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“Come on, Johnny. What do ya say … will you do it?” Roy asked as he looked over at his partner with a look that could best be described as, hopeful. He finished tucking his shirt tail into the waistband of his jeans before reaching into his locker for his wallet and car keys. It had been one of those rare Friday night shifts where the Paramedics had been blessed with a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, and they were now changing into the street clothes before heading home for the weekend. Roy continued to stand beside his locker looking expectantly at his best friend and partner of six years for several minutes. Finally, when no answer was forthcoming from Johnny, he decided to sweeten the pot.
“Joanne said she’ll have a big breakfast waiting for you at the house if you’ll say yes… eggs, bacon, hash browns….the works.”
The older medic leaned over and nudged his partner’s arm playfully as the dark haired man sat in his locker, seemingly ignoring him. It was the morning of October thirty-first and the fact that they hadn’t been called out a single time since nine o’clock the night before, had put both Paramedics in a good mood… that and the fact they wouldn’t have to deal with all the calls that usually came in on Halloween this year. Roy still mentally shuddered at the memory of having to work the Halloween shift the year before… it had been a madhouse and in the end they had barely gotten two hours sleep.
But this year they had gotten a break. They were going off shift and were not due back until Monday morning, and by then all the Halloween madness would be over. And everything would have been great if it hadn’t been for the phone call he had received from his wife Joanne fifteen minutes earlier. It was a phone call that had left him desperately needing his best friend’s help.
At the moment, John Gage had his feet propped up on the bench in front of his locker while he continued tying his shoe laces. He still hadn’t acknowledged his partner verbally, but that was about to change as Roy’s playful nudge against his arm caused the shoe lace to slip from between his fingers.
“Would you cut it out, Roy?” the younger man snarled at his partner in irritation. “I’m still thinking about it…just gimme a couple minutes will ya?” Roy fell silent and took a step back, watching as his partner grabbed up the lace and continued to tie his shoe.
Johnny finished with the first shoe and paused before shifting his attention to the other one, his brow knit in consternation. Sighing he glanced up at his partner. “You know, Pally, you could’ve given me a bit more notice instead of just springing this on me at the last minute.”
Roy grimaced. “I’m sorry about that,” he apologized. “But Joanne only called me a few minutes ago to tell about Keith’s accident last night … I didn’t get much warning myself.”
Johnny pulled the lace to tighten the bow on his sneaker and straightened his body so that he was now sitting upright inside his locker. Roy scanned his features looking for any hint of a decision. Johnny met his gaze and sighed heavily. Roy offered the younger man a hand as Johnny hoisted his body out of the locker. The dark haired medic reached around and grabbed his jacket from its hanger, using his free hand to push the door closed.
“I dunno, Roy,” Johnny hedged as he pulled his jacket on. “I mean I have to drop off my dirty uniforms at the dry cleaners before I pick up mine and Marcy’s costumes for the party tonight. Then I have to swing by her place so I can drop her costume off to her before she leaves for work.” Johnny glanced at his wrist watch and frowned. “… in just over an hour from now.”
“Not to mention the fact that I have to have the Rover over at Amos’s body shop for its annual tune-up. And if I want it back by four this afternoon, I have to have at his shop by ten at the latest. Plus, I still have a huge pile of laundry sitting in my bathroom hamper that’s waiting to be done.”
Johnny shook his head doubtfully. “I just don’t think I’m gonna have any time to spare with all of those things on my plate today… sorry man,” he explained apologetically.
Roy, not prepared to give up that easily, grabbed Johnny’s arm to prevent him from leaving the locker room.
“Look, how about this,” he offered desperately. “I’ll take your uniforms and drop them off at the cleaners along with mine while you go pick up your costumes for tonight’s party. Then you can drop Marcy’s off at her place, run home, grab your laundry and bring it to my place. I’ll follow you down to the auto body shop and then drive you back to my place… how about that?” Roy asked.
Johnny frowned as he shook his head. “I dunno… I’d still have all that laundry to get through… and I really have to get it done today because I am wearing my last pair of clean socks and boxers.”
Roy was quick to interject.
“Joanne can do your laundry while you help me with the garage… that way everything gets done. Please say yes, Junior… I’m really in a bind, here. I have to get the garage ready by six.” Roy pleaded.
Johnny paused to consider what his best friend had said. Seeing the desperation in his best friend’s eyes, he knew he was going to give in.
“Okay, okay,” he agreed with a smile. “You’ve got yourself a deal… but you gotta promise that we’ll be done before four … and that you’ll take me over to Amos’s to pick up the Rover when it’s ready,” Johnny declared.
Roy’s face flooded with relief as he gave Johnny’s back a conciliatory slap. “You got yourself a deal, Junior,” he said with a smile.
Johnny grinned back and began fishing for his car keys in the pocket of his jacket as the two men headed for the door that led into the kitchen. They were just about to push it open when it swung forward, narrowly missing Roy’s face. The Paramedics jumped back with shouts of indignation as Chet came into the locker room, the remains of a jelly filled doughnut in his hands.
Chet uttered a quick apology as he entered the locker room and headed over to change out of his uniform. He glanced over at Johnny and smirked. “So, Gage,” he asked. “Have you got your costume picked out for Dwyer’s party tonight?”
Chet’s mere presence in the room had put Johnny instantly on his guard. But when he heard the linesman’s question, his stance relaxed and a smug smile replaced the frown of a moment before. Both Roy and Chet knew that it could only mean one thing. That not only had Johnny picked out a costume, but he was obviously pleased with his choice.
“I sure have,” Johnny replied. The smugness in his voice matched the look on his face.
“In fact, Marcy and I went in two weeks ago and we were able to get our pick of the bunch. We reserved them for pick up today.”
Johnny glanced at his watch. “In fact, I’d better get going if I am going to go them and drop Marcy’s off before nine.” His gaze shifted over to Roy and added, “My dirty uniforms are in the Rover … I’ll just put them in your car before I leave,” he said as he attempted to exit the room.
Unfortunately for the two Paramedic’s, their curly headed crewmate was not done his inquisition of Johnny.
“So, Johnny,” Chet asked. “You never did say what you and Marcy are going as.” Chet then raised two fingers to his right temple and closed his eyes in an overly dramatic fashion. “No wait,” the linesman smiled maliciously. “Let me see if I can guess …ummm, I can see it in my mind…you and your date will be going as, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee?” Chet laughed as he opened his eyes. “I mean with your IQ, you would be absolutely perfect for the part of Tweedle Dum Gage,” he taunted.
Johnny scowled. “Well, for starters Chet; in order for you to be able to see anything in your mind…you have to actually have a mind in the first place,” Johnny retorted angrily.
Roy heaved a heavy sigh. Unless he could shut Chet up and usher Johnny out of the locker room, they would never get out of the Station in time for Johnny to get his costume and take it over to Marcy’s before she left. But it wasn’t to be as Johnny stepped further into the locker room, a dark look on his face.
“But for your information, Chet. Marcy and I are going as, Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere,” Johnny shot back.
The look of disappointment on Chet’s face chased the scowl off the younger medic’s face. It was quickly replaced with a sly grin as he said to the linesman: “In fact, it was Marcy who picked our costumes out. She said seeing as how as a firefighter, I fight fire breathing dragons on a daily basis, it was only fitting I go as a Knight in shining armour, so I could save my damsel in distress.”
“Shining armour,” Chet scoffed. “More than likely, the only thing she will need saving from, is you….the walking disaster magnet,” he taunted.
Johnny bristled at the comment and started to lean in closer towards Chet’s face. At this point Roy stepped forward and pulled Johnny back toward the door and away from his nemesis, cutting off any further remarks his partner had before they could leave his mouth and start a full-blown argument between the two men.
“Come on, Junior,” he said, pulling towards the door. “We’d better get going if you’re going to make it to the costume shop in time to get over to Marcy’s apartment before she leaves for work.”
Johnny allowed himself to be pulled back, but it was obvious he was still angry at Chet.
“I’ll tell you what,” Roy said in an effort to brighten Johnny’s mood and hopefully forestall any future rants that he could end up being subjected to for the rest of the day if Johnny remained angry at Chet.
“Since you’re being such a good sport about today, “I’ll get out some of those T-bone steaks you love and grill them up for lunch… how does that sound?” he asked.
