted a moment. John gave up all pretense of gently holding her off and grabbed her shoulders to shove her away. Gayle realized what he was about to do and she bit down hard, drawing blood.
John jerked his head away but taking his eyes off her proved costly as she grabbed his shirt front and pulled him toward her with the unexpected strength of the truly insane, only to slam him back against the wall. Johnny’s head snapped back to impact the bricks behind him. Lights danced briefly before his eyes as blood welled from his lip and trickled down his chin.
John couldn’t believe the strength this young woman was exhibiting and this was now getting totally out of hand. He knocked her hands away and shook his head, trying to clear the fog from his brain. He tried to step over the bench to get away but she shoved him once again, catching him off balance …He stumbled backward into Roy's locker. “What’s the matter Johnny…You’d rather have your best friends wife?”
John froze and looked at the woman in shock at this accusation. “What? No, that’s ridiculous,” he snapped incredulously.
“I saw you with her John…She was all over you.” John’s head shook in denial. “You want her but not me? Just what do you think Roy’s gonna say when he finds out?” She laughed in delight.
“My God…You really are crazy,” he breathed out in shock.
“Let me show you crazy…” The smile faded and the eyes narrowed once again as without warning Gayle grabbed the front of her shirt and ripped it open, sending buttons flying in every direction and leaving scratches from her own nails across her delicate skin.
John’s eyes widened in horror... “What are you doing?” She smiled once more as her hand lashed out to rake over John’s face and neck, her nails leaving deep furrows behind as she began to scream and pummel his chest.
“Help me…Someone help me!” John grabbed her wrists to stop any further assault but the girl continued to struggle. Kicking and screaming for help. “He’s crazy,” she screamed with a gloating smirk.
“Stop it…” He yelled giving the hysterical woman a shake.
“What the hell is going on in here?” Cap bellowed.
Johnny looked up to find five sets of incredulous eyes taking in the scene. He didn’t know what to say.
“He tried to rape me,” she screamed, still struggling to free herself. The eyes flicked over the woman taking in the ripped clothes and the scratches before returning to John in disbelief. “Help me please,” she cried looking tauntingly into John’s eyes.
“John let her go,” Cap ordered. John suddenly realized he was still holding the girls wrists and obediently released her at his Captain’s command.
His heart sank into his stomach at the look on his friends faces…All but Roy’s. His eyes were shooting daggers at Gayle. “Cap…I didn’t…I…I swear…She did…I,” he stuttered, unable to get his thoughts together under this kind of stress.
Gayle looked at Roy and saw the absolute look of disbelief and flung herself against Marco’s chest. The Hispanic man wrapped his arms around the girl protectively as she began to weep in terror.
Chet stepped forward angrily. “What the hell did you think you were doing Gage?” He barked giving John a shove.
“Back off Chet…,” Cap growled. “My office John…”
“But Cap, I didn’t do…”
“NOW GAGE,” He bellowed.
“Yes sir,” Johnny whispered as he slipped past his crew mates looking utterly humiliated and unable to meet the shocked and angry looks of his friends. Roy started to follow.
“Not you DeSoto.”
“Not this time Roy,” Cap said mellowing at the look in Roy’s eyes. “This one he’s gonna have to deal with on his own I’m afraid.”
“You know he didn’t do this,” Roy growled.
Hank looked at the ground. “That’s what we’re gonna talk about.” He turned to Gayle. “Do you want me to call the police?” He asked the blonde girl. Roy looked sharply at his Captain but Hank ignored him.
Gayle looked up from Marco’s chest. That was the last thing she wanted. She shook her head. “No just please, make him go away,” she pleaded desperately.
Cap nodded. “I’ll need to talk to you when I’m done with Gage so don’t go anywhere. I’ve got a lot of questions.” He said warningly. He turned and left. Gayle didn’t like the sound of that at all.
Roy turned back to the locker room and the weeping woman Marco held in his arms as she tried desperately to cover herself. “Oh thank you Marco,” she whispered clinging to his shirt. Chet appeared with his navy jacket to lay it over the girl’s half naked body. “Thank you Chet,” she said softly. “I’m so grateful. I…I told him we were through and he just went crazy,” she explained through her tears. She looked at Roy. He stood there staring at her angrily with his arms folded across his chest. “You believe me too, don’t you Roy?” She challenged. “You can see how dangerous he is. You’ll tell him you want him to go now right?”
Roy shook his head. “You’re quite the little actress aren’t you?” He sneered.
“What? I...I don’t understand.”
“Now just a minute,” Marco protested angrily.
“Roy…,” Chet began.
“Shut up…Both of you,” he snapped looking back at the girl.
“How could you do that to him? He’s never hurt you…He would never hurt you. John doesn’t have a violent bone in his whole body.”
“Roy’s right,” Mike piped in. “Johnny’s got the gentlest heart I’ve ever known.”
Gayle felt Marco’s arms loosen as he stepped back away from the girl to look at her suspiciously. She looked up at him in shock. “What are you doing? You don’t believe that?”
“Johnny wouldn’t hurt anyone…Not without a damn good reason,” Marco admitted looking ashamed that he’d believed this girl even for a moment and remembering the hurt…Not anger or lust that he’d seen in John’s dark eyes.
“Chet…,” she pleaded looking at the Irishman. “You believe me don’t you? Just look what he did to me?” She held up her wrists to show them the bruising from John’s defensive grip.
He looked the girl up and down for a moment remembering her brazen behavior with all of them. It sure looked bad but Johnny wouldn’t hurt anyone and certainly not a woman without good cause. “I don’t know what happened here a few minutes ago but If John Gage said he didn’t do anything wrong, than he didn’t,” Chet said positively.
Gayle stood there looking around her in disbelief. This couldn’t be happening. This had never happened before…Even the crew at her father’s station had believed her even when he hadn’t. She was a consummate actress as the blonde paramedic had astutely called her. How could they do this? She looked back at the unsympathetic blue eyes of Roy DeSoto.
“You all think he’s so wonderful,” she screamed hysterically. “Well let me tell you something Roy DeSoto…You’re a fool. I came in here to tell him we were through and do you know why?”
“No, but I’m sure you’re gonna come up with a good one.”
She began to laugh. “Because he’s shagging your wife in your own house…right under your nose,” She shrieked crudely.
Those words brought the others up short. They stared at Roy in shock but he ignored them.
Roy laughed and shook his head. “You’re crazy lady…Johnny would never do that and neither would my wife.”
“I saw them,” she yelled. The others were looking at her in horror at this accusation. They all knew how Joanne felt about the younger man. John was like a little brother to the woman just as he was to Roy and neither of them would ever…Would they? Roy just shook his head. “Right on your deck…Two days ago…Right after you left with your kids. She was all over him. Rubbing his shoulder’s, brushing the hair from his face,” she continued with a taunting sneer.
Roy grinned and shook his head. “Spying were you?”
That stopped her for a moment. “Well no…I…I came by to talk to you and there they were,” she said defensively. The others were watching Roy with worry in their eyes at how he was gonna handle this. It had to be a lie but it sounded very convincing. “She was all over him…”
“Running her hands over him,” Roy supplied helpfully at her hesitation.
“Yes…I…I was so appalled at what they were doing that I left,” she finished primly.
Roy folded his arms across his chest. A wide grin spread over his features as he leaned toward the girl. “You shoulda stuck around Gayle,” he taunted the woman. “You’d of seen me join them.”
She froze as the others looked at Roy in first surprise and then relief. If he’d been there then obviously nothing untoward had happened.
“You’re lying,” she accused.
“You’re the pro at that not me. I don’t know what your game is lady but you can be very sure that I’m gonna find out?”
Gayle’s face paled slightly at the threat and she turned and stalked out. How could he stand there and deny what she’d witnessed. Worse, he claimed to have been there. Just what kind of game were THEY playing?
She put a shaking hand to her forehead…This wasn’t happening. These two were ruining everything… All her careful planning but she couldn’t quit now. She had to have John…more so now than ever. He’d turned her down again. Her body shook with rage…He couldn’t do that…It wasn’t part of the game.
She wanted John Gage but how if he wouldn’t take the bait? Her eyes took on an eerie look and she smiled to herself…
The guys watched her face change and shuddered slightly at the look in her eyes. None of them had any doubt that the girl had some serious problems. She pressed her hand to her forehead and moved away toward the dorm. They let her go as she began to mumble to herself.
Why hadn’t she thought of this before? The one man who wouldn’t have her…The one who’d never taken advantage of her as Roy had pointed out…“Okay Gayle,” she whispered to herself. “There has to be a way…Just calm down,” she whispered. She just needed to keep going with the plan…She’d planted all the right seeds and then they’d have to believe her as she forced them to grow…Her eyes lit with an idea but then she frowned. Roy had never taken advantage of her either but he was spoiling everything. She shrugged in confused resignation…He really did have to die…He’d never let her keep Johnny.
Johnny sat slumped on the table in Cap’s office as the older man came in. “Have a seat John,” he directed as he sank into his own chair. The young man moved to the seat and Hank handed him a box of tissues to dab at the cuts on his lip and neck that were still oozing blood. Cap looked at the young man seated before him. John still looked a little dazed and Cap hated to push him but this had to be done. “John…You wanna tell me what that was all about?”
“I don’t know Cap,” he whispered.
“Talk to me.”
“She’s crazy …I didn’t do what she said Cap…I didn’t. I swear it,” he gasped, looking up at Hank.
“Okay John…Take a deep breath and just start from the beginning.”
“Okay,” he agreed drawing a shaky breath. “I was in the locker room getting dressed and she came in. She um…like touched my neck.”
“You know Cap…Like…Like intimately… Kinda real soft, ya know?”
“I stood up and turned around and she was just all over me Cap… I backed away but she kept comin and I ran out of room. She was…,” John hesitated. “Cap she was tryin to undress me.” He blurted out, blushing slightly. “I told her to get away…That we were on duty but she kept comin back. Then I told her I didn’t wanna play whatever game she was playin and she slapped me…said I’d hurt her feelings,” He said…His dark eyes filled with distress, the words coming in a confused jumble. “She told me she wanted to..." John hesitated in embarassment. "Well...You know...Right there in the locker room. I told her no but then the next thing I know she’s kissing me and I grabbed her shoulders to push her away but then she bit my lip…and then she slammed me into the wall. I didn’t know a woman could be that strong Cap.”
