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One For The Money

Part 2

Two To Get Ready

An Emergency Story by

Alana
 

LINKS TO PART 1. 2. 3.

 

John Gage ran around the indoor track twice without stopping. This was the start of his third week off from work. After two miserable weeks, the ear infection had finally responded to the antibiotics and cleared up.

 

His white cell count had been in a good range when Kelly Brackett got the results of Monday’s blood test. He stopped running and was walking to cool down. He had another appointment with Kel on Monday, hopefully he would let him return to work on the next shift.

 

He was so busy thinking he didn’t notice Lee watching him, smiling at how good he looked. He did not see her cringe as he went over to the climbing wall. She knew he had to be able to do heights without any dizziness but it bothered her he was going to try it without anyone else in the room or so he thought. He looked at it but then turned away. When he did, he saw her sitting there. He jogged over to her.

 

“You looked good out there running.” She told him.

 

“You’re biased.” He leaned down and kissed her. “I know I need a shower.” She had crinkled her nose at him.

 

“You be careful about getting water in your ear and make sure you dry your hair well. You get sick again and Roy’ll have my hide.”

 

“He’d have to take me down first,” he said laughing. “Want to watch me climb the wall?”

 

“Sure. If you feel up to it then I’ll be your audience and cheering section.”

 

“I always count on you to be my cheering section.” He told her as he moved towards the wall. He looked at the rope and after taking a deep breath; he grabbed it and started up. Lee did not realize she had been holding her breath until she started coughing. Without thinking about it when he heard her, Johnny twisted around to check on her. She looked at him and nodded she was ok. With ease, he turned back, went to the top of the wall, and repelled back down. “How did I look?”

 

“Wonderful. Any dizziness?” She asked knowing he would be truthful.

 

“Not any and I wasn’t even out of breath. I am heading for the shower then I am taking you to lunch wherever you want. Love ya.”

 

She watched him jog off to the shower room then went out to the lobby. She was

looking over the bulletin board at the various classes they were offering and what they needed volunteers for when Johnny came out of the locker room.

 

“Is that hair good and dry? It’s chilly out there.”

 

“Yes it is and I used the ear plugs when I showered. I am doing what Kel told me. Now where are we eating? I’m starving.”

 

“We haven’t been to O’ Sheas’ for awhile. Johnny Pat is the baker there now as well at the Deli. Mick said he is a better baker than him or Sean.”

 

“Let’s go then. Maybe after lunch we can drop by the station.”

 

Johnny helped her in to the rover and they drove to the restaurant talking and laughing. Johnny had just gotten the ok to drive on Monday and the ok to lift her, within reason.

 

“You lost that 5 pounds you were worried about and then some,” he said as he lifted her into the chair. “Worrying about me.”

 

“No we just were eating healthy.” The dizziness had upset his stomach so it had been a lot of light soups and jello and sherbet. However, this last week he had been eating very well. Therefore, hopefully, the weight he lost would be picked up quickly.

 

The restaurant was busy but Lee and Johnny were quickly seated at the family table.

 

Several people in line made comments about their cutting in line but they chose to ignore them. Soon as they were seated, Shelia came over with a pitcher of soda and a basket of cheese straws. “We were beginning to think you had forgotten us.”

 

“Never.” Lee answered as Johnny squeezed her hand. “This is the first time in three weeks we have eaten out. I know what I want do you?”

 

“Yep, a double cheese burger, extra bacon and cheese, large order on onion straws, coleslaw and a chocolate shake. Told you, I am starving.


If you ladies will excuse me.” He left the table.

 

“Has he lost weight?” Shelia said as she watched him walk away. The usually tight fitting jeans were not as tight.

 

“He was so sick… he could hardly keep anything down I am sure it will be a long time before he wants to see broth or hear the word jello. I want fish and chips, a dark rye dinner roll and a large order of Cole slaw.”

 

“And since he couldn’t eat you didn’t?” Shelia looked at the thinned down face “How much did you lose? Why didn’t you call we would have brought you whatever you wanted if you didn’t feel up to cooking.”

 

“I couldn’t eat in front of him. It’s gonna be awhile before I make chicken noodle or beef and barley soup again. I did learn that lemon lime sherbet and 7 UP and ice blended together is pretty good.


And ice chips made from that are good in glasses of 7Up.”

 

Shelia took the order back to the kitchen. “Add two pieces of pecan pie with butter pecan ice cream to the order. And warm the pie before adding the ice cream.” She told the cook who was calling out the orders.