Roy was relieved as the ploy seemed to work. Johnny’s face instantly brightened and he turned away from Chet. “Sounds like a deal that’s too good to pass up,” he answered, momentarily diverted from his anger.
Hearing Roy’s words to his pigeon now caused Chet to frown.
“Hey, DeSoto … how come he rates?” the linesman asked motioning to Johnny. “I mean what am I, chopped liver or something? You know I like steak too, but I don’t hear you inviting me over for lunch,” he protested.
Johnny looked over at Roy, grinning like the cat that’d just ate the canary.
“You know, Roy,” he said slyly. “That’s not a bad idea. With three of us working, I bet we could get the job done by two,” the younger man suggested.
Chet, realizing that he may have just opened up his mouth and signed himself up for an afternoon of work on his day off tried to backtrack, but Roy quickly cut him off at the pass.”
“You know, Junior, I think you’re right,” he said returning Johnny’s grin. “And this way I can just drop off our uniforms and go home. You can go get the costumes and go drop Marcy’s off. Chet can head over to your place and meet you there. You can grab your laundry and put it in the back of his van; then the two of you could head over to Amos’s garage. You’ll drop off the Rover and Chet could drive you both over to my place and be there by ten.”
Roy walked over and gave the curly headed firefighter a hearty backslap.
“Okay, Chet … you’re in,” he said triumphantly. Johnny stood by nodding enthusiastically, a look of victory on his face.
By now Chet was looking doubtful and it was obvious he was wishing he hadn’t butted into the conversation in the first place.
“Um, listen fellas, what did I just sign up for?” he asked nervously.
Johnny strolled over and put his arms around his crewmate’s shoulder.
It was at this point, that Roy took over. “The trouble is,” Roy said. “The other boy’s father had an accident late last night and ended up breaking his leg … and that left me,” he said raising his hand to his chest, “with no one to help me get the garage ready for the party tonight.”
Johnny was practically bouncing on his feet, his joy at seeing Chet get roped into working on his day off, clearly evident.
“Roy just spent the last ten minutes bribing me into going over to help him out because he was in a bind, and here you come along and actually volunteer,” Johnny finished gleefully.
Johnny removed his arm from the curly headed man’s shoulders and walked over to stand beside his partner. He looked back at Chet with a self-satisfied smirk. “You know, you should have held out for more than steaks, my tiny little friend,” Johnny gloated.
“Because I managed to get my laundry done for me, thrown in with the deal,” he sniggered.
By now Chet was searching for a way to get out of his predicament while still saving face.
“Look, Roy,” he started. “You know that I’d really like to help you out and all, but I have to go get my own costume from the shop this afternoon and I was hoping to maybe catch a nap first. Unlike you two,” Chet said pointing at the two Paramedics, “the Engine got called out twice through the night, and I’m really bushed.”
Roy was just about to let the Chet off the hook, but Johnny spoke up before he had a chance to get a word out.
“What’s the matter, Chet?” Johnny asked snidely. “What happened to all that Kelly stamina you keep bragging about…getting too old and out of shape for the job?” he teased.
Johnny knew Chet was a bit sensitive about the fact that he tended to put on weight easily. So neither Paramedic was surprised when Chet flared defensively at the comment. It wasn’t often Johnny got one over on the Phantom and Johnny wasn’t going to pass up the chance to needle Chet when the opportunity presented itself.
Now it was Chet who stepped forward and jabbed his finger into Johnny’s chest. “You think I can’t handle it, Gage?” he challenged. “You just watch me work your scrawny ass under the table without even breaking into a sweat.”
The curly headed man turned to Roy. “We’ll be there by ten, Roy… you just tell Joanne that I like my steaks medium-rare,” he said as he stalked over to his locker and began to change out of his uniform.
Johnny glanced over at his partner, with a self-satisfied smile on his face, while Roy merely rolled his eyes at the bickering between his two shift mates. He thought briefly about telling Chet to just go home and get his much needed sleep, but he really did need all the help he could get, and if the three of them finished early enough, he figured Chet would still have time to catch a couple hours of shut-eye before the party at Dwyer’s house that night.
“Come on, Roy,” Johnny urged. “We need to get a move on if I’m going to get to Marcy’s before nine… see ya in about forty five minutes at my place, Chet,” Johnny shouted over his shoulder as he disappeared into kitchen. Roy threw Chet a grateful smile and a quick murmured, “Thanks, Chet,” as he hurried through the doors after his partner.
Roy lifted up his can of beer, took a long swallow of the ice cold beverage and stood back to admire his work.
In the far corner of the garage Chet and Johnny were bickering over the placement of the fake coffin Johnny had constructed out of some old pieces of plywood he’d found hidden behind Roy’s workbench.
Up to this point everything had gone off without a hitch during the course of the day, and Roy’s garage had been effectively spookified to both Johnny and Chet’s satisfaction.
As promised, the two men had arrived shortly after ten that morning, and over a hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs and hash browns they had divvied up the work load. Roy, being the more stoic of the three men and having less imagination for the task at hand, had gladly turned the chore of decorating over to Chet and Johnny. Both men were tailor made for the undertaking, and they quickly got into the spirit of the affair with fervour. In fact Roy, on a couple of occasions, found himself having to reign in their enthusiasm when some of their ideas had begun to border on the grandiose.
Roy had been content to busy himself with putting up the strobe lights, setting the tables and chairs in place, and making a small dance area for the kids. He had also been put to work painting the coffin that Johnny had built; and It was that coffin that was currently at the center of debate between his two helpers.
“Back off Chet,” Johnny ordered. “I’m in charge of the coffin, vampires and skulls. You’re supposed to be doing cobwebs and spiders, grim reapers and the headless guy … and I say the coffin goes in the corner so no one gets hit when the door swings open.
Chet shook his head in annoyance. “Okay, Gage,” he said as he threw up his hands in surrender. “Have it your way. But I still say it should be in the center of the floor so it could be used as a table to hold all the food.”
“Chet,” Johnny said in exasperation. “If you put the coffin in the center of the floor, where are the kids supposed to dance? Besides, I think it looks better propped upright in the corner… it looks more menacing. Now help me lift it into place, will ya.”
Chet grinned evilly at the younger Paramedic. “What’s that, Gage?” he asked in mock surprise, raising his hand to cup his ear. “I thought you were the one solely in charge of the coffin…and now you want my help?”
Johnny scowled. “Just shut up and grab an end,” he said in irritation.
Roy stood back and grinned at their antics. He had to admit, Johnny and Chet had done a great job of the place. Johnny had even gone into the house and stolen the night lights out of the bathrooms, replacing their clear bulbs with red Christmas tree lights he’d found in a box in Roy’s work bench. After plugging the nightlights into the wall outlets in the garage, he had set both skulls over the top of the nightlights so that when the lights were turned on, the skull’s eyes glowed red. They had taken an hour long break at one to enjoy the grilled T-bones Roy had promised them, after which they put the finishing touches on their handiwork… which included setting up the coffin.
Once the coffin was finally situated to Johnny’s satisfaction, Roy’s crewmates came out of the garage to grab a beer for themselves. They were still standing their admiring their work when Joanne came out of the house and approached the men.
“Wow,” she exclaimed. You guys have done an amazing job,” she praised. Chris is going to love this.”
Roy grabbed his wife around the waist and pulled her in for a quick kiss. “Thanks honey,” he said. “How are things shaping up on your end?”
“Well,” she said as she began to mentally tick off the list inside her head, “I have two bowls of punch suitably coloured with red food colouring so they look like blood. I have cookies decorated to look like spiders, a cake made in the shape of a tombstone, marshmallow ghosts, and I have fake eyeball candies frozen into the ice cubes that will be floating in the punch bowls. Add onto that, eight bowls of assorted Halloween candy and several bags of potato chips, and I think I am all set,” she said triumphantly.
Roy nodded his approval. “What time is Chris coming home from basketball practice?” he asked as he tossed his empty beer can into the metal trash bin.
“Not until closer to seven,” Joanne replied. “Alex’s mother is taking Chris, Brendan, and Alex out for pizza in order to give us a bit of break before the party starts at seven,” she answered.