“Are you hurt?”
“It’s just a bump I think.”
Cap came around the desk to inspect the damage, quickly locating the injury. It corroborated John’s story but Hank knew the girl could say it happened while she was trying to defend herself. He returned to his seat. “Keep going…What happened then?”
“She tried to undo my belt Cap,” he whispered, looking totally humiliated. She ripped her shirt and I told her she really was crazy and then she scratched my face and started screaming. Cap…I… I grabbed her wrists to try and hold her off and…and that’s when you got there.” He bit his lip nervously as his Captain stared at the hands folded in his lap thoughtfully.
He looked up into the dark eyes of the most gentle soul he’d ever met, feeling absolutely rotten. “I have to report this John.”
“But Cap I didn’t do anything wrong,” he gasped.
“I still need to talk to Gayle but the good thing is that she doesn’t want the police involved so that won’t be an issue but headquarters will still have to be told.”
John stared at him in dismay. “Cap…I didn’t do anything. If you tell them I’ll be finished.”
“Even if they just investigate and this gets out…Who’d ever trust me again Cap?”
Hank sighed. “I’m sorry John…I do believe you but I also have a job to do," he said quietly as he looked into distraught brown eyes. “I have to report it and they have to investigate it pal.”
“That’s just great Cap…I’m through.” John was looking more distressed by the moment and Cap watched him carefully as he picked up the phone…Watching for any sign of impending withdrawal. He’d have to get Roy and fast. “Cap no…,” John whispered despairingly. He chewed his lower lip in anxiety as Hank told Chief McConnikee what had happened. Explaining what Gayle had claimed verses what John had told him had happened.
His eyes flicked to John and the younger man knew before he hung up. John felt the burn behind his eyes as Cap looked up at him. “You’re suspended John, pending the outcome of the investigation.” Hank looked depressed as well.
John was beginning a slow rock but he seemed to catch himself. “This isn’t fair…I didn’t do anything wrong,” he gasped.
“I believe you John and Roy and I are gonna look into this I promise you.”
“Yeah right,” Johnny said bitterly. “Just like you got to the bottom of this, right Cap?” He asked bitterly.
The younger man stood up. “Thanks Cap…Thanks for your…Help. It’s great to know who my friends are.”He headed for the door.
“John…I truly am sorry.”
John laughed without turning around. “You all looked at me like I was an axe murderer and now this. I don’t believe you Cap.”
“John, come back here,” Hank called as John yanked the door open.
“I’m suspended Cap. I don’t work for you right now remember.” John bolted out the door.
Hank dropped his forehead into his hands in misery. God…What had he just done. Cap finally got up and went to find Gayle.
Tears filled John’s brown eyes as he left Cap’s office. He’d lost almost everything but he’d be okay as long as he had Roy and Joanne. They’d stand by him and he’d get through this somehow.
He stormed into the locker room and stopped short at the sight of Roy and the others. John’s dark eyes dropped to the floor, avoiding making contact with any of them. “Johnny, what happened?” Roy asked worriedly at his young friend’s evasiveness.
“I’ve been suspended pending an investigation,” he said quietly. He looked up at Roy with distraught eyes. “He reported me Roy,” he gasped.
Roy looked equally shocked. “Without even talking to Gayle…?”
Johnny nodded. “She practically attacked me in the locker room Roy. She backed me against the wall and then I…I don’t know...she... she went nuts. She slapped me…Bit me, ripped her own shirt, slammed my head against the wall and starts screaming and I…I just grabbed her hands to defend myself and I’m the one suspended,” he said just above a bare whisper.
He couldn’t believe Hank had done that without even hearing both sides…“Yeah…Well she told me you were having an affair with Joanne as well,” Roy said furiously. Angry now at his Captain, his crewmates and the woman who’d started this whole mess.
John misunderstood. His head snapped up in hurt disbelief. “You gonna accuse me of screwing your wife now too?” Johnny snapped angrily.
Roy never even thought about it. Such a crude statement aimed at his wife snapped his already tenuous self control. He lashed out…His fist connecting solidly with John’s cheek, sending the younger man reeling backwards into his crewmates.
He regained his balance, his hand flying up to press against his face. He shook off the helping hands. “Don’t touch me,” he whispered…His body was hunched and his breaths were coming in short, sharp gasps. Roy barely had time to register the emotions that crossed John’s face. Hurt, shock, fear and despair warred equally. He’d lost Roy as well. The tears he’d been fighting back finally fell, mixing with the blood that trickled from the corner of his mouth as he grabbed his keys and ran for the door.
The others looked at the blonde paramedic in stunned disbelief. “Geez Roy…What did you just do?” Mike asked.
“Oh dear God…,” Roy muttered. “JOHNNY…,” Roy yelled as he tore out the door after his friend.
“Gayle..?” The Captains deep voice from behind her made the woman jump as he broke her reverie of what she planned for John Gage.
She pulled Chet’s jacket closer about herself and turned to face the dark haired Captain. “Yes sir.”
“Can I see you in my office?”
“He went home…He’s been suspended until we straighten this out.” Cap watched angrily at the smirk of victory that almost broke free before the woman got it under control. She followed him to her office. “Have a seat.” Hanks eyes bore into her as she slid into the chair. “Can you tell me what happened?” He asked, trying to sound sympathetic. He’d known the young paramedic for four years now through every kind of situation imaginable and he just didn’t believe John was capable of this sort of thing.
She turned on the tears as one twists on a faucet. “It was awful Captain Stanley. Johnny and I have been dating…Well more than just dating really.”
“I was under the impression it was just one date.”
“Did he tell you that?”
“Poor Roy,” she whispered in despair.
“Well yes…You see that’s what started this. I went over to Roy’s house yesterday but he wasn’t home but Johnny and Roy’s wife were. They were out on the deck and…She was all over him Captain…It was disgusting. John was half naked and she was running her hands over him. I was shocked. I mean after all, I thought we had something special and I was falling for him and the whole time he was having an affair with his best friend’s wife….? So this morning I went in to tell him it was over and I didn’t want to go out with him anymore.”
She looked up into a set of disbelieving brown eyes that were drilling a hole through her…She brazened it out. No one could prove her word was anything but the truth. “He went crazy when I told him what I’d seen and that it was over. He said I couldn’t leave him and he grabbed me. I tried to pull away but he wouldn’t let go. He kissed me and I bit him. He ripped my blouse and…and,” She began to weep pitifully. “I scratched him and started screaming…”
“I see,” Hank said drily though it was clear he didn’t believe her.
“You don’t believe me?” She wailed. “How can you not believe me?” She whimpered pitifully as she held up her hands to show him the bruises. She pulled the jacket clear to show the bloody scratches that marred her chest.
“You know Gayle…I’ve known these men for four years now…I’ve seen them at their best and their worst. I’ve never known John Gage to hurt another living soul. I might believe a lot of things about a lot of people but not this and not him.”
Her tears dried almost immediately and her eyes narrowed. “Are you calling me a liar Captain?”
“If you’re asking me to believe that John Gage attempted to rape you or that he was carrying on an affair with his best friend’s wife…Then yes…I’m calling you a liar.”
She stood up abruptly. “You can’t prove that.”
Hank stood as well. “You’re right…I can’t prove it…At least not yet.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Hank smiled but said nothing more about that. “I’ve reported it to headquarters and that should make you happy for now. I’ll write this up and send it in as well.”
Cap had started for the door when he heard his youngest crewman’s name yelled by his partner. Hank bolted out the door as Roy ran past him through the bay. Mike, Marco and Chet were right behind him. “What happened?” Hank asked worriedly.
“Roy belted John.” Mike answered as they watched out the door at the scene taking place.
“What…?” Cap barked.
“It was over what Gayle told him about John and Joanne.”
“Oh no…He didn’t believe that?”
They didn’t reply but Gayle grinned in victory…She’d done it and the two men were through. She slipped into the rec room and out the back door expecting to see Roy beat his young partner senseless. She gasped in horror as she peeked around the corner of the building to the parking lot.
Roy ran past his Captain and out to the parking lot as Johnny walked quickly toward his Land Rover. Roy finally caught up and grabbed the younger man from behind and spun his young partner around to face him.
John threw his hands up defensively and tried to back away. Roy could see the hurt in the brown eyes but what scared Roy more was the vague, hopeless look reflected there as well.
The older man knocked the hands aside and held his shoulders as John struggled to free himself. “Leave me alone Roy,” he whispered forlornly.
“That is never gonna happen Junior,” he promised as he gave him a gentle shake. “Look at me John,” Roy commanded catching his friends face between his hands and forcing his head up to make eye contact. “Look at me…,” he said again forcefully. “I’m sorry I hit you. Please don’t do this Johnny…Don’t go away.”
“I…I…didn’t…I…Not with Jo…I didn’t sleep with Jo,” he finally stuttered out.
“I know that and I wasn’t accusing you of it Junior. I was just angry that she tried accusing you of it. She saw you and Jo on the deck Tuesday morning do you understand? She assumed the worst.”
John finally stopped struggling as his eyes seemed to regain their focus on Roy’s face. “You didn’t believe her?” He asked softly.
“Of course not…Anymore than I believe you tried to rape her.”
“The guys do,” he said sadly.
“No Junior,” he soothed, using his thumb to wipe the blood from John’s mouth and chin. Johnny winced as he brushed the bruised cheek. “They took about fifteen seconds to get past what their eyes saw to what their heart knew.”
“It was fifteen seconds too long,” Johnny whispered forlornly. “Cap said he believed me too but he still destroyed my life by making that phone call.
Roy touched John’s cheek reassuringly knowing Johnny would understand in time and forgive his friends, he always did. “Cap had no choice Junior…I just wish he could have waited until we got back.”
“Got back from where?”
“Cap and I are heading for San Francisco tomorrow morning…”
“That’s where Gayle last worked and there’s someone there who’s willing to talk to us. We’ll prove she’s lying Junior…I promise you.” John nodded as Roy pulled him forward into his arms, prepared to let him go if he fought him, knowing John was often resistant to any show of affection when he was in this state but he surprised him, accepting the gesture and resting his forehead tiredly against Roy’s shoulder. Roy smoothed the dark hair soothingly before giving him a slap on the back. He turned him toward the Rover. “Go home…Put some ice on that cheek.”
“How long will you be gone?” Johnny asked looking up at his partner.