 

“We don’t have that on the menu today.”

 

“Mick has one Johnny Pat sent over for him. Use that. And give this ticket to Mick himself, tell him it’s special.” Shelia said as she went back out front.

 

Johnny made his way back to the table. Lee was writing in the notebook she kept in her purse as he sat down she looked up . He was frowning.

 

“Is there a problem?” Afraid he had gotten dizzy again.

 

“No, I just thought I saw someone I use to know.” He took a drink of soda. “Anywhere else you want to go besides the station?”

 

“No I think by the time we get done at the station I am going to be ready for a nap. I did 10 laps in the pool while you were running plus a bunch of my exercises. I would think you were tired too.”

 

“No, I’m fine. But then I don’t you to lie awake listening to me breath or keep reaching over to check if I have a temperature. Besides, for almost two weeks all I did was sleep. While you stayed awake and worried about me and took care of me. Very good care.”

 

“You needed to sleep and you need to be careful not to overdo now that you’re feeling better.”

 

“So, you two finally remembered the way here to visit your friends?” Mick said as he sat down the tray of food. “Lass, do you have a good excuse for ignoring us?”

 

“It was my fault, Mick. We couldn’t go anywhere ‘cause I couldn’t ride in the elevator without almost passing out. The only time we left the apartment was when I had to go to a doctor’s appointment. And we couldn’t have any company because they were afraid I’d pick up another bug. (Roy or Hector took them to the doctor appointments.) She couldn’t leave me alone.”

 

“I didn’t want to leave you alone, silly.” Nel would bring over work from the office and leave it in the hallway. Same for material from WBSF.

 

“Eat while its good and hot….and if you clean your plates, Uncle Mick has a treat for ya.” Saying that he went back to the kitchen.

 

“Want some fries?” She knew he did. They always shared. They ate and talked and were both thrilled when the server brought them the pie and ice cream.

 

“Ya know, Baby girl, I love your pies but I think this is the best ever…”

 

“Yep…Shelia had told me pies were Johnny Pat’s specialty.” She motioned the server over. “Would you fix a box of cupcakes for me…2 pineapple , 4 chocolate with peanut butter icing, 2 triple chocolate and 2 chocolate with mint icing. And a box with 2 butter pecan with caramel icing and 2 German chocolate. And ask Mick if I can buy a pint of caramel and a pint of hot fudge sauce.”

 

“We don’t sell our toppings.” Shelia saw the expression on the new server’s face as she was talking to the couple and went over to them.


“Lee, Johnny, everything ok? It’s Luci’s first day.”

 

“In that case, I’m glad Johnny behaved himself. Just a warning, he is a terrible tease but really lovable. Everything is wonderful as always except my Boyo here just told me he likes Johnny Pat’s pie better than mine. I was just ordering some cupcakes for the guys at 51 and some for us. Think Mick will sell me some ice cream topping?’

“Of course…let me guest, caramel and hot fudge. Luci go get her cupcakes and I will get the toppings. And give her 2 of the new lemon cup cakes and 2 of the apple caramel to try.”

 

After they left Luci went up to Shelia looking worried. “The couple that got the cupcakes and the topping? They didn‘t leave enough money. Do I have to pay the bill?”

 

“I‘m sorry child…I forgot to tell you. We never charge them for eating here.” (The no gift rule wasn’t being broken since they owned 10% of the restaurant, that was just something not many people knew. Lee had the lawyers check it out to make sure Johnny wasn’t going against Fire Department policy.) “Whatever they left you is your tip.”

 

They pull into the visitor’s parking space. Johnny smiled as he looked over at his home away from home as he got her wheelchair out of the rover. He had gone from someone without a home to having three.

 

 He had his apartment before meeting Roy and Jo but that was not a home. It was just the place he lived. Now, he had his home with Lee, the Desoto’s and this station. Lee watched the smile on his face and the glint in his eyes and felt so happy for him. He lifted her into the seat and gave her the box of cupcakes to hold and pushed her into the building. The kitchen was deserted but they could hear voices out in the bay. He motioned for her to be quiet and pushed her out to where he could see the guys as Cap put them thru some drills.

 

“Any chance I can have a do over on that ladder drill I flunked a few weeks ago?” He said standing there grinning.

 

“Hey, John, it’s good to see you pal.” Cap said looking pleased. “Lee.”

 

“Gage, she finally get tired of having you underfoot?” Chet called. “It’s about time you stopped loafing.”

Mike, Marco, and Gil added their greetings. Roy was watching Johnny’s face and the way he was moving about. Deciding other than being a little skinnier than he had been, he was looking good.