It was at that point that the neighbour’s big orange tom cat wandered into the garage area and rubbed its body up against Roy’s pant leg. Johnny, noticing the animal, stooped down in an attempt to stroke the cat’s soft orange fur. He quickly drew his hand back, when the cat arched its back and hissed at the dark haired man who had tried to touch him. Johnny could hear Chet guffaw behind his back.
“That’s the lady down the street’s cat,” Joanne said with a chuckle of her own. “His name is Chester and he’s not very receptive to being touched by people he doesn’t know.”
Roy glanced down at the cat derisively. “Useless animal… when he’s not teasing our dog, he just lays around on the neighborhood porches getting fatter and lazier with each day.”
Johnny scrutinized the back of his hand, checking for scratch marks as he scowled down at the cat. “Fat and lazy, huh?” he reflected. “It must go with the name,” he said looking over at Chet who was still snickering.
Roy walked over and grabbed a hold of his partner’s hand in an effort make sure that his partner hadn’t been scratched by Chester’s claws. Johnny rolled his eyes and pulled his hand out of Roy’s grasp.
“I’m fine,” he reassured his friend. “I got it out of the away before he could make contact.”
As she watched the interaction between her husband and his partner, Joanne suddenly remembered the reason she had come outside in the first place. “Oh, Johnny…. I almost forgot,” she started.
“Forgot what?” Johnny asked, his brows rose in question.
“The reason I came out here… it was to tell you that I got a call from Amos down at the auto shop a few minutes ago. He said your Rover is ready any time you want to pick it up, but he said to remind you that he is closing early tonight because of Halloween, so you have to be there before five.”
Johnny looked down at his watched and whistled. “Wow, it’s after three thirty already. I didn’t realize it was that late. He nudged Chet on the arm and pointed to the house.
“We’d better go get washed up and head out, Chet. Dwyer’s party starts at eight and I promised to pick Marcy up from work at six.”
Roy stepped up and put a hand on each man’s shoulder. “Okay, well thanks a lot for your help, guys. I really appreciate everything you’ve done here. I can handle putting the cloths on the table and setting up the last of the lights myself,” he said in appreciatively.
“No problem, Pally,” Johnny answered. “It was kinda fun, actually… besides it’s been a while since I enjoyed a good steak dinner,” he said winking at Joanne.
Joanne scruffed the back of the shaggy head and shoved the two men toward the house. “Come on in, and I’ll get you some soap and towels to use for your hands before I go,” she laughed.
“Go? Are you heading out somewhere, Jo?” Johnny asked as they walked up to the house. “Don’t tell me you’re leaving poor Roy to chaperone the party by himself?”
Joanne shook her head. “I wouldn’t do that to the man I love,” she joked. “I’m just going to drop Jenny off at her friend’s house because Chris doesn’t want his little sister hanging around him and his friends, pestering them during his party. So when Jenny’s friend, Dana, invited her over to her house for the evening, I said yes. She’s going over for supper and then Dana’s father is going to take them out trick or treating. Thankfully Halloween is on a Saturday this year, so the kids can sleep in the next day,” Joanne explained.
Johnny grinned. “That works out well for you and Roy,” he said. “It gives you a few hours to rest up before all the fracas begins.”
Joanne nodded in agreement. “Believe me,” she said. “We’re both going to need it.”
Their conversation was cut short by Jenny skipping out onto the porch holding a mermaid costume in her hands. “I’m all ready to head over to Dana’s house, Mommy,” she announced.
She turned to the two men standing next to her mother and held up her outfit. “Do you guys like my costume?” she asked.
“It’s perfect,” Johnny replied. “In fact I think it’s safe to say that you’re going to be the prettiest mermaid in the whole world tonight,” he said with authority.
“You sure are,” Chet agreed.
The little girl beamed at the compliments. “Daddy said you two were going to a party tonight too. What are you going to be, Uncle Johnny?” she asked.
“Well, Kiddo,” Johnny said squatting down so that he was at eye level with the child. “I am going to be a Knight in shining armour,” he informed her with a smile.
Jenny turned toward Chet. “What about you, Mr. Kelly? What are you going to be?”
Johnny paused, his brow furrowed as he turned to look at Chet. “Yeah, Mr. Kelly… you never did say what you were going as,” he quizzed.
Chet grinned as he looked down at the nine year old. “Well, in keeping with my alter ego. I’m going to the party dressed as the Phantom of the Opera,” he said with a sly look in Johnny’s direction.
Johnny grinned evilly. “The phantom of the Opera,” he said thoughtfully, stroking his chin with his hand. “Isn’t that the guy who had to kidnap a girl in order to get her to hang out with him?” he asked.
Chet opened his mouth, but was cut off by a warning look from Joanne. “Watch what you say,” she cautioned. “There’s a small child within earshot.”
Chet threw Johnny a dark look, but remained silent.
“Can you two hurry it up, I need to get Jenny over to the Duncan’s and Chet’s van is blocking me in,” Joanne said as she glanced at her watch with a frown.
“Right away, Jo.” Johnny said as he rose to his feet and hurried into the house. He and Chet quickly made their way into the bathroom to wash the grease and bits of paint off their hands.
“So, Chet,” Johnny asked as he lathered up his hands with soap. “Did you ever get that chick to agree to come to the party with you tonight… what was her name again?”
Chet smiled triumphantly. “Amy,” he said in awe. He paused and closed his eyes as if he was mentally picturing the woman. “The gorgeous Amy Keeling,” he reiterated. “And yes, she’s going to be my date for the night.”
“So, is going to be, Mrs. Phantom?” Johnny inquired.
Chet shifted uncomfortably on his feet. “Well, actually, Amy only found out yesterday afternoon that she was going to be able to get tonight off work. By the time she got to the costume rental place, the only thing left in her size, was the bride of Frankenstein,” Chet admitted.
Johnny face broke into a sly grin as he thought about all the retorts he could toss back at Chet. Chet, already anticipating Johnny’s reaction put up his hand in warning.
“One word, Gage…just one word and you’ll be walking over to Amos’s to pick up your Rover.”
Johnny held his hands up in surrender, but the smirk stayed on his face.
The two men finished up with their hand washing and made their way back onto the front porch of the DeSoto home, where Jenny stood waiting impatiently. She couldn’t stop fidgeting as she waited for Chet to move his van so Joanne could take her over to Dana’s house.
“Okay, I guess we’ll get out of here now,” Chet said as he and Johnny started down the front stairs.”
“Thanks again, for everything you did today,” Joanne said before turning to her daughter. “Jenny, grab your costume off the chair and get into the station wagon,” she instructed the child.
Jenny reached over to the rocking chair that sat on the porch, and started to make a grab for the costume, but her hand froze in mid-air and she turned back to face her mother.
“Mom!” she exclaimed. “We forgot to put Sammy out.”
“Sammy?” Chet asked. “Who’s Sammy? I thought your dog’s name was Ranger.”
“Sammy the Scarecrow,” Johnny interjected.
“Sorry, you lost me,” Chet answered.
“You see, Chet,” Johnny explained. “When Jenny was only two, she was terrified of Jack-o’-lanterns, so Roy took her out shopping to pick out a decoration that didn’t frighten her. They were driving past a local five and dime, when she saw Sammy sitting in the window.”
Johnny paused to wink down at the girl and give her nose a tweak. “Jenny, here went wild over it, so her daddy went into the store and bought it for her, and ever since then, Sammy has taken his traditional place of honour on the rocking chair every Halloween,” he finished.
Joanne’s eyes scanned the entire length of the porch as Johnny was filling Chet in on the history of Sammy. Seeing that the Scarecrow was nowhere to be found, she returned her gaze to Jenny.
“Daddy must have forgotten to get him from the Cline’s,” she said with a sigh. “You go on ahead to the car wait for me while I go tell your father to go get Sammy.”
“Okay mommy,” Jenny said. “But make sure daddy puts Sammy in the rocking chair… it won’t be Halloween if Sammy isn’t sitting in his chair when the kids show up for trick or treats,” she worried.
“What’s Sammy doing over at your neighbour’s house?” Johnny asked, somewhat confused. “I know I put him down in the basement last November when we put all the Halloween decorations away.”
“You did,” Joanne confirmed. “But do you remember when our basement flooded this past spring?” Joanne asked.
“Well, we moved as many of the boxes as we could into the garage while we waited for the basement to dry out, but there wasn’t enough room for everything, so Edwin and Myrna next door, offered to let us use that old bomb shelter they have in their back yard, to store our Christmas decorations in … Sammy got put in there as well.”