“Until I get the answers I’m looking for. I’m gonna ask Cap if he can get them to stall the investigation at least until we get back.”
“I’ll call you the minute we get in.”
John nodded. “Roy?”
“I’m sorry for what I said…About Jo I mean.”
Roy reached up to brush the tangled mop of sable hair from John’s forehead…“I know that Junior,” he said as John climbed inside the truck. Roy gave his dark head a gentle scruff and stepped away as the younger man backed up and drove away.
The crew breathed a collective sigh of relief and moved back inside as soon as they saw Roy embrace his friend. They knew he’d be alright at that point and decided to give them some time to sort things out. They headed for the rec room.
“Dios,” Marco muttered. “That woman is a real piece of work.”
“I can’t believe I fell for it,” Chet said, looking ashamed.
“Me too Chet,” Marco added. “Man, I don’t know if Johnny will ever forgive us.”
“Just tell him how sorry you are and give him time guys,” Mike said softly. “That probably really hurt to think you’d believe her.”
“I know John’s not capable of doing that…How could I have turned on him like that?” Chet asked the room as a whole.
“We all did,” Marco admitted. “We fell for a pretty face.”
“And a pretty act.” Chet pointed out.
“But why…?” They all looked at each other in bafflement. “Why would the girl do this to Johnny?” Marco asked.
“Hey…Just where is our new paramedic anyway?” Mike asked.
“Good question,” Cap said before he noticed the back door ajar.
“Poor Johnny,” Chet said quietly. “Man he doesn’t deserve this Cap.”
He turned to look at his Captain but Hank waved them to silence as he stepped out the back door.
Gayle watched in a fury as Roy walked with his partner to the green and white Rover. She couldn’t believe it. What was it gonna take to tear these two apart…And the rest of them…They’d turned on her. Her eyes widened in disbelief. She’d wanted a challenge but this was like climbing Mt. Everest with nothing but a piece of twine. It was Roy’s fault…He was the one keeping Johnny from her…Him and his slut of a wife. She’d fix them both and then John would be hers. Her anger eased and a dreamy smile played around her lips at that thought.
“Disappointed?” A deep voice asked from behind her.
Gayle jumped, startled. “I don’t know what you mean Captain.”
“Of course you do,” he said as both of them watched Roy smooth the hair from John’s brow before he climbed into his vehicle. Roy gave his partner a gentle scruff and stepped away to let John back out.
“I can’t believe he’d stay partners with someone like John?” She said angrily.
“Like John?” Cap questioned.
“Yes…,” she hissed. “Someone who’d rape a defenseless woman…sleep with his wife right in his own house.” She looked at Hank. “You’re all the same…I know how you are. Oh I know you don’t believe me but that’s what happened. How can he stay partners with him?” She snapped.
Hank laughed but it wasn’t a mirthful one. “That was your mistake Gayle.” She looked at him in confusion. “You think they’re just partners.”
“They’re friends too…I know that.”
Hank shook his head. “John Gage is more than just Roy’s partner or even just a friend.” He smirked back at her confused look. “John is Roy’s kid brother, his third child…Can’t you see that?” He asked waving at the parking lot, feeling a little choked up himself at the gentle display they’d witnessed. “They’re a family, partners and best friends and it’s gonna take more than you and your pack of lies to break that up.” She opened her mouth to protest but Hank cut her off. “Oh I know your lying…John would never hurt anyone. It’s not in his nature. He’d never risk losing Roy over a fling with his wife…And Joanne DeSoto is hopelessly in love with her husband and thinks of John like a younger brother…You are lying and we’re going to prove it.”
Hank watched John drive away feeling awful at what he’d done. He knew he had a job to do but maybe he’d moved too quickly. He was so angry at this woman who’d come into his family and done this kind of damage to the people he cared for. He promised himself that he wouldn’t let John down again. He decided to get this woman out of his station before she could cause any more trouble.
“You’re off duty Gayle. After all…You’ve been through a terrible... trauma,” Cap said, trying to keep the snideness out of his voice. “I’m standing the squad down until I can get a replacement for John.”
Seeing her chance to try and win the rest of the men back over to her side slip away, she quickly protested. “You don’t need a replacement. I can change and take John’s place.”
“Like hell you can,” Roy’s voice snarled from behind her. She whirled to face him. He leaned over her until he was mere inches from her face. “It’ll be a cold day in hell when you can take John’s place…Not here at the station or any other little part of our lives.” Roy stormed inside. Cap raised an ‘I told you so’ eyebrow at the seething woman in front of him before he followed his senior paramedic inside.
“Roy…?” Mike called after him. The blonde paramedic stopped and drew a deep breath as Cap came in behind him. “Is Johnny okay?”
“IS JOHNNY OKAY?” Gayle yelled from the doorway. “Is Johnny…Oooh,” she shrieked in outrage. “He attacks me and you’re worried about him? What kind of men are you?”
“Loyal ones,” Chet barked out.
“You’re taking his side? You…You’re just like my father,” she sneered.
“I wonder where he went wrong with you?” Mike said sarcastically.
Her eyes widened as something finally snapped completely in her mind. She looked at Roy and her face became menacing. “You’ll be sorry,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “Just like he was…” Gayle stalked from the room.
“Hey…You got my jacket.” Chet yelled. Marco punched him in the arm in disbelief. Chet shrugged.
“Roy?” Mike questioned again.
“Yeah…?” He answered absently as the girl stormed out. She’d certainly looked crazy just now and if she were would Johnny be okay while they were away?
“Is Johnny okay?”
“Yeah…He’s okay. He’s still hurt and frustrated and stressed.”
“We’re really sorry Roy,” Chet murmured.
“Yeah…Man we shoulda known that John wouldn’t do that…”
Roy nodded. “You really tore him up guys,” he said softly, his eyes lingering the longest on his Captain. “He trusted you.”
“I’m sorry Roy. I had to report this but maybe I could have waited until after San Francisco.”
“San Francisco?” Mike asked.
“That’s where Gayle was last stationed and her Captain said he was willing to talk to us about her but not on the phone. He said there was someone else we needed to speak to in person for some reason.
“You guys just please be there for Johnny if he needs you huh? No questions asked…,” Roy pleaded.
“You know we will Roy,” Mike answered for all of them.
Gayle stalked out to her car and climbed in. She sat there seething in fury for a long moment…Her breaths coming in angry pants. She finally slammed her hands on the steering wheel several times not even noticing the pain from the bruises she was causing herself. After a long moment she put both shaking hands to her face as if trying to hold in place.
All her plans were coming undone…They were now hunting her. She needed to change the angle of attack. John’s heart was obviously entangled with Joanne DeSoto…She’d seen it herself. She almost laughed…They’d like her to believe they were like brother and sister but she knew better. She’d get to Joanne…If Joanne dumped Johnny he’d be available for her and if she didn’t…Well…She could end up as dead as her husband. Gayle started the car and peeled out of the parking lot.
Johnny let himself into his apartment, tossing his keys onto the table before dropping onto his sofa. Depression quickly settled over him. What if Roy and Cap couldn’t get the proof they needed? What if word of these charges got out? He’d never be out from under suspicion…Not really.
He could see the doubting eyes of his closest friends staring at him in horror as if he’d turned into some awful monster right before their eyes. They’d thought he was guilty so how would he ever convince anyone else of his innocence?”
Thank God for Roy. He still had faith in him. Roy and Jo would never turn on him…As long as he had them, he’d be okay.
He restlessly wandered his apartment, feeling trapped. He finally changed, grabbed his sleeping bag and a few other things and headed for the rover. He needed someplace open…Somewhere he could think…He needed space. He headed for the San Gabriel Mountains.
Cap and Roy returned to Hank’s office. Roy bounced anxiously on his toes as his Captain dialed the number for headquarters. “Chief, Captain Stanley…Station 51.”
“Hank, I’ve been thinking about this all morning and it’s very disturbing.”
“Yes sir it is disturbing,” he agreed looking at Roy. “Chief…I have every reason to believe this woman is lying about what happened today and I’d really appreciate some time to prove it before this goes any further and ruins a fine young man’s career.”
“Why are you so sure Hank?”
“Chief…You know John too, he’d never hurt anyone without a reason and especially not a woman.”
“Hank…Can you assure me that there is NOTHING in John Gage’s personality that might cause him to say…lose control of a situation?”
Hank frowned at the suspicious question making Roy look at him worriedly. “No sir,” he answered honestly. “There’s nothing that would cause John to hurt someone, just the opposite in fact.”
“What’s that Hank?”
“Nothing that makes John less than an exemplary paramedic and fire fighter sir,” he said evasively. “Sir this girl has been stirring up trouble between the men since she got here, especially between John and Roy. Now I don’t know why yet but for some reason she’s trying to break up the best paramedic team L.A. has.”
“What do you want to do Hank?”
“I called the Captain at Gayle’s last station…He’s agreed to talk to us. He was rather anxious actually. Roy and I are going to drive up there tomorrow and hear what he has to say…I need three days Chief.”
McConnikee sighed. “Alright Hank…Gage is a fine young man and I’d really hate to destroy his career if this is a false accusation. I’m going to hold off saying anything about this until you get back. I’ll give you any help I can and I want whatever you come up with first but Hank…If you can’t come up with something concrete to convince me and the brass…I won’t have a choice.”
“I know sir…Thank you,” Hank breathed out in relief.
He hung up and looked at his very anxious senior paramedic.
“Well…?” Roy asked.
“He said he’ll keep this quiet until we get back.”
“Oh thank God,” Roy mumbled.
“He said he doesn’t want to lose Gage either and he’ll help anyway he can so let’s hope he means it if we run into any red tape bureaucrats, then we can call him and we need to give him whatever we find out.”
“Thanks Cap. I’ll swing by my house right after work in the morning and pick up some clothes and stuff. I need to keep this from Jo though.”
“Why Roy…? Would she be angry at John?”
“Huh,” Roy grunted. “Not hardly Cap…More like tearing Gayle Marksons’ blonde hair out,” Roy laughed.
On Roy’s next run to Rampart he left his temporary partner Bob Bellingham from station 36 to pick up supplies while he went with Kel and Dixie to Brackett’s office. He explained the entire situation.
Dixie was steaming mad while Brackett shook his head in disgust. “Why of all people did she have to pick Johnny to lay this on Roy?” Kel said. “This is the last thing this kid needs.”