Joanne looked around, a somewhat harassed look on her face as she glanced worriedly at her watch.
“To tell you the truth, I had forgotten all about it, until Jenny mentioned Sammy.” Joanne heaved another heavy sigh. “Well, I guess I better go tell Roy to dig him out before it’s too late. Myrna told me yesterday that she and Edwin were heading away for a few days.” She looked over at the two firemen in front of her and grinned. “Now that he’s retired, Myrna says Edwin has no patience for all the Halloween hoopla, so they go visit his brother up in Redding for a few days every October thirty first. I only hope they haven’t already left,” she said worriedly.
Joanne glanced over, her eyes flooding with relief as she noticed the Cline’s car still sitting in their drive-way.
“Oh, good, they’re still there… I better go tell Roy to grab Sammy before they leave,” she said.
Johnny glanced over at his partner who was currently up on a ladder making some final adjustments to one of the strobe lights that was attached to the eaves of the garage.
“Don’t bother, Joanne,” Johnny told the pretty brunette.
“Don’t make him get down off the ladder when he is in the middle of something … I’ll just run over real quick and grab Sammy for you. I’ll leave him with Roy and he can set it in the chair when he is finished with the garage.
“Uh, Johnny?” Chet cautioned, holding his wrist up so Johnny could see the face of his watch.
“It’s twenty to four and I need to go and pick up my own costume after I drop you off at Amos’s, so if you’re not inside my van and ready to go in five minutes, I’m leaving without you,” he warned.
Joanne shot Chet a dour look at the thought of her plans being delayed any further.
“Don’t worry about that, Johnny,” she reassured the dark haired man. If Chet can’t wait for you, Roy will drive you over to get your car as soon as he is finished on the ladder.”
“Thanks, Jo,” Johnny said gratefully. “But it should only take me a minute or two … I’ll hurry. In the meantime, Chet why don’t you pull your van out onto the street so Joanne and Jenny can leave. Just wait for me by the curb.”
Johnny sighed in exasperation at Chet’s scowl. “Look, Chet. If I am not there in five minutes, just leave without me and I’ll get Roy to drop me off at Amos’s,” he said in annoyance.
“You’re a lifesaver, Johnny,” Joanne said giving him a peck on the cheek.
“That’s me,” Johnny grinned. “Your Knight in shining armor… I slay fire breathing dragons, rescue damsels in distress and retrieve wayward scarecrows from abandoned bomb shelters… and all for only small fee,” he said as he reached over to the bowl full of assorted miniature candy bars, and other treats that was sitting on a table on the front porch, in preparation for that nights’ visitors.
“I’ll just take a handful of these,” he said reaching in and grabbing a fistful of the goodies, “as payment for my services,” he said wiggling of his eyebrows.
“A bargain at half the price,” Joanne laughed, as Johnny shoved the treats into the breast pocket of his shirt. He leaned down and squeezed Jenny’s shoulders in a comforting gesture.
“I promise, Sweetie. Uncle Johnny will get Sammy and make sure your daddy puts him in his chair before it gets dark,” he promised.
Jenny reached up and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Thanks, Uncle Johnny,” she said before snatching up her costume and heading for the station wagon.
“Yes, thanks again, Johnny,” Joanne called back over her shoulder as she hurried after her daughter.
Johnny waved goodbye to the two DeSoto women before turning back to face the curly headed man who was still standing there with a scowl on his face.
“Five minutes, Gage,” Chet reminded his crewmate as he tapped the face of his wrist watch…”and then I’m outta here.”
“Fine,” Johnny answered as he made his way across the yard toward the Clines back yard.
Chet shook his head as he watched Johnny walk across the lawn, before he himself turned and strode impatiently to his van. By the time he had reached his vehicle, Joanne and Jenny were already buckled in the station wagon with the motor running.
“See ya later, Roy… and good luck with your party tonight,” Chet called out as he opened up the driver’s side door of his van and slid inside.
“Bye Guys … and thanks again,” Roy called out. Roy hadn’t bothered looking up from what he was doing as the two vehicles backed out of the driveway. If he had, he would have seen that Johnny was not in the van with Chet. But unfortunately for Johnny, he hadn’t, so Roy was completely unaware of the fact Johnny hadn’t left with Chet.
It was also unfortunate that unbeknownst to anyone but Roy and Edwin Cline, Roy had already remembered about the scarecrow and he had retrieved it from his neighbour earlier that morning … before his two helpers had arrived to help decorate the garage.
Roy had wanted to get Sammy before the Cline’s left for their trip because he did not want to be alone when he went inside the shelter to retrieve the scarecrow.
Earlier that spring when he and Edwin had been storing the boxes from the DeSoto’s flooded basement into the abandoned fallout shelter, the heavy metal door to the shelter had accidentally slammed shut behind Roy when he was still inside. Due to the rusting old locking mechanism, the door had jammed shut. Thankfully at the time, Roy hadn’t been alone. Edwin and his son Brent had been helping him move boxes, and the two of them had spent over twenty minutes prying the seized door open from the outside with a crowbar in order to get Roy out. Otherwise Roy would have been trapped inside the thing for who knows how long. He had advised Edwin at the time to remove the door and replace it with a plain wooden door, but as of yet, Edwin hadn’t gotten around to it.
But he had pad-locked the doors shut to prevent anyone, like Chris or Jenny, from coming over and going inside and getting themselves accidentally locked inside.
But all of these facts were unknown to Johnny, Joanne, Chet or more importantly, Edwin’s wife Myrna. It was also unfortunate that Roy had not informed his wife and daughter that Sammy was no longer in storage, but that he was currently set out of the way against the far side of the garage and about to be put in place, just as soon as Roy got off the ladder.
Roy had wanted to get to work on the garage as soon as possible so after retrieving Sammy from the Cline’s back yard, he had propped the scarecrow against the side of his garage that butted up against the wooden fence that divided the two properties… it was also out of plain view to anyone who did not already know it was there.
Meanwhile, Johnny had arrived at the Cline’s backyard. Bounding up the deck stairs two at a time, he opened up the screen door and knocked on the inner wooden door. Within a minute, Myrna Cline, a slight woman in her mid-sixties answered.
“Mr. Gage,” she said with a smile as she opened the door. “What brings you over here?”
“Hey, Mrs. Cline,” Johnny said, returning the woman’s smile with one of his own.
“Joanne asked me if I would run over here real quick and grab one of their Halloween decorations from inside your shelter back there,” he said pointing to the metal doors that were protruding out of the ground at the edge of their yard.
The old woman wiped her hands on her apron and stepped aside, allowing Johnny to enter through the back door.
“Certainly,” she answered. “You know it’s a good thing you came over now, because Ed and I are just on our way out of town for a few days. I was just making up some sandwiches for the trip. If you had been just a couple minutes later you would have been out of luck, because Edwin keeps the shelter padlocked these days. I guess he’s afraid that some of those hippies down the street will discover that the shelter is there and decide to use it as a place to party when we’re away on one of our trips. Just let me grab the key from the hook,” she said as she retreated into the pantry.
Johnny glanced at his watch and shifted impatiently as he waited for her to reappear with the key.
“You know, you and your husband are the only people I know that have their own private bomb shelter,” Johnny called out as he waited.
“It was here when we bought the house back in sixty-three,” Myrna called back from the deep pantry that was located at the top of her cellar stairs. “It was put in when the former owners built the place back in fifty-five. That was back when everyone was paranoid that Russia was going to drop the bomb on top of us.”
By this time Myrna had returned to the kitchen, key in hand. She held it out to Johnny.
“We used it as a root cellar for a few years, but nowadays we just use it for storage.”
Johnny took the key from the woman’s hand and thanked her.
The sound of a car horn honking out front caused Myrna to look back over her shoulders.
“Sounds like Edwin’s getting pretty impatient. Why don’t you just go and do what you need to do and then leave the key with Roy and Joanne when you’re finished. Edwin can get it back from them when we come home next week….just make sure you lock it up when you leave,” The older woman cautioned as she began to hurriedly pull her apron off.
“Okay, will do,” Johnny replied. “And have a safe…” he started to say as he stepped out onto the deck, but the woman had already closed the door before he could finish.
Johnny took the key in his hand and sauntered across the lawn to where the shelter was located at the back of the property. He put the key in the padlock and turned it until the locking mechanism popped open. He deposited the key in his back pocket and hooked the open padlock through the belt loop of his jeans.
The heavy metal door screeched and groaned as he swung it wide. Johnny pushed it open as far as possible before letting it go. He was about to step forward when he saw the door begin to move. He jumped back in surprise as it suddenly fell back and slammed closed again, barely missing his foot.
Cursing underneath his breath, Johnny looked around the back yard, searching for something he could use to prop the door open. As luck would have it, his eyes lit upon a two by four that was about four feet in length sitting underneath the Cline’s deck.
Johnny walked across the lawn and grabbed the piece of lumber. He carried it back over to the shelter and jammed the piece of wood solidly between the top step of the shelter entrance and the edge of the door. He tested it to make sure it wouldn’t slip out of place, before entering inside the shelter.
Once inside, it took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Even with the sun that was coming through the open door, it was still fairly dark. He gazed around inside and quickly spotted the pile of boxes that were clearly labeled in Joanne’s distinctive handwriting, indicating that they were full of Christmas decorations. Beyond that the only items he could see were a stack of old storm windows and an old tire rim. Mounted on one of the wall was an old hand cranked air blower that had been installed for ventilation back when the shelter had been built.
Johnny cautiously entered further inside the shelter and began to root around the boxes searching to the missing scarecrow. Finding the shelter too dark and crowded to move around in comfortably, Johnny removed the storm windows from the shelter making sure he didn’t dislodge the two by four, and carefully leaned the windows up against the fence.
He glanced down at his watch and grimaced. He had already been gone for more than five minutes and he knew Chet would be getting antsy. If he didn’t hurry and find Sammy, Chet was going to leave without him, and he would have to rely on Roy to take him to get the Rover. He paused for a moment to wipe the sweat off his brow before slowly making his way back to the shelter’s entrance.
During the time he had been setting the windows against the fence, Chester, the unfriendly feline, had wandered into the yard and parked himself on the top step of the shelter. Remembering how the cat had hissed at him earlier, Johnny gently nudged the cat aside with the toe of his boot.
“Shoo, you dumb cat,” he ordered. The cat glowered at him, but moved slightly to the side of the opening, allowing Johnny to slip back into the underground storage area.
Once he was back inside, Johnny began to shift aside some of the boxes so he could see what was behind them. Another five minutes of searching left Johnny shaking his head and grumbling over the fact that he was still unable to locate the scarecrow. He finally decided to admit defeat and simply explain to Roy that he hadn’t been able to find Sammy.
He had only started to restack the boxes so the storm windows would fit back inside the shelter, when he heard Chris and Jenny’s dog, Ranger barking; and judging by how close the barking sounded, Johnny guessed that Ranger had escaped from Roy’s yard and made it into the Clines. He looked up just in time to see Chester arch his back and hiss at the fast approaching dog before taking off from his perch on the top step of the shelter and run across the yard.
What happened next was like watching a scene play out in slow motion. Johnny could see what was about to happen, but he was powerless to prevent it. He tried to make a run for the opening, but he was slightly obstructed by the boxes of decorations at his feet.
Ranger, in hot pursuit of the cat, ran underneath the two by four that was propping open the door to the shelter, sending the piece of lumber toppling into the shelter where it connected with Johnny’s upturned head with a sickening thud. As Johnny fell to the floor senseless, the door of the shelter slammed shut trapping the unconscious Paramedic inside.
By this time, Chester the cat, had made it safely up a tree; and after a few more woofs, Ranger gave up tormenting the cat and made his way back into his own yard.
In the meantime Roy had finished adjusting the lighting and climbed back down the ladder. He grabbed his ladder and made his way to the side of the garage. As he replaced the ladder on the hooks he had installed on the side of the building, he caught sight of Sammy. Picking the scarecrow up, he made his way back into the house, pausing to set the scarecrow in his usual spot on the seat of the rocking chair that sat beside his front door.
Once he had set Sammy in place, he entered his house and made a beeline for the kitchen and where opened the fridge to grab a can of soda. Glancing inside, he frowned when he noticed that there were only three cans left. He knew that it would be nowhere near enough for Chris and his friends, so he hastily scribbled a note for Joanne explaining that he was making a quick grocery store run for a case of soda, and that he would be back shortly. He walked over to the sliders and made sure they were locked before grabbing his car keys off the hook and heading outside, locking the front door and pulling it shut behind him.
Out on the street, Chet sat inside his car fuming. Johnny had been gone for over twenty minutes and it was now past four. He was just about to get out and tell Roy that he was leaving without Johnny, when he saw Roy’s car pull out of the driveway and drive down the street, Sighing, Chet got out of his van and walked up the DeSoto’s walkway and onto the porch where he saw Sammy sitting on the chair looking at him with a silly grin. Chet called out Johnny’s name as he looked around for the dark haired man. He reached forward and tried the front door and found it locked.
“Geeze, Gage,” he grumbled. “You could have let me know, before you went off with Roy… see if I ever offer to give you a ride again. You just wait until I see you at the party tonight,” he groused as he made his way back to his van. Sliding into the driver’s seat, he slammed the door shut before putting the key in the ignition and driving off.
Less than a minute later, Joanne drove around the opposite corner and pulled into her driveway. Seeing Roy’s car missing, she assumed that it had taken Johnny longer than five minutes to find Sammy, and so Roy had ended up taking him to get his Rover.
Like Chet had done just a couple minutes earlier, Joanne made her way onto the front porch. She smiled as she saw Sammy sitting in his traditional spot. Using her key to open the door she stepped inside. She entered into the kitchen to make one last check to be sure that she had all the food ready for Chris’s party. She found Roy’s note on the table and smiled. As soon as he returned the two of them would have over two hours to themselves. A sly smile slid over her face as the beginnings of an idea started to form in the back of her mind.
Once she had finished her checklist and was satisfied everything was in order, she filled two glasses of wine and made her way upstairs to run a bath. She figured since she and Roy would have over two hours alone before Chris and his friends arrived home for the party, she would take the opportunity to have some special intimate time with her husband. Opportunities like this rarely came along with two children in the house.
Inside the bomb shelter-turned storage area, Johnny began to stir restlessly on the hard surface of the floor.
Consciousness returned slowly as his eyes cracked open and began to drift around aimlessly. He lay there for quite some time in stunned confusion as he pondered why the world around him was still black, even though his eyes were now fully open.
Slowly, the memory of what he had been doing that day filtered into his muddled thoughts. It only took a minute or so after that, for the recollection of the chase between Chester the cat and Roy’s dog Ranger to register in his mind. He also remembered the chunk of lumber that had come down and beaned him on the forehead.
He eased himself up cautiously into a sitting position and winced as he absentmindedly raised his hand and rubbed at the knot on his forehead that was located directly above his left eye. He could feel a sticky substance trailing down the left side of his face, and realized that the wood must have split open the skin.
He did a quick survey of the rest of his body and was relived to discover that other than his minor head injury, he was relatively unscathed.
Sighing heavily, the young man wearily began to feel his way around in an effort to try and find the stairs. He knew where he thought they should be, but the conk on his head and the slight confusion that resulted from it had him unsure of where they were exactly.
It was black as pitch inside the shelter and he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. He reached his hand out in trepidation as he began to feel around. Not that Johnny was afraid of spiders, but he still didn’t want to put his hand into a web and get it bitten for his trouble.
He hadn’t even fully extended his arm before his hand ran into one of the boxes he had been shifting back into place before his unfortunate accident.
Steeling his resolve and ignoring the headache that was beginning to build behind his eyes, Johnny pulled himself onto his knees and began to feel his way over to where he thought the stairs would be. Luckily his guess was right on the money and he quickly made his way to the top step. Lifting up both of his hands, he leaned against the metal door and shoved… but nothing happened.
He tried again, this time putting his shoulder into it and putting his entire weight behind the heave as he pushed on the doors with all his might. Again, the doors didn’t even budge.
Johnny gave a scream of frustration, and immediately regretted it, as the pain in his head made it feel like his entire skull was about to explode.