“That little floozy,” Dixie muttered in disgust. “I noticed the way she kept touching both of you and Johnny seemed a little hesitant about her which was pretty unusual for him.”
“Johnny’s grown up a lot in four and a half years,” Roy pointed out. “She’d of had him hook, line and sinker a couple of years ago…Now he’s a little more cautious. Anyway, he’s still pretty upset right now.”
“Well I should think so…How could the guys think he’d ever do something like that?” She snapped angrily.
“Blinded by the glint of blonde hair and a pretty smile,” Kel added ruefully. He had to admit he’d found her stunning himself and if Dixie wasn’t already the love of his life, albeit unspoken, he might have been taken in by her charm as well.
Dixie looked at him with an aggravated shake of her own blonde head. “Men…,” she muttered. “That poor kid…It’s just not fair.”
Roy nodded. “Anyway I haven’t been able to reach him and there’s a good chance he’s taken off into the Mountains. He does that when he’s stressed but I wanted you to know what was happening in case he should come here. He’s gonna need friends that he can really trust right now and he was really hurt by the guys so he won’t go there.”
“I’m sure it looked bad,” Kel said trying to be understanding of their position as well.
“It looked real bad Doc. I just know my partner well enough to know he’d never hurt anyone. More than likely it took quite a bit of pushing for him even to defend himself against her.”
Kel and Dixie nodded their understanding, knowing John’s past history of abuse.
“When you get back Roy, please call me. This has been really stressful for him and I’d kind of like to be there to check John out…Whichever way it goes.”
“I will Doc and thanks.”
“Don’t you worry Roy…If Johnny comes here, I’ll take care of him,” the blonde nurse promised.
Gayle had no idea that her own life was about to be an open book. She’d shaken the wrong people this time. She’d not only come between partners or even friends…She’d come between family. They weren’t going to let this go and she had no idea how hard they’d fight to protect one of their own.
The blonde patted the gun in her pocket as she approached John’s door. One way or the other she’d decided she would have John Gage.
She’d totally lost control and the glint of insanity lit her eyes causing one passing neighbor lady to hastily step out of her way. She turned to look at Gayle as she knocked on John’s door. She hurriedly moved on, hoping Johnny would be okay.
Gayle was frustrated that Johnny wasn’t home but she wasn’t about to give up. The obsession only grew stronger the longer she was kept from her goal but this was getting more complicated all the time. She’d hoped to take him today so his friends and his lover wouldn’t miss him too soon.
Roy drove home the next morning not sure how much to tell Joanne. Cap would be picking him up soon. He took a deep breath and stepped through the door. “Jo,” he called.
“Up here Honey,” she replied from Jen’s room.
Roy took the stairs two at a time and disappeared into his bedroom, grabbing an extra uniform as well as civilian clothing. He grabbed his toothbrush and razor and stuffed them into his bag and then went to find Joanne. “Jo honey,” he said entering Jennifer’s room where his wife and daughter were. “I hate to do this on such short notice but I need to take off with Cap for a few days.”
“Roy?” She asked in concern. “What’s going on?”
“Honey…I can’t get into it right now but I promise I’ll tell you everything when I get back but it’s about Gayle and hopefully it will give us the answers we’re looking for to figure out what she’s up to.”
“Okay Honey…Is Johnny going with you?”
“Uh…No...” A honk from the driveway signaled Hank’s arrival. “I’ll explain everything as soon as I get back, I promise.” Roy gave her a quick kiss before leaning down to kiss his daughter. “Kiss Chris for me,” he called back as he ran down the stairs.
“But why isn’t Johnny going…?” she yelled after him. The door slammed shut without her question being answered. Jo watched from the window as they pulled out. “What in the world is going on Jennifer Lynn?”
The little girl looked up at her inquiringly and she ran her fingers through her soft blonde hair. Where was Johnny and why wasn’t he going as well?
Hank and Roy arrived in San Francisco several hours later and after a few lost moments they found their way to the SFFD Headquarters. They were ushered into Chief O’Rourke’s office.
“Gentlemen… What can I do for you?”
“Well Chief,” Captain Stanley began. “We have a new paramedic at our station and her records show her last posting was here in San Francisco.”
“The ‘she’ in question would be Gayle Markson.”
“It would,” Hank agreed.
“Captain Stanley, DeSoto…You’ve got a real problem on your hands. We’ve been investigating her ourselves. We’ve trailed her back to at least five cities. She’s hit Bakersfield, Sacramento, Encino, Oakland and she started this whole insane game in her hometown of Fresno.” Roy and Hank exchanged a glance at the term insane. “From what we found out she accused her father’s partner of raping her when she was sixteen. From what her mother told investigators, her father didn’t believe her. He accused her of deliberately enticing his partner and then crying rape.”
“He took his partner’s side?” Roy asked in shock.
Roy looked at Hank. “You remember what she said to me Cap? ‘You’re just like my father.”
Hank nodded…It explained a lot. Roy had taken John’s side against her accusations and she’d become infuriated.
“Anyway,” O’Rourke took up the story once again. “A month later she accused her father of molesting her as well. When all of this came out at the trial…Well it didn’t look good. The father was exonerated but both of them were fired for covering up the first incident. A week later they found her father and his partner dead.”
Roy sat up straighter. “Do they know what happened?”
“They originally suspected Gayle but they couldn’t prove it. They finally put it down as a murder suicide. They thought her father may have found out that it was the truth and in a moment of remorse killed his partner and then himself.”
“Do they still believe that?”
“We asked them to reopen the investigation and they agreed but they’d already returned the murder weapon to her mother by then and no one knows where she went but what they have found out is that this young woman has left a trail of ruined marriages, broken friendships and dead bodies.”
Roy was on his feet in an instant. “What…How many dead bodies? What happened to them?”
“Roy calm down,” Hank said.
“Cap…She attacked Johnny. She practically threatened me.”
“Yes you…Not John,” he said recognizing that his fears were for his young partner and not himself. “You’re here and safe for the moment.”
“Yes but Johnny…”
Cap waved him into his chair. “Has more than likely disappeared into the mountains and good luck to her finding him there.”
Roy drew a deep breath but he knew Hank was right. If John was in the mountains no one would find him unless he wanted them to. “I’m sorry Chief.”
“Understandable DeSoto, after what I just told you. You’re obviously close to your partner, which is exactly what she looks for and she’s apparently already tried her usual tricks.” Roy and Hank nodded. “Frankly DeSoto I’d say you have cause to be worried. Our Psychologist has suggested that the woman is obsessive compulsive with psychotic tendencies and once she’s fixated on someone she won’t rest until she’s destroyed their life.”
“How many bodies are we talking about?” Hank asked.
“Five so far…”
“Then why is she still on the force instead of in jail?”
“She’s very good Captain. We can’t prove a thing. The only ones who could refute her claims are dead…Their partners are in jail or have quit in disgrace for assaulting the girl...Who's going to believe them?”
“Pretty much the same scenario in each place?” Hank asked.
“Yes, very much like her father and his partner except for one thing.”
“What’s that?” Roy asked worriedly.
“Unlike her father…She makes their friends and families believe it.”
“What about the other person you wanted us to talk to?”
“Evan Wainrite. He was accused of murdering his partner after she played her little game with both of them. She and Evan had become lovers. She accused Max of raping her and Evan was furious. She was all scratched up where she claimed she’d fought him off.” Cap and Roy exchanged a glance. O’Rourke caught it. “Can I assume from that look that you have a similar occurrence there?”
They nodded. “With one very big difference,” Roy said.
“John never touched her willing or unwilling…No one believes her.”
“That’s obvious but if I may…What did she finally make a mistake with?”
“She picked the man least likely to ever hurt another person. John Gage has the gentlest soul…He’d never do what she accused him of, no matter what the provocation.” Hank said quietly.
The Chief nodded and continued his story. “He went to his house that night to confront him and Max ended up dead. Evan swears he doesn’t remember anything but the police found him at his apartment dead drunk, covered in his partner’s blood and the murder weapon was right next to him. He swears that he did go over to talk to Max but that he was alive when he left. He said he and Gayle had been together and that she drove him over there but that she stayed in the car. She said she heard the shots and Evan ran out and she drove him home. The jury believed her.”
“She’s the one who called the police.”
“And you think she killed Max don’t you.”
The Chief nodded. “I can’t prove that of course.”
“Man Cap…She could go after Johnny.”
“Or you Roy. Um Chief…? Do you suppose we could get copies of everything you do have for my Chief? It could really help to prove John innocent.”
“Certainly Captain… I’ll have my Secretary handle that.”
“Thank you for your time.”
“Good luck gentlemen. I’ll be sure to let them know at the prison that you’re coming.”
They spent the night in a San Francisco hotel and traveled to the prison the next morning. Evan Wainrite was escorted in. He sat down opposite them, taking in the uniforms. “What can I do for you Captain…Mister…?”
“DeSoto and this is my Captain…Hank Stanley. I’m a paramedic from LA County and we’re here about….”
“Gayle Markson…,” Evan spat, interrupting them.
“That’s right,” Cap said.
“Stay away from that one…She’s nothing but trouble.”
“It’s too late. She’s already at my station.”
Wainrite looked at Roy. “She accuse your partner of rape?”
“She come on to you too…Try to play you against each other?”
Roy and Hank exchanged a look. “Yeah…”
“Watch out for him man…And yourself. The woman’s crazy. God…I can’t believe I fell for her and her lies. Max was my best friend. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
“They say you killed him,” Roy pointed out.
“Oh I went over there all right and we fought but he was alive when I left.”
“You’re sure?” Cap asked.
“I was pretty drunk Captain but I’m sure. I don’t even own a gun.”
“They said Gayle was with you.”
“She was at my apartment. She wanted me to go over and tell Evan that we were through…She drove me over there.”
“What happened then?”
“Evan and I fought. I told him I wanted him to transfer. He denied raping her. He said she was a willing participant…That she’d come on to him right there in the locker room but then when they were done, she’d gone nuts on him…I didn’t believe she’d actually hurt herself…I called him a liar. Man…I can’t believe it.”
“What did Gayle tell them?” Hank asked.
He looked down in disgust. “She told them she’d heard the gunshots…That I ran from the house and she drove me home. That I was covered in blood and she was afraid so she called the police. She told them that she couldn’t believe that I’d hurt Max…”
Cap and Roy stood up. “Thank you for your time Mr. Wainrite.”