The Paramedic took a minute to settle himself down as the pain in his head began to make his stomach churn. After waiting almost five minutes, he leaned back against the top step until he was lying face up toward the doors. After making sure he wasn’t in any danger of slipping off the step, he cautiously raised both his legs, and braced his feet firmly against the door and pushed as hard as he could…but the doors still remained fast.
For the first time, Johnny suddenly realized that the doors were not going to budge… he was trapped inside the Cline’s bomb shelter. As the realization started to sink in, Johnny began to panic. Instinct began to take over as he took his feet and began to kick wildly at the doors, while screaming at the top of his lungs for help.
This time Johnny was sure his head had actually exploded…so much so that he reached up with his hands to make sure his head was still attached to his neck.
He mentally chided himself for losing control and yelling as he had. He knew there was no way in the world anyone who hear any cries for help he might make.
Slowly the medic made his way back down to the floor of the shelter, all the while cursing his fate. But most of all he was cursing the two animals that had caused all this trouble in the first place.
“Stupid cat,” he groused. “It figures it would be something named Chester that would get me into a mess like this.”
Wait a minute, he thought. Chet! Chet was supposed to be waiting for him at the curb.
He had known where Johnny was going. Surely when he didn’t show up, Chet would come looking for him. Crap, no… Chet had said if he hadn’t shown up in five minutes he was going to leave without him and let Roy drive him to get the Rover.
Shoot, he didn’t even know how long he’d been down here. How long had been out cold on the floor of the shelter? Johnny reached down to his wrist watch and pressed the button that illuminated the dial of his watch. It took a moment for his eyes to focus in on the analog dial. Probably have a minor concussion, Johnny mentally surmised.
Gradually the hands came into focus. They indicated that it was now ten to five. The only thing Johnny wasn’t sure of, was if it was a.m. or p.m.?
Naw… I wasn’t out for that long. It wasn’t that hard of a hit.
Johnny sat back on his backside and tried to figure out what he should do next. Suddenly he brightened as a new thought occurred to him. Joanne… when Joanne noticed that Sammy was still missing, surely she’ll send Roy to come and get him.
Now all he had to do, was sit back and wait for his best buddy to come and get Sammy, and the minute he opened the door, Johnny would be able to get out. Maybe even in time to for the party.
The party! Aww shit, It’s gonna be too late to get my Rover. Now, how am I going to go over and pick up Marcy?
Marcy! Double shit. If I don’t get out of here in time to make it to the party Marcy is going to kill me for standing her up.
It had taken him two months to talk the pretty dark haired nurse into being his date for Dwyer’s party, and now this had to happen. Why did these things always happen to him? Johnny sat bemoaning his fate for several more minutes. Finally he gave up any hope of saving his date with the pretty nurse.
Even if Roy does find me, I’m never going to make it to the party. He realized.
For one thing I don’t have a vehicle and for another, once Roy sees this head wound, he is going to whisk me off to Rampart. There is no doubt I have a minor concussion… at the very least. And if I remember correctly, Brackett is on call tonight, and there is no way he is going to let me out of the hospital without at least twelve hours observation… which means an overnight stay.
“Great…. Just bloody great,” he grumbled out loud.
Well, either way, hopefully Joanne would notice that Sammy was still missing soon and send Roy out to find him. At this point, with this monster headache and nausea, he would settle for a handful of aspirin and nice long nap.
Johnny leaned back against the pile of boxes and closed his eyes, intending to just rest for a moment in an attempt to alleviate the pounding in his head. But as soon as his eyes slid shut, his body’s need for rest took over and he was soon slumped over, dead to the world.
What Johnny didn’t know is that at that very moment, not only was Sammy happily sitting on the DeSoto porch, but both Roy and Joanne were currently lost in throes of passion. Needless to say, when Roy arrived home and found his wife waiting for him in the bath tub with a glass of wine; any thoughts of scarecrows, partners and parties were the furthest thing in either DeSoto’s minds.
Johnny had no idea how long he’d been out when he next opened his eyes. It was so dark inside the shelter, that he had no way of knowing if it was daytime or night. He grabbed hold of his watch and pressed the button that lit up the dial. This time, the hands said five minutes to nine. Again he had no idea if it was nine in the morning, or if it was it still Halloween night. Either way, it was obvious Roy wouldn’t be coming to save him tonight.
The young Paramedic did take note of a few facts that had changed since he was last awake. The first being that although he still had a headache, it had lessened in its severity and the nausea was gone completely.
The other thing he noticed was that the air inside the shelter no longer felt cool. As this last bit of information sank in, another thought occurred to Johnny… one he should have thought of before … one he probably would have considered earlier if his head hadn’t been so fuzzy from getting hit with the two by four. And that thought was, that regardless of the fact that his area was now used for storage, he was still sealed up inside a bomb shelter. That meant he needed to be thinking about ventilation.
He suddenly wondered if his current headache was indeed a remnant from the hit to his head, or was it a result of his breathing in his own exhaled carbon dioxide for over five hours…possibly more if it was morning. As a rescue man, he knew when people entered into underground shelters or basements or other similar situations like a mine cave in, that at first the air seemed cool. However, over time, without proper ventilation, the floors, walls and ceilings that had at first been cool, would gradually absorb human body heat, and when it had reached its capacity, it could become dangerously hot inside.
Thankfully, that was more of a scenario when shelters and basements were fully occupied with several people. Johnny being alone inside the shelter, knew it would take much longer for it to actually become that hot inside his current prison. But he knew it would slowly occur and already he was feeling warm.
It was then that Johnny recalled seeing the hand cranked air pump in the wall of the shelter. Dark or not, Johnny decided he was going to have to locate that pump and pray that it was still in working condition.
Slowly he rose to his feet, his movements felt sluggish, and his headache worsened as he stood. For a moment his head swam, and he grabbed hold of the stack of boxes in order to steady himself. Even with the steadying hand, Johnny was still feeling a bit shaky, so he gently lowered himself down onto one of the boxes.
Johnny was unsure if his lightheadedness was due to his probable concussion or from low blood sugar from lack of food. If it was nine in the morning, it would have meant he had gone several hours without any food.
As if on cue, (or perhaps it was his own mind reminding him he hadn’t eaten in quite some time,) his belly chose that moment to growl in protest.
Johnny remembered the handful of candy bars he had shoved inside the breast pocket of his shirt earlier that day… or yesterday, whichever was the case may be. He fished around inside the shirt pocket and withdrew the handful of candy. It was hard to tell in the dark just exactly what he had grabbed from the candy bowl. Holding his booty in one hand, he felt over their surfaces and was able to determine that he had grabbed five mini chocolate bars, although which kinds exactly would be a mystery until he actually ate them. In addition to the four candy bars, it felt like he also had grabbed a small package of licorice whips.
Johnny knew that if he did manage to find the hand cranked pump, that he would need as much energy as he could muster to turn the crank for any length of time.
Shoving the licorice whips and three of the mini bars back into his pocket, he carefully unwrapped the two remaining bars of chocolate and slowly took a bite from the first one. The first bar was full of nougat and peanuts, and felt sickeningly sweet in his mouth. The second one was some kind of wafer cookie covered in chocolate.
He wasn’t usually one for a lot of sweets, but right now he needed everything he could lay his hands on to get some energy for the task before him.
Johnny continued to sit on the box for several more minutes before he once again attempted to stand. This time he had much more success. Again, he was unsure if he had just needed a moment to regain some equilibrium or if he had needed the sugar rush.
Johnny closed his eyes and tried to picture in his mind, where it was exactly that he had seen the air pump. Once he had settled it in his mind, he slowly inched his feet forward, his arms extended as the felt along the wall of the shelter.
It didn’t take him very long before his hands ran into the crank of the side of the pump. He paused and with a mental prayer of supplication to the big Paramedic in the sky, Johnny grabbed the crank with both hands and tried to turn the wheel.
On his first try, there was barely any movement as years of dampness and lack of use had caused the crank to seize up. Johnny drew in a deep breath and braced himself against the wall as he took a firmer grasp on the crank and put everything he had into the effort.
This time he was rewarded as the wheel slowly began to loosen and turn. Now, that he had something to do with his time, Johnny felt a surge of renewed energy. He reached into the pocket of his shirt and pulled out the rest of his candy. He was going to expend a fair amount of energy as he turned the crank and he needed all the help he could get.