“Hey good luck with your partner…”
“Same to you man. Maybe we can prove you both innocent,” Roy replied.
Evan nodded. “Won’t bring Max back though…”
“You think she killed his partner Cap?” Roy asked quietly and with obvious fear in his voice as they left.
“I’m willing to bet money on it,” Hank replied. “And so are the police,” he added worriedly.
“You think Johnny’s in any danger.”
“Not as long as you’re not there to take the fall. Let’s go.”
“Where we headed now Cap?”
“Home by way of Fresno…”
“I want to talk to the police there about Gayle’s father and his partner.”
Early the next morning they drove to Fresno. They were led to the office of the detective in charge. A tall, dark haired man perhaps in his late thirties stood up and extended his hand politely. “I’m Detective Douglas Campbell, how can I help you?”
“Captain Hank Stanley and one of my paramedics, Roy DeSoto,” Hank introduced them. The man nodded for them to continue. “We’re with the LA County fire department. We have a young woman who’s just started with us. Her name’s Gayle Markson.
Detective Campbell sat up straighter. “Has one of your men been accused of rape?” Cap nodded with a look of surprise. Detective Campbell pulled out a notepad. “Tell me about it?” When they were done, Campbell put the notes in a thick folder. He tapped it with his finger. “Five other stories just like it. We’ve been investigating this woman for five and a half years gentlemen and we’ve finally started to put some things together but it’s still not enough to convict her of her father or his partner’s murder.”
“She lived around here then?” Cap asked.
“Yeah… Gray house, about four blocks from here…No one there now of course. Her mother moved somewhere back east after her husband died…Took the girl with her but she came back after she turned eighteen and joined the fire department academy. She couldn’t get a job here though…Too many people remembered her. She went to Sacramento and that’s when the next accusation came.”
“Cap…?” Roy said. “I’m getting a really bad feeling about all of this. We need to get home and warn Johnny and the police there.”
Hank nodded in agreement. “Detective...Do you suppose it’s possible for us to get a copy of that report sent to our Chief? It could save the career of my junior paramedic and maybe his life or even Roy’s here.”
“Can you get me his telex number?”
“Sure.” Hank made a call.
“Please let me know what happens. I’d like to make it a part of the investigation.”
“We’ll do that Detective and thanks for your help.” The report was going through as they left and they could only hope it was enough evidence to clear Johnny.
Johnny returned home an hour after Captain Stanley and Roy had left Fresno. He was exhausted and he hadn’t slept for two days. The dark circles beneath his eyes gave his face a bruised appearance, a match to the authentic one Roy had left on his cheek.
He showered quickly, noticing as he toweled off that the scratches on his face and neck were still visible and the bite on his lip was still sore, though the swelling had gone down some.
Johnny went to find something to eat, managing to scrounge some soup and crackers which was more than he’d had in the last forty eight hours.
He hoped Roy and Captain Stanley had found out something useful. Johnny was stretched tight and his emotions were raw leaving his control of his AS tenuous at best. He’d been fighting the warning signs of withdrawal for the last twenty four hours and had willed himself back from the edge several times when he’d caught himself rocking or beginning to fog out. “C’mon Roy…Come through for me.”
An hour later Johnny jumped nervously as the phone rang. He snatched it up quickly breathing a sigh of relief as he heard Roy’s voice.”Hey Junior...”
“Roy?” Where are you?” He asked worriedly.
John licked his lips nervously. “What did ya find out?”
“I can’t go into it on the phone,” he said looking around at the busy office. “Look we’ve just dropped off everything we got with McConnikee and we’ll be at my house in fifteen minutes so you meet us there okay?”
“Okay,” he said quietly. There was only a slight tremor to the tone but Roy picked up on it?
“Johnny…Are you all right?”
“Yeah…I haven’t slept much. I’m just really tired.”
“Is that all?”
“Talk to me Johnny.”
“I’m just…strung out, ya know?”
“Johnny…I want you take a couple deep breaths and go to my house right now. I’ll be there real soon.”
“DON’T worry, everything’s gonna work out.” Roy hung up and turned to find Hank standing behind him.
“I don’t like the way he sounds Cap,” Roy whispered, glancing around. “He’s right on the edge I think.”
“I called the guys. They’re gonna meet us at your house,” Cap told him.
“Great. I’ve got one last call and I’ll be ready Cap.” Roy picked up the phone and called Rampart. “Hello Doc. Look I know you’re probably real busy but can you possibly be at my house in a half hour?”
“What’s up Roy?”
“I’m concerned about Johnny. I don’t like the way he sounds…I think he’s borderline.”
“I’ll get Joe to cover for me for a little while. I’ll be there Roy.”
“That worried about him?” Hank asked.
“I think when he sees what we have…he’ll be okay. I’m hoping he’s just exhausted but he said he was on the edge. Man… I just hope when McConnikee reads these reports that he’ll have to believe John.”
“So do I Roy. Let’s go…McConnikee said he’d call us at your house when he’s done.”
Gayle drove through the quiet neighborhood, hoping Johnny would be at the DeSoto home, at least then she’d know where he was and if he wasn’t then she planned to destroy his relationship with Joanne DeSoto. There was no sign of the Rover anywhere. She parked up the street not wanting her car to be seen in the family’s driveway and walked back.
Joanne DeSoto glanced at the clock for the fifteenth time in the last two hours. Where was Roy? Why hadn’t he called? Why couldn’t she reach Johnny? She was getting very worried. She sighed in relief when the doorbell rang. That had to be Johnny, she was sure of it.
She was unpleasantly surprised however to find Gayle Markson on her doorstep. Her smile of greeting faded quickly to a frown. “What can I do for you?” She asked, trying to at least sound polite.
“Is Roy here?” The girl questioned plaintively.
“No… No he isn’t. He went off somewhere,” she answered vaguely.
“With Johnny…?” Gayle asked sharply
“No…With Captain Stanley,” Jo replied, starting to get irritated by the interrogation. “Look Gayle is there something you want or are we just playing twenty questions? I have work to do.”
“I just wanted to talk to Roy about what happened the other day. I mean it was just an innocent kiss. I never intended Johnny to get so upset over it. I don’t want them to fight.”
“Fight about what?”
This was perfect. Roy hadn’t told his wife a thing and her story was the one she’d hear first. “Didn’t Roy tell you?” She asked innocently.
“Tell me WHAT?” Joanne snapped in annoyance at the girls games.
“I can’t believe he wouldn’t have warned you since Johnny spends so much time here.”
“What are you talking about?”
“He didn’t tell you that Johnny tried to rape me?”
Jo’s mouth dropped open in shock. Dear God…was that why Roy had been so secretive? Where was Johnny? Her attention came back to the girl in front of her. “You’re a liar…Johnny would never do that,” she snarled as she started to close the door.
“No Joanne…I swear to you.” Gayle began to cry.
“Did you have Johnny arrested?” Jo asked sounding worried. “Is that why I can’t reach him?”
So she had been trying to reach her lover while her husband was away. Gayle wanted to scratch her eyes out in jealousy but she had to make her angry enough to dump John. If she played her cards right she might get her to throw her husband out as well. “No… No I just asked them to get him away from me. I don’t know where he went after Roy punched him.”
“Roy hit Johnny?” She asked in horror.
“Yes and he ran off. I don’t know why he got so upset over one kiss between me and Roy but…”
“You kissed MY husband?” Jo hissed through clenched teeth.
“Yes,” She admitted looking ashamed. “I know I shouldn’t have let him and I’m sorry but it just happened and Johnny got so angry over it that he scared me and I tried to break it off with him and then he attacked me.” At Jo’s angry and skeptical look she held up her arms to show her the bruises that discolored the delicate wrists and the broken nails. “I managed to fight him off until the others got there but he ripped my shirt and he…he hurt me,” she whispered with hitched breaths as she pulled her blouse away to show her the scratches that marred the smooth flesh above her breasts.
Joanne stared in shock. She was angry at this woman for blatantly admitting she’d kissed Roy, confused by this whole story and the accusation she’d made against Johnny. Her heart said John Gage would never hurt anyone much less a woman but her eyes saw a girl who’d obviously been abused and forcibly held against her will.
Had Roy really hit Johnny? And if so…Why if he was innocent? She desperately wanted her husband to come home and help her sort this out. She looked back at Gayle. “I’ll tell him you were here,” she assured the woman, closing the door in her face before the blonde could stop her.
Gayle stopped the flow of tears and grinned slyly as she found herself face to face with the wooden portal. She’d seen the brief flash of doubt in Joanne DeSoto’s eyes. The scattering of seeds had reached their mark.
Gayle slid behind the wheel of her red Mustang smiling in delight. Joanne was on her line, she just needed to reel her in. Even if she wasn’t worried about herself, she was a mother and the one thing she’d never risk was her daughter exposed to an accused rapist. She started the car and began to drive away. She didn’t see Johnny’s Land Rover pull into the DeSoto Driveway.
John pulled his truck into Roy’s driveway noticing that Roy and Captain Stanley weren’t here yet. He climbed from the Rover and started up the driveway but a flash of red up the street caught his attention. Johnny rang the doorbell but his eyes continued to watch the car as it drove away.
Joanne yanked the door open thinking Gayle had returned. “What do you…Oh…Johnny…I thought you were someone else,” she said looking into exhausted brown eyes. The bruise on his cheek and the dark circles were a colorful contrast to the red, ugly, partially healed scratch marks that marred his neck and cheek…A sobering witness in themselves’ to the truth of Gayle’s accusation.
“Can I come in?” Johnny asked tiredly as he glanced away to watch the familiar, red car turn the corner.
“Roy’s not here Johnny,” Joanne said uncomfortably.
He didn’t see Hanks pickup truck round the corner as he turned back to Joanne, a little surprised that she hadn’t greeted him a bit more warmly. “Can I wait for…,” he trailed off at the look in her blue eyes.
Joanne knew in her heart that Johnny wasn’t guilty and that he’d never hurt anyone but for a fleeting moment a vision of bruised wrists and ragged scratches flitted through her mind. The proof that Roy had in fact punched John as the girl had told her was on his cheek. The fleeting moment of fear and doubt was reflected in her face as Johnny turned back toward her.