He quickly devoured the last of the candy and pushing his headache from his mind, he began to slowly and methodically turn the handle. It may have just been his imagination, but already the air inside the shelter seemed fresher.
After two hours of intimate alone time that afternoon, both Roy and Joanne had been in a very happy, relaxed mood by the time Chris and his friends had arrived home, shortly before seven. While Joanne had manned the front door, handing out candy to all the various ghosts and goblins that came calling; Roy had hovered near the garage, keeping a discreet eye on the group of twelve year olds who seemed to be having a great time at the party.
Joanne had shut off the porch light and gone inside around nine o’clock when Dana’s mother had dropped Jenny off. Roy waited outside in the garage with Chris as one by one, parents began showing up to pick up their sons, with the last of Chris’s guests leaving just before ten.
By the time he had checked the garage and secured the doors, Roy was more than ready to call it a night. Despite the fact that he had been snacking on goodies all night, Roy stopped off at the kitchen to make himself a snack, while he let Ranger out into the back yard to do his business one last time before bed. By the time ten thirty rolled around, the entire DeSoto household was in darkness as its occupants slept peacefully, completely unaware of the predicament Johnny was in, next door to them in their neighbour’s back yard.
Sunday morning was a casual affair for Roy and Joanne. They had decided to let the kids sleep in late after a full night of Halloween revelry. As Roy read the morning paper, and Joanne cleared away the breakfast dishes, a bleary eyed Jennifer shuffled into the room and plunked herself onto one of the chairs.
Joanne greeted her youngest child with a kiss on the top of her head and glass of orange juice.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” Joanne said “What do you want for breakfast today, eggs or cold cereal?”
“Scrambled eggs please, mommy,” he child replied sleepily.
“If there is any coffee left in the pot, I wouldn’t mind a refill, please,” Roy added holding out his cup.
“You know, I kind of thought maybe Johnny and his date would have stopped by last night to see the full effect of his handiwork and to show off his costume,” Joanne said as he refilled her husband’s cup. “I would have liked to have seen him all decked out as Sir Lancelot.”
Roy snorted. I would imagine he and Marcy found something more interesting to do with their time after the party … there was a lot of that going around yesterday,” Roy said suggestively, earning him a swat on the back of his head from Joanne.
Roy grabbed his cup and stood up as he continued to snicker. “Well, I guess I had better get outside and start putting the garage back in order. As soon as Chris gets up and has his breakfast, tell him to come outside and give me a hand.”
“Are you taking down the house decorations down today too?” Jenny asked disappointedly.
“No, honey,” Roy answered giving her head an affectionate pat. I think the pumpkin has a couple of days left in him before he is ready for the compost pile. And I can’t put Sammy away until the Cline’s get home on Tuesday anyway, so I guess he can stay where he is until then.”
“Thanks, daddy,” Jenny said happily. I wanted to light up the pumpkin again tonight so I could see what it looks like. It was already out when Dana’s mom brought me home last night.
The rest of the Sunday passed uneventfully for the Desoto family as they spent the afternoon putting the garage back in order so both cars could once again take up residence inside. As it had the night before, all the members of the house were in bed by ten o’clock that evening. Not only did Chris and Jenny have school the next day, but it was also the A shifts turn on duty at Station 51.
Back inside the bomb shelter everything had fallen silent as well. Johnny had spent most of Sunday intermittently taking turns between resting and turning the hand crank on the air pump. By the time six o’clock on the Sunday afternoon had rolled around, Johnny had had to give up all efforts on air pump entirely. Dehydration from lack of water had exacerbated his headache until it was almost more than he could bear. On top of that, the nausea had returned with a vengeance.
Eventually the ill Paramedic had lowered himself back down onto the floor of the shelter finally succumbing to exhaustion and dehydration; he let himself slowly drift off into oblivion.
Roy sat on the bench of the locker room and listened as Chet regaled everyone within earshot about what a wonderful time he and Amy had had at Dwyer’s party on Saturday night.
Roy glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was now within five minutes of roll call and there was still no sign of his partner.
“I wonder where Johnny is?” he mused out loud. “I half-expected to hear from him yesterday, but he never called. I phoned his place around supper time but there was no answer. I guess maybe he and Marcy had a really good time at the party, huh?” he said directing his question toward Chet.
“Search me,” Chet shrugged. I haven’t seen him since we finished up at your place on Saturday.”
“You mean he and Marcy never showed up at the party?” Roy asked worriedly.
Chet held out his hands in a placating gesture. “Calm down, Roy. I never said that. I simply said that I personally didn’t see him there. But that doesn’t mean anything. There were so many people who showed up, that I didn’t see a lot of the guys who were planning on being there. Besides,” he said with a sly smile. “With all due respect to Gage, my mind was kind of focused on Amy. I’m telling ya, Roy, now there is a chick that has a body that just doesn’t quit.”
The two men were interrupted as Captain Stanley sauntered into the room. Glancing around the locker room, his smile flipped into a frown.
“I don’t suppose Gage was thinking about gracing us with his presence this morning was he, Roy?” Hank asked sarcastically.
“I’m sure he’s on his way in, Cap. He probably just overslept … or got stuck in traffic,” Roy said as he tried to smooth things over for his partner.
“Or maybe he is too exhausted after his weekend with Marcy,” Chet said lewdly.
“Enough, Kelly,” Hank ordered, giving the linesman an over exaggerated eye roll and a shake of his head.
“I’ll go see if Bellingham can hang around until Gage gets here,” he said irately. “Oh, and Roy,” the peeved Captain said as he paused at the door. “Tell Gage I want to see him in my office the moment he gets here. In the meantime, you two head out to the bay. As soon as I talk to Bellingham, I’m going to do roll call.”
Roy stood up with a sigh. There was no way Johnny was going to escape latrine duty today, which meant Chet would be in full gloating mode. That in turn would mean that he was in for a long day of ranting from his partner once he arrived.
Roy was on his way to the bay for roll call, when he was almost bowled over by Bellingham coming through the kitchen door.
“Hey, Roy,” he greeted. “It looks like it’s going to be me and you until Johnny decides to show up. We’re going to have to make a supply run, right after roll call. Brice and I had a busy night last night.”
Roy stood nervously all during roll call, craning his head toward the kitchen every minute or so in the hopes of seeing Johnny come bounding through the door as he rushed to change for their shift. But it simply wasn’t to be.
After what seemed to be an interminably long time, Captain Stanley finally declared roll call over. Roy quietly turned to Bob and asked him to handle the equipment check with Rampart so he could slip out and call Johnny’s apartment.
He was just about to head into the dorm room where he could make the call in private, when the tones sounded sending the station out to their first call of the day. Roy groaned in frustration as he immediately changed direction and ran for the squad.
The call turned out to be a nothing more than a minor MVA, with only one patient requiring a trip to Rampart for a broken leg. Roy was quick to get the patient settled into treatment room two for Dr. Morton, and after making sure he would no longer be needed, he headed out to the main desk. He hoped Bob had already handed over a list of supplies they would need for the day. He wanted to get the supplies a quickly as possible, so he could get back to the station and find out what had kept his partner.
He was just about to round the corner and head for the desk, when the sound of an irate voice filled his ears. He recognized the voice immediately as belonging to the fair Marcy, the current object of Johnny’s affections and his date for the Halloween party.
“I want a word or two with that partner of yours, Roy,” she said angrily. Roy cringed and slowly turned around to see a very angry nurse standing there with her hands on her hips and fire in her eyes.
Roy wasn’t sure what the problem was, so he just stood there without uttering a sound while Marcy continued to glare at him.
“So, have the two of you been coming up with a good excuse for his standing me up on Saturday night? She asked accusingly. “You know I sat sweating on my couch for over two hours in that stupid Lady Guinevere costume before I finally took it off and went to a late night movie with my roommate,” she fumed.
Suddenly Roy had a sick feeling in his gut. He began to suspect that there was a more worrying reason for his partner’s absence than simply over sleeping. He knew after all the begging Johnny had had to do to get Marcy to even agree to go out with him, that there was no way on earth he would have stood her up… not unless he had been physically unable to pick her up.
Roy abruptly turned on his heel, leaving Marcy standing there as she continued to rant to whoever would listen.
“We gotta get back to the station now,” Roy said urgently as he approached Bob from behind. “I think Johnny may be in trouble somewhere.” He reached over and grabbed the now fully stocked drug box off the counter and began to jog towards the emergency exit, leaving Bellingham to scurry after him.