Joanne pushed it away but it was too late…Johnny saw it. He blinked rapidly in shock at the look on her face…Staggering back off the front stairs as if he’d been slapped. “Oh God,” he murmured. Tears of hurt and loss burned behind his eyes but didn’t fall…He blinked them away. “I’m sorry…I…I’ll um…leave…I’m sorry,” the confused words were stuttered out. He backed away from Joanne as if she’d turned into a snake before his eyes. He turned to head for the rover.
“Johnny…,” Jo called after him.
He was unsteady, almost as if he’d been drinking. His mind was racing…She’d gotten to Joanne. She’d won and he’d lost it all. Gayle had taken everything. His career, his reputation, his credibility, his friends and now his family…They were all he’d had left.
This was his haven and the place he’d considered his second home for the last five years. Roy would stand by Joanne…John expected him too. He would never come between them. If Joanne didn’t trust him he’d never be welcome here again which meant he’d lost Roy as well and the only family he’d had since he was twelve…The family he’d learned to love.
The emotional stress and lack of sleep for the last four days took its toll. The world seemed to turn gray around the edges. He struggled with it briefly but the hurt was stronger and he didn’t care enough anymore to try and stop the descent. He reached the rover, allowing his head to rest against the cool glass. He didn’t hear Joanne call his name and he didn’t see her race after him.
Roy saw Johnny stumble from the doorway and head for the Rover, Joanne followed him as Hank and Roy pulled into the driveway. The others were only seconds behind. By the time they parked, Johnny was standing beside his vehicle. His forehead pressed against the cool glass. His eyes were clenched shut and his breaths came in short gasps.
Joanne stood next to him with her hands pressed to her mouth in horror at what she’d caused.
Roy bolted from Cap’s truck, closing the distance between them rapidly. “Jo…” What the hell happened?”
“It’s my fault…My fault,” she whispered in despair. “I’m so sorry baby,” she whispered as she reached out to try and turn John’s face toward her. He recoiled away from her as his hands rose protectively to keep hers away.
Roy could see the exhaustion in John’s brown eyes. The last few days had worn him down and he was swaying on his feet. Johnny was on the edge and rapidly losing the battle. Roy could see the struggle to keep control in his face.
“Johnny…I need you to stay with me,” Roy commanded. “Don’t go away.” But even as he spoke he saw the fading of awareness and the empty vagueness that accompanied withdrawal. The others arrived as Roy began to call to his partner. “Johnny…Please, don’t do this,” he pleaded. A slow rock began as John’s arms wrapped around his own body.
The crew had all seen this before. “What do you need us to do?” Hank asked quickly.
“Just get around him. We don’t want the whole neighborhood to see him like this. Chet, go in the house and get the coffee table out of the way.”
Joanne frowned in confusion at the instructions. She’d never seen John like this before and had no idea what was happening or what was about to.
Roy reached out and grasped John’s wrists despite his efforts to avoid the contact and pull away. They quickly moved him into the house before the fight began in earnest.
They barely made it. Roy got him through the doorway and dropped onto the sofa…dragging his partner with him before John started to truly fight. He twisted frantically in his partners grasp, desperately trying to break his hold on him and get away….To be left alone. His breaths were coming in panting gasps as his body bucked and arced over backward enraged at being held against his will, resisting being brought back from his safe place.
Both men were soon damp with sweat as Roy struggled to hold on…Hoping as exhausted as Johnny was that it would be a short battle. He hoped in vain. Johnny continued to fight as the others heard Roy begin to urge him on.
“C’mon Junior…You can fight harder than this…Let it out.” The crew looked at the senior paramedic as if he’d lost his mind. “Either fight or give it up Johnny…I’m gonna win either way.”
The taunting words seemed only to enrage the younger man even more and the struggle grew stronger… After twenty minutes he finally collapsed against Roy’s chest, breathing raggedly.
“Is it over?” Mike asked as the doorbell rang.
Joanne opened it to let Kelly Brackett and Dixie in as Roy answered the dark haired Engineer.
Roy could feel the rigid tension in John’s body as he held him against him. “Hell no…He’s just getting his second wind,” Roy panted.
“Can’t you give him something?” Marco asked the arriving doctor.
“It won’t help,” Kel answered taking in the situation. “It’ll put him to sleep but it won’t bring him out of this.”
A groan of pure outrage escaped from John’s lips… Infuriated at being held and forced to return, he threw himself backward almost pitching both of them onto the floor.
“DADDY, what’s wrong with Uncle Johnny?” Roy heard the wail of fear in Chris’ voice as both children stood watching from the top of the stairs.
“Jo…Get them back in their rooms,” Roy grunted as John twisted in his arms. “They don’t need to see him like this.”
Joanne ran for the stairs, herding both children to their rooms. “It’s okay kids. Uncle Johnny’s gonna be okay. I need you to stay here though and I promise I’ll let you know how he is.”
“What’s wrong with him?” Chris whispered.
“Uncle John’s sick and daddy’s helping him. Just stay up here and I’ll be back in few minutes, I promise.” At their frightened nods, she turned and hurried back downstairs.
John and Roy were both drenched in sweat and John showed no sign of coming around. His body heaved frantically, trying to draw air into his straining body. Roy was rapidly tiring as well but kept on…Alternately goading him to fight harder and expend the fear and anger locked inside or reassuring him that he was safe as the others watched the battle wide eyed and wondering how long Johnny could keep this up.
Finally Roy began to use different words, no longer urging him on but reassuring him instead…“I love you John,” Roy whispered near the younger mans ear. “Let it out and c’mon back. You can stop now…I want you to come back now,” he urged. John was running out of steam out of sheer exhaustion, finally wilting against his partner but he still seemed tense and resistant to being touched. Roy had an idea and looked up at Kel. “Can you help me? I want to try touching.”
“Can’t hurt,” Kel said with a nod as he moved in to help Roy hold his friend. He grasped John's wrists to free Roy's hands and nodded at Hank, with a head jerk toward the young man's legs.
Hank understood the unspoken request and gripped John's kicking feet. Roy shifted around behind his young friend...placing his fingers on his partner's face...His hands practiced and sure.
Johnny groaned in frustration at being held down and he continued to struggle as Roy began to gently stroke his face and neck, before moving to his shoulders.
The crew looked at each other and shrugged in confusion as the blonde paramedic’s hands began to gently move over John’s shoulders and back.
The younger man's body jumped under Roy's hands several times before he finally seemed to settle down…His breaths started to even out and his body began to relax.
John fought desperately to stay where he was. He was safe here and no one could hurt him. Time was irrelevant and he had no idea how long the struggle had been going on. Anger and fear welled in his mind as someone tried to drag him back to where the hurt and pain and the loss were waiting and he didn’t want to go there. His breathing was labored and he was wet with sweat but he couldn’t go back They couldn’t make him go back there. He felt hands...Hands holding him down and he moaned softly that they wouldn't just leave him alone.
A voice finally seemed to penetrate the grayness and the feeling of hands…Not just the ones holding him down but hands he knew…Ones that that he'd learned to trust and wouldn’t hurt him. They gently rubbed his shoulders. Words began to make sense again as awareness began to return.
“I love you John. I need you to relax and come back now…Can you do that for me?” The voice whispered.
John raised his head…His eyes searched for the source…“Roy,” he gasped out finally.
His friend heaved a sigh of relief and John felt arms wrap around him securely. “Yeah Junior, it’s me.”
The other hands fell away and Johnny tilted his head back to look up into reassuring blue eyes. “I went away didn’t I,” he whispered breathlessly.
“Yeah Junior but you’re okay now.”
John never remembered his time away but he remembered what had started it. “Home…I need t…to go…home,” he stuttered.
“You are home.”
“No…,” he shook his head frantically. “No…Jo doesn’t w…want me here. She's mad at me…She’ll be mad if I stay.”
Roy’s eyes rose to meet his wife’s and she quickly knelt next to the younger man. “Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry.” John tensed at the sound of her voice. “I do want you here...I love you, you know that.” The dark eyes turned toward her in confusion. Joanne saw the hurt in them. “I know what you saw and I’m so sorry…I know you would never hurt that woman…You’d never hurt anyone, I know that…Please forgive me baby?” She asked softly as she reached out to brush the sweat dampened hair from John’s forehead.
John looked at her for a long uncertain moment before he nodded tiredly. “It’s okay Jo.”
“That’s my boy,” Roy said softly as his fingers slipped through the damp, sable hair. Johnny blew out a tired beath before hte dark eyes slowly closed and he drifted off, relaxing back against Roy’s shoulder.
Sensing the worst was over, Chet looked to Marco. “I knew it,” he muttered.
“What?” Marco asked in confusion.
“They adopted him.”
Joanne and Roy bristled at the comment but noticed the grins of released tension breaking out on the faces of their friends. “Very funny Chet,” Roy said wryly as he eased his partner back on the couch and took the long slender fingers in his own.
Joanne finally smiled. “I guess we have in a way. He is part of the family,” she admitted.
“Just don’t start with him about it Chet, he’s gonna be embarrassed enough as it is.”
“Roy?” Mike began. “What were you doing to Johnny?”
“It’s called touch therapy Mike. It’s something Jo and I started with Johnny to help treat his A.S.” At their confused look he explained further. “It’s designed to help Johnny deal with the trauma he went through as a child. It just helps him to relax and open up so he can talk about his past and his feelings. It’s what Gayle saw Joanne doing out on the deck Tuesday and why she thought they were having an affair.”
“She WHAT…?” Jo snapped. “When was she here?”
“She was apparently doing a little spying on Tuesday and saw you and Johnny out on the deck. She didn’t see me come out. She told me you and John were having an affair.”
“Why that little…,” she trailed off before she lost control and said something she’d regret.
“Jo…What happened here?”
“Gayle was here a little while ago.” Roy’s face paled at that but Jo was obviously okay so he didn’t say anything that might frighten her. “She told me a pack of lies about Johnny trying to rape her.” Her blue eyes met Roy’s.
“She did accuse him of it but John said she attacked him and tore her own shirt. The bruises around her wrists were from John trying to hold her off.”
“She said you kissed her.”
“She kissed me Jo and she only did it to try and get me to dump Johnny and take her on as my partner instead.”
Jo’s eyebrow arced in irritation but she trusted her husband and didn’t pursue it further. “Anyway, she told me Johnny attacked her and she showed me the bruises. She said you hit him,” she explained as she gently touched the darkening discoloration on John’s cheek. “When he showed up here a few minutes later and I saw the bruises and the scratches. I…Oh Roy for a minute I was afraid of him. He saw it in my face, I know he did. How can he ever forgive me? We’re his family and I let him down.”