Roy no longer expected his partner to be waiting for him at the station. And all the way back to the station, he tapped his hand nervously on the steering wheel as he told at every red light he hit to, “hurry the hell up and change to green.”
He practically flew out of the squad and rushed into the kitchen where the rest of the crew sat waiting. He had no more than put his hand on the phone receiver with the intent to pick it up, when the instrument began to ring, momentarily startling him.
Roy picked up the receiver and held it to his ear. “Hello,” he asked impatiently. Didn’t the caller on the other end of the line realize that he needed to call Johnny’s landlord and see if his partner’s Rover was in its usual parking space?
His thought was cut short when the caller identified himself as Amos Frost, the owner of the auto shop. He was calling to find out when Johnny was going to show up and get the Rover from his lot.
Suddenly the sick feeling in Roy’s stomach grew. After hanging up the phone, the fair haired medic turned to face his Captain.
“Cap,” he said anxiously. “I think something is really wrong with Johnny. There was no answer at his apartment this morning and I just saw Marcy at Rampart and she told me Johnny never showed up for their date on Saturday. That was Amos on the phone,” he said nodding toward the payphone. “Apparently Johnny never picked up his Rover on Saturday either.”
Roy approached Chet and stood in front of him expectantly. “Just where, exactly, did you let Johnny off on Saturday when you took him to pick up his Rover, Chet?”
Now it was Chet’s turn to blanche. “Me?” he said raising his hand to his chest. “I thought you took him?”
Roy looked at the linesman as if he had just sprouted a second head.
“Why would I have taken him? The deal was, you were going to drop him off after the two of you left my place.”
Roy frowned at the curly headed man. “He was with you when you left my house, right? I mean I thought the two of you were together when you left my place.”
“Now just wait a minute, Roy,” Chet answered defensively. “I waited for Gage at the curb for over twenty minutes… and considering I only promised him and Joanne that I would wait for five, I think I was being pretty fair about it.”
Roy shook his head in confusion. “What do you mean, you promised Joanne… what are you talking about?” he asked his impatience growing by the second.
Chet sighed and stood up so that he was face to face with the Paramedic, by this time the rest of the crew had crowded in around the table.
“On Saturday, when Johnny and I were about to leave, your daughter got all upset about some scarecrow that was missing from your porch. So Joanne was going to tell you to go and get it from your neighbour garage, but Johnny offered to go get it so you wouldn’t have to get down off the ladder. Well, I told Johnny we were running late and that if he wasn’t ready in five minutes, I was going to leave without him. And your wife,” he said poking his finger into Roy’s chest, “told me not to worry, and that if Gage was any longer than five minutes, that you would take him to pick up his car.”
“Anyway, I pulled out of the driveway to let Joanne and Jenny out, and sat waiting on the curb for over twenty minutes, but Gage never came out. Finally I saw you pull out of your driveway in your car and go driving down the street. So I got out of my van and knocked on your front door….but the house was all locked up and no one was in sight, so I just assumed you had taken Johnny to get the Rover, so I left.”
“Damn it, Chet,” Roy said. “I already had Sammy, he was sitting out beside the garage. I just hadn’t put him up yet. And anyway he wasn’t in the Cline’s garage, he was stored in an old bomb shelter they have at the back of their property.”
Roy started toward the kitchen door. “Cap, can you call in a still alarm to my house? I think I know where Johnny is. That shelter has a faulty door, it tends to slam shut trapping whoever is inside. It happened to me last spring, only luckily I wasn’t alone and the owner and his son were able to get me out. The guy promised me he was going to get a new door put on the shelter, but he hasn’t done it yet… but he usually keeps it padlocked shut. I’m not sure what happened, but I do know my neighbour’s are out of town until tomorrow, and that means if Johnny got trapped inside the shelter, then he’s been in there for over two days without any food or water… I just hope there was a ventilation shaft,” he finished, his voice clearly distressed.”
By this time every man in the room was running for the bay while Hank called in a still alarm. In less than a minute, both the squad and the Engine where speeding down the street with sirens wailing as they rushed towards Roy’s house.
Roy sat next to Johnny’s bed watching as the I.V. slowly restored the fluids his partners body needed. He studied the sleeping man’s features as he sat in silence. The gash on Johnny’s forehead had been quite deep, and it was decided to give the cut a good cleaning so it could be stitched up, even though it was over a day old. Brackett said they would watch it closely for any signs of infection. Other than the gash and a moderate concussion, his partner had gotten off lightly compared to what it could have been.
Roy still shivered as he recalled seeing the image of his unconscious partner lying on the floor of the bomb shelter, dried blood stuck to the side of his face. For one sickening moment Roy had thought that his best friend was dead.
He was pulled from his thoughts, by the opening of the door behind him. He turned to see Chet entering into the room.
“Hey, Roy,” he whispered. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s doing good, Chet,” Roy answered. “Brackett says he should be able to go home in a day or so, and he should be back to work sometime next week. What are you doing here… is everyone all right?”
“Oh, sure,” Chet replied. “Cap got a chunk of glass caught in his hand on the last call, so Mike swung big red by the hospital so Cap could get his hand looked at, but it’s not too bad. He won’t even get taken off duty. He just sent me up here to say that if Johnny’s doing okay, then he wants you and Bellingham back at the station for supper.”
Roy nodded and slowly stood up. He had been grateful when Cap had said that he and Bob could stay on call from Rampart, after they had brought Johnny in, but he was sure Bellingham was getting tired of sitting in the doctor’s lounge drinking coffee.
The two men were just about to leave when a restless movement on the bed caught their attention. Roy returned to Johnny’s bedside and watched as his partner open his eyes and stared blearily around the room.
The ill man smiled weakly as he spied his two visitors. “Brackett told me you guys finally figured out where I was,” he croaked out.
“Yeah, well you weren’t exactly out in plain view,” Roy answered. Roy shifted nervously on his feet as he played with the handy talkie in his hands. “I’m really sorry that you got hurt helping me out, Johnny,” he finally said.
Johnny reached over and patted Roy’s hand. “It wasn’t your fault, Pally,” said sincerely. “In fact, the only one I blame for all of this is that stupid Chester.”
Chet’s face flushed and he began to protest. “What do you mean, you blame me, Gage? I wasn’t anywhere near you when it happened,” he said.
Johnny looked over questioningly at Chet for a moment before softly chuckling.
“The cat, Chet. I was talking about Chester the cat. It was him and Ranger that got into it and knocked over the chunk of lumber I was using to prop open the door. The two by four came down and hit me on the head and then the door slammed shut, trapping me inside.”
“So, that’s how it happened,” Roy said. “I was wondering how it happened. I promise you, Junior. The moment Edwin gets home tomorrow, he and I are going to take those doors off and replace them with some wooden doors that can be opened from the inside”
Johnny nodded his head and sighed contentedly as he settled in deeper into the bed, a face splitting yawn escaping from his lips. “Sounds good, Pally,” he said sleepily.
“Okay, Junior… we can take a hint. We’re gonna head on out and let you get some sleep. I’ll stop by after shift and see how …” Chet was poking Roy in the ribs causing him to stop speaking mid-sentence.
“What are you doing, Chet?” he asked, glaring at the curly headed man.
“You might as well shut up, Roy,” he said. “Your audience can’t hear you anymore,” he said pointing to the now, sleeping Johnny.
Roy glanced over and saw that what Chet was saying was true. Johnny had indeed fallen asleep.
“You know, Roy,” Chet said as the two of them stared down on their slumbering friend.
“When we first opened that door, I thought for a moment that we were too late,” Chet whispered, a slightly haunted look was still evident in his eyes.
“Yeah, well, you weren’t alone in thinking that,” Roy agreed. “I think we were all really worried.”
“Well, I sure was,” Chet admitted. “Just don’t ever tell Johnny I said that.”
Roy grinned and put his hand on the other man’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Chet… he’d never believe me anyway.”
Just then the HT in Roy’s hand came to life calling the station out to structure. The two men hurried out of the room and left Johnny alone in his bed, resting…recovering…so that very soon, the would-be Knight in shining armour would be ready once more to join his brothers in fighting another dragon.
Posted to Site 11/08/14
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