“We all let him down Jo,” Marco said softly.
The others looked a bit ashamed that they’d believed this girl even for a moment. Had it been anyone but Johnny maybe it would have been warranted but they all knew this young man and should have known the girl was lying the same way that Roy had.
Roy caressed his wife’s cheek tenderly. “He’d forgive you for anything honey, you know that.”
Kel moved over next to Johnny and briefly checked him over. “I’d like to give him something Roy to keep him asleep. He’s exhausted.”
Roy nodded his agreement. Kel quickly injected a low dose of Lorazepam into the young paramedic. Johnny flinched slightly but didn’t wake and sank quickly back into a drugged slumber.
“What’s keeping McConnikee?” Cap asked, finally breaking the silence that had fallen. “He’s had time to read those reports three times by now,” he complained.
“What did you find out Cap?” Mike asked curiously.
Hank and Roy gave them all a brief synopsis of what they’d learned from their investigation leaving them all in open mouthed shock at this girl’s insane behavior.
“Then they’ll have to believe Johnny right Cap?” Chet asked anxiously.
“Let’s hope so Chet. In fact I’m kind of hoping they’ll just fire her and with any luck she’ll never be able to get a job as a paramedic again.”
“I’d rather see her in jail where she belongs,” Roy said quietly. “How many people has she maybe killed?”
Their eyes traveled worriedly to Johnny and back to Roy, suddenly realizing that if this girl had continued her game, one of their friends might well have ended up dead. It was a sobering thought.
Joanne stood up. “I’m gonna check on the kids and make some coffee,” she said heading up the stairs, leaving the men to continue talking. She returned a short time later carrying a tray of coffee cups and a pot of coffee and the group helped themselves.
“How were the kids?” Roy asked.
“Jen’s okay with the explanation I gave that Johnny was sick but Chris isn’t buying it. We may need to explain to him exactly what Johnny has Honey. I think he’s old enough to understand.”
Roy nodded as he glanced at his sleeping partner. “I’ll ask Johnny when he’s feeling better.”
The doorbell rang a moment later. “It better not be that woman again,” Dixie snapped irately.
“I’ll get it just in case,” Hank volunteered.
Captain Stanley pulled the door open and gasped in surprise. Chief McConnikee stood outside. “Um Chief…,” he said loudly giving the others the only warning he could. They exchanged worried glances… “We weren’t expecting you to come over…Uh…We’ve been waiting for you to call.” Cap stammered.
“I thought I should deliver this news in person,” he said looking past the man blocking his entrance to the house. “Where’s Gage and DeSoto? That is Gage’s Rover parked out front isn’t it?”
“Uh…Yes sir but John…Well he’s…”
“Well spit it out Hank,” McConnikee urged.
Cap blew out a breath. “Well Johnny’s been under a lot of stress the last few days.”
“Understandable under the circumstances…”
“Yes sir…Well he’s kind of tired and the doctor…”
“Doctor…? Is he sick?”
“No…No, just really…Really tired,” Hank danced around the truth.
“Well I’ll try not to disturb him too much but I’d like to talk to you and DeSoto and from the look of it, the rest of your crew,” he said casting another glance past Hank. Cap continued to stand there for another long moment. “Are you gonna let me in or not?” The Chief finally asked.
Hank sighed in resignation and prayed John would stay asleep. He stepped aside. “Look who’s here guys,” he said cheerfully as McConnikee stepped past him.
“Hey Chief,” they greeted nervously, glancing worriedly toward Johnny.
“Chief…,” Roy greeted, releasing Johnny’s hand to stand up and greet their commanding officer. John stirred restlessly. Roy sat down and rested his hand on John’s shoulder. “It’s okay Junior I’m here,” he quietly reassured his friend.
Cap took over. “Chief this is Roy’s wife Joanne.” McConnikee nodded. “This is Dr. Kelly Brackett.”
“Rampart General?” The Chief asked?
Kel nodded. “And this is one of my nurses Dixie McCall.”
“Miss McCall.” He turned to the crew briefly and then to Roy. “How is he?” He asked nodding at Johnny.
Roy looked a little surprised at the question since Cap and a very well known physician were right there. “C’mon Roy… You know him better than anyone and your relationship is well known around the department.
Roy smiled and managed not to blush too badly. “Yes sir…He’ll be fine. He just needs to rest…He’s ah pretty stressed.”
McConnikee nodded. “Well I’ve read all the reports and I’ve talked to Chief Houts and Battalion Chief Hayes. We’ve all agreed that Gage has been the victim of a very sick young woman. We will be investigating this further.”
“But Chief?” Roy protested. “If this gets out it could ruin John’s career.”
“You misunderstand DeSoto…We’re investigating Markson not John.”
Roy breathed a sigh of relief as the others clapped each other on the back. “Thank You Chief,” Roy said enthusiastically.
“Tell Gage to skip his next shift and get some rest but I want him back in the squad in two days.”
“Yes sir I’ll tell him,” Roy said happily. “He’ll feel a lot better when he hears that.”
McConnikee nodded and turned to leave. “Someday you’ll have to explain to me exactly what Aspergers Syndrome Disorder is.” He chuckled as eight mouths dropped open in shock.
“Uh…Sir…?” Cap began hesitantly.
“It’s okay Hank…Men. I’ve known for some time now.”
“Can I ask how?” Captain Stanley hedged.
“Don’t worry Hank…None of your men turned him in if that’s what you’re worried about. It was completely accidental.” At their concerned glances he continued on. “When Dr. Sundquist left, his files were delivered to my office in error instead of his replacement Dr. McConnell’s. Sundquist was the doctor who spoke to you when Gage was kidnapped by Scott Jackson. I had only heard about it of course…Chief Houts handled that whole mess.”
The others nodded, remembering those frightening days when Johnny had been missing.
“When the files arrived I was curious about the incident and thought that’s what I was reading. I was halfway through before I realized they were rather privileged documents and returned them to their rightful owner,” he shrugged. “But by then I’d already read about John’s condition.”
“So you saw the interview where I discussed Gage’s condition with him? And you didn’t say anything?” Roy asked.
“No need to was there? Gage is a good fireman and one of our best paramedics and half of the best team in the business. I wasn’t about to lose that over something he seems to have control over…At least most of the time.” He glanced toward the sleeping young man and noted that Roy was once again holding John’s hand. “I’ve kept an eye on the situation and from what I can tell it’s never put a victim at risk or another fireman and unless it does, I have no reason to do anything about it.”
“Thank you Chief,” Hank said sincerely.
“Chief McConnikee? Would you like some coffee?” Joanne asked with a smile. “While Roy explains to you what Aspergers is.”
“Mrs. Desoto, I’d love a cup.”
Roy looked slightly startled by that suggestion but then realized his wife was right. It was better if he understood than guessed about it. Roy began to explain.
And that’s about it Chief,” Roy finished a half hour later.
“So it’s behavioral issues more than anything? Trust, anger, fear, trauma issues, that sort of thing…? McConnikee asked.
“A neurological short circuit if you will?” Brackett added.
McConnikee nodded. “Looks like he’s found the solution to it right here,” the older man said glancing around with a slight smile.
John began to stir, his dark eyes fluttering open briefly to drift from person to person. They hesitated briefly on McConnikee before moving on to Roy.
The blonde paramedic brushed the dark hair back soothingly. “Easy Johnny…I’m here okay? You need to rest.” Johnny struggled to stay awake for a moment but the Lorazepam finally won and his eyes slid closed once more.
The Chief stood with a rueful smile playing on his lips. “That’s quite a friendship you have there DeSoto. Don’t ever let that go,” he advised sincerely.
“No sir,” Roy answered.
“What’s gonna happen now Chief?” Hank asked as the man prepared to leave.
“We’ll continue the investigation and I promise you,” he assured his very anxious men. “John’s record will not be affected by this at all unless we find something new but as of now…He’s cleared.”
They smiled in relief and Hank walked him to the door. “Thank you Chief…Thank you for everything,” the dark haired fire Captain said looking at McConnikee with a lot more respect.
“You’re welcome Hank,” he said throwing him a wink. “But I still haven’t forgotten my hat.”
Cap paled slightly before he realized the older man was teasing him. “Yes sir…And whatever you want to do about that is fine with me…I’d rather that than lose Gage.”
“Don’t worry about either one Hank,” he reassured him as he left.
Cap returned to the living room. “I think we should probably leave as well Roy, and let Johnny get some much needed sleep. We’ll see you in the morning and hope headquarters has suspended Gayle until the investigation is complete.”
Roy nodded. “Hopefully she’ll just give it up now that she knows we’re on to her.”
The rest of the crew nodded in agreement. Kel stood up with Dixie. “I guess we should get back as well Roy. I’m glad everything worked out for Johnny.”
“This was the last thing he needed,” Dixie pointed out.
“Thanks for coming…All of you… I think Johnny will be really grateful to know for sure who his friends are.”
“You need help getting him into bed pal?” Cap asked.
Roy shook his head. “No…I got it thanks,” he assured them as he hefted his partner into his arms. “Jo, could you turn down the bed?”
Cap shook his head at the couple as Roy and Jo moved toward the spare bedroom. “I think you’re right Chet. They did adopt him.”
"I think we all did Cap," Mike Stoker reminded them. The others laughed as they exited the house.
Between sheer exhaustion and the Lorazepam, Johnny slept through the night. Roy had checked on him several times before turning in himself. The older paramedic woke earlier than usual the next morning, rolling over to plant a light kiss on his Wife’s neck. She murmured softly, smiling in her sleep. He grinned and climbed from the bed, padding down the stairs to go check on his friend.
Johnny was half awake and sat by the window…His head rested against the frame… Watching as the sun began to rise.
“Morning Junior,” Roy said softly.
John jumped, turning dark eyes toward his partner. “Morning Roy...”
“Something wrong partner…?”
“Roy…Was Chief McConnikee here or was I dreaming?”
“He was here Junior.”
“Did he ahh…see me?”
“No Junior…He came after you were asleep.”
John breathed a sigh of relief. “What about the guys?” He asked…His memory about yesterday’s events shaky at best.
“They were here too but look Johnny if you’re upset about what happened don’t be.”
John’s eyes clenched shut, trying to remember. They finally snapped open. “Did you use…I mean did they see…?”
Roy understood the half asked questions, which scared him just a bit that he knew his somewhat zany partner that well. “Johnny, let’s establish some things okay? Yes I used touch therapy to help relax you after you came out of withdrawal and yes they saw it.”
John flushed in embarrassment. “Great,” he whispered.
“I’m not through.”
John looked at him in dismay. “There’s more?” He almost squeaked.
“A lot more… John these guys love you, can you understand that?” The younger man shook his head in disbelief. “Oh they tease you and act tough the same as we do with each other in front of them, but we’re a family…All of us and all they cared about is helping you.”
He shook his head…“They didn’t believe me. They thought I hurt Gayle…Even Cap turned me in.”
“The guys know you didn’t hurt Gayle and Cap didn’t have a choice Junior, you know that.”
John shrugged with an ‘I guess so’ attitude as his eyes went back to the window. “What about Joanne?”
Roy sighed. “They’ve all been beating themselves up for what happened Johnny, especially Jo. They feel really bad for doubting you even for a few seconds but Johnny, they’re human and they let themselves believe what their eyes saw. They’re really sorry Junior but can you understand their side?”
“I don’t want Jo to feel bad Roy, really. She…She’s always been there for me even when I cause so much trouble…”
“Huh uh Junior… Remember the rules.”
“No negative names,” he sighed.
“Johnny?” Joanne called softly from the doorway, interrupting the two men.
He glanced over almost shyly. “Morning Jo,” he said as she came to stand before him. He glanced away in embarrassment, knowing she’d seen him withdraw as well and wondering what she thought of him now.
She knelt before him and reached out to cup John’s chin. She tugged his head around to force his eyes to meet hers. “I’m so sorry baby… Please forgive me? I know you’d never hurt anyone…I know that…But that woman had been here just a minute before you were and for a few seconds all I could see were the bruises and I’m so sorry,” she said softly as she looked into his brown eyes. “I know my friend…My little brother would never do what she said you did and I’d trust you with my life…With my kids…With Roy. I love you, do you understand?”
John saw the sorrow in Joanne’s eyes and his heart melted. “I love you too Jo,” he said softly in relief.
Joanne wrapped her arms around Johnny hugging him tightly to her and kissing his cheek. Roy smiled, relieved that his family was back together.
Johnny finally glanced up at his partner. “Roy… Why was McConnikee here?”
Roy and Joanne sat next to him. “Well Junior, when we got back from up north we dropped off all the reports that we gathered and he already had a few that were telexed to him. You won’t believe this but you’re the fifth fireman she’s accused of rape.”
John’s eyes widened in shock…“She’s done this before? Well…What happened to the others?”
Roy’s eyes flicked to Joanne. “A couple of them are dead Junior and a couple others are in jail.”
John’s mouth dropped in shock. “What…? How…?”
“Shot by their partners or suicide…”
“I don’t believe this,” he breathed out in horror.
“Well believe it Junior but it gets worse. The police don’t believe her either. They think she killed them and if you and I had fallen for her little game, one of us mighta been number six.”
“Oh my God…Why isn’t she in jail?”
“They can’t prove it. With only one partner alive or not under suspicion of rape…It’s her word against theirs and until now…One city hasn’t been talking to the others so none of them were putting it all together but now Fresno and San Francisco are getting together and hopefully they’ll get the other three cities to help them out too and then maybe they can come up with a case.”
“Man…This is so weird.”
Roy chuckled. “Well the good news is…You’re off the hook Junior.”
John’s head snapped up. “What?”
“McConnikee came to tell you that he and Hayes and Houts believed you after they read those reports. They’re redirecting the investigation to Gayle and they put you back on active duty.”
John grinned. “For real…?”
“Yeah for real…But not today…Today you get some sleep.”
“Johnny, you’re exhausted. You were in a full withdrawal yesterday and I put you through hell bringing you out. You need to rest.” John nodded in resignation, knowing Roy wouldn’t bend on this even if he had to get Hank involved and resigned himself to spending the day in bed. “Johnny…Um…There’s one more thing Junior…?” John looked at him curiously. “McConnikee knows.”
“Oh Man…,” he whispered in shock. “How Roy…? What’s he gonna do?”
“Johnny settle down…Apparently he’s known for a long time now and he’s not gonna tell anyone.”John stared at him disbelievingly. “He says it doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t affect your job.”
John closed his eyes in relief. “Seriously…?”
“Seriously…Now let’s get some coffee Junior. Some of us gotta work.”
Joanne went to wake the kids for breakfast as the two men sat down with a cup of coffee. “Um Johnny…?”
The younger man could tell from the tone that Roy was about to tell him something he wasn’t gonna like.
“Yeah…?” He asked warily.
“The kids saw what happened yesterday.”
“Oh man,” he muttered looking down in embarrassment. “What did you tell em?”
“That you were sick and that you’d be fine.”
“Johnny…Chris wasn’t buying that excuse and I think maybe he’s old enough to understand what it is you have…Just like he understood about the abuse. I think you should explain it to him.”
Johnny cast a sidelong glance at his partner and the older man could read the fear in his eyes. Fear that Chris wouldn’t see him the same way. That he’d somehow lose the child’s respect.
He chewed his lip nervously. “Whatever you think is best for Chris,” he said quietly.
“And for you…Johnny...You need to be able to say I have a problem but I’m okay with it. It’s not a crime to have Aspergers John, but it’s your decision to make okay? I won’t push you.” Roy reached out to squeeze John’s hand reassuringly, knowing Chris would never lose his love for his Uncle.
“Uncle Johnny…,” Two voices chorused as they ran down the stairs to catapult themselves into the young man’s arms.
“Hey Buddy…Princess.” He hugged them both.
Jen’s soft blue eyes gazed into his as she hauled herself into his lap. She patted his cheek. “Are you feeling better?” She asked in a serious tone.
“I’m feeling much better,” he answered just as serious. John glanced at Chris who was looking at the floor…His head leaned against Johnny’s shoulder.
“You scared me yesterday Uncle Johnny. I thought you were gonna die or something,” Chris whispered.
“Dummy,” Jenny snorted. “Uncle Johnny won’t die, right?” She asked turning those soft blue eyes on her Uncle.
“Right Princess, but don’t call your brother a dummy baby okay?”
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
John reached out to put his arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Chris?” He hesitated briefly and then included Jen, knowing she probably wouldn’t truly understand but not wanting to leave her out. “Jen…? I…,” he took a deep breath, casting a glance at their parents.
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Roy reassured him quietly.
John nodded. “I have something called Aspergers Syndrome Disorder.”
Chris’ eyes widened in terror… “Can it make you die?”
John grinned...“No Chris…It’s not a disease…It’s up here,” Johnny said tapping his head. “It’s what they call a neurological disorder.”
“You mean like the kids you sometimes work with? The ones with Autism and AS…?”
“That’s right? That’s what AS stands for.”
“Are you Autistic?”
“No Chris…Some doctors put them all together but my doctor says mine is a higher functioning condition and it’s mild but I still have trouble when I’m really stressed or scared or when my emotions overwhelm me.”
“Were you scared yesterday?”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah and little angry I guess.”
“Something that happened at work…I can’t explain that to you but it upset me a lot and yesterday…I thought…I thought I’d lost you guys…All of you and it just…Scared me and made me angry. When that happens…Sometimes my mind will retreat to someplace where I feel safe.”
John heaved a sigh. “I don’t know where Chris…Just somewhere away from where it hurts. It’s called withdrawal and I go somewhere safe inside my own head.”
“Don’t you feel safe with us?”
John’s eyes lifted to meet Roy and Joanne’s. “Yes…Yes I do. And your mom and dad are helping me to understand that my safe place is here with you guys so I won’t wanna go there but yesterday…I thought I’d lost that and your dad was trying to remind me that I hadn’t...That I still had all of you. He wanted me to come back but I wasn’t ready yet and I fought him.”
“And dad won,” Chris said both relieved and proud of his father.
“Yeah…Dad won,” John admitted with a smile.
Chris threw his arms around the dark haired mans neck hugging him tightly, surprising Johnny. “I’m glad he made you come back. I don’t want you to go away.” The small hand gently rubbed John’s back as he’d seen his father do a hundred times.
John’s eyes met Roy and Joanne’s with the glisten of unshed tears as he wrapped both children in a tight embrace. “Me either.”
“Me either,” Jen agreed, squeezing his neck tightly.
John broke the serious moment with a couple of quick tickles that brought giggles from both children before they moved to their own seats.
Joanne got the kids fed before hustling them off upstairs to get ready for their day. Roy glanced at his partner. “I’m really proud of you Junior. You handled that whole explanation without scaring or confusing them and I think they understood what was happening yesterday.”
“Well Chris did anyway,” Johnny corrected. “Jen’s still too young yet.”
Roy stood up and gave his friend a pat on the shoulder. “Are you sorry you told them?”
Johnny shook his head. “No,” he shrugged ruefully. “I guess there was no reason to be afraid…I guess I shoulda remembered who raised em,” he said, looking up at his partner.
“No there wasn’t a reason. They love you.” Roy scruffed the dark head affectionately. “I’m gonna get dressed for work. I’ll be back.”
“I should probably get changed too,” Johnny said, indicating that he was still in yesterday’s clothes.
“Yup…,”Roy agreed. “As long as it’s something comfortable to sleep in,” Roy directed as he headed up the stairs. John sighed and rolled his dark eyes in annoyance. “And don’t roll those eyes at me either Junior,” he called back.
“Man…How does he do that?” John muttered.
“I’m a father that’s how,” came from the top of the stairs.
John’s mouth dropped open in shock.
Johnny was dressed in cutoffs and a tee shirt when Roy returned. “Does this meet with your approval?” He asked snidely.
“As long as it’s for sleepin in and not doin yard work,” Roy shot back.
“Fine,” John groaned.
“I mean it.”
“I’ll check with Jo.”
“Roy…Just GO,” John growled in frustration.
Roy grinned as he left, throwing a wink at Jo as he kissed her goodbye. “See you in the morning…Don’t let him work too hard.”
“I won’t Honey.”
Roy pointed at Johnny warningly. “I’M GOIN,” he grumbled as he headed for his bedroom.
Roy chuckled as he called after his partner. “I’ll see you in the morning too.”
“Yeah…Yeah…” The door slammed shut blocking out any further tirade.
TO BE CONTINUED...Part 5 Abduction
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