 

“Looking good, junior.” They had seen each other earlier in the week. When Johnny had been on “house arrest” as Johnny called it, they had talked on the phone.

 

“You should have seen him at the community center, he did two laps around the track then the climbing wall.”

 

“Then we went to O’Sheas’ …Softie over there brought you guys some cupcakes.

 

“Thought maybe you had missed her sending in treats.”

 

“Yeah Chet missed it so much he even tried to make a cake but we got a call before he could get it in the oven. After sitting out on the counter for 2 hours when he baked it was kind of like a pancake.” Marco teased his friend. “Mama said to tell you she wanted to bring you some,

 

“That sounds wonderful…and I might even share it with Lee.”

 

“HUMPF, you better if you are even going to get a smell of her wonderful flan.” Cap and Roy laughed at the expression on Johnny’s face. “She has tried to teach me to make it but mine never comes out as good as hers. And now he tells me someone makes a better pecan pie than I do. Think he is ready to trade me in for someone better?”

 

“There isn’t anyone better than you, for me.” Johnny said as he leaned on the back of her chair, his chin resting on her hair, his arms crossed in front of her.

 

“Yeah, no one else would put up with you and all your aches and pains.”Chet added.

 

Lee had an answer for that but she kept her mouth shut. Johnny was laughing and really happy for the first time in almost 3 weeks. She knew he loved her but she also knew how important it was for him to be part of this group. “Well, now I don’t know too many that would put up with me so I guess we make a perfect pair.”

 

“So when you coming back to work so you can get that do over on the ladder drill?” Cap asked. He had seen the look in Lee’s eyes when Chet had been teasing Johnny. She was not amused in the least.

 

“I see Dr. Brackett on Monday; hopefully I’ll be back on the next shift after I see him.” Johnny said as he stood up.

 

“Gil, I know you like chocolate so I got you 2 German chocolate cup cakes, think the rest of you can figure out which one I picked for you...John Roderick, I hate to break up your visit but I need to get on home and take care of some things. Cap, have Em call me about when we can get together. Mike, give Melissa and Mikey my love. You all need to come over to the house for a game night soon.”

 

As they were driving home, Lee was very quiet. She was tired and she really did have some work to do getting ready for the upcoming meeting.

 

“You aren’t letting what Chet said get to you, are you?” Johnny asked when they were home. “You were awful quiet on the ride home.”

 

“Any chance of getting one of your really good massages? The kind where you straddle me and lean all your weight on your arms and it goes really deep into the muscle?” They were in the bedroom.

“I think that could be arranged. Does it hurt or is it just tight?”

 

“A little of both,” she answered. “If you aren’t too tired.” He lifted her onto the bed

“Lay back.” He smiled as he moved her so he could slip the slacks down past her hips. She gave him a quizzical look when he chuckled.


“Where did you get the neon pink stripped knee socks?” Her slacks landed on the floor.

 

“The girls picked them out for me. I got them got neon pink stripped tights the last time we went shopping. It made them sad when I told them it’s really hard for me to wear tights. So when they saw the knee socks they insisted I buy them. Told me they would make my legs and feet happy. I don’t know about my feet but they are making you smile.”

 

“You make me smile, all of me.” He laughed as she blushed but the laughing stopped when his mouth found hers.


“~E! ~


Roy and Jo were having a second cup of coffee. The kids had finished their breakfast and been excused from the table. Roy yawned. “I don’t think I really went back to sleep after we were called out. We got back to the station about 5:30.”

 

“So how did Johnny look yesterday?” The kids had both had colds so even when Johnny was allowed visitors they had not went over. “I know Lee said he was finally eating and starting to look better.”

 

“He lost some weight but think she’ll soon have that back on him, Are you
Going to work for her?” Roy had been very surprised when Jo had told him of Lee’s job offer. After much discussion on the pros and cons, Roy had told Jo it was up to her what she decided. The hours were great, the idea interesting and the money would be nice. They could put it away for repairs, holidays and vacations. If it did not work out, she could quit knowing there would be no hard feelings.

 

“We’re going to try it. We are having lunch then going to our office. I have a desk and everything even if I am not going to use it.”

 

“Good for you. You’ll do a great job. And maybe when Johnny and I go to Montana you and Lee and the kids can do something special.”

 

“Has he told her yet you were going to Montana and she isn‘t?”

 

“No, I don’t think the subject has come up while he was sick. In addition, I think they both need some time before it comes up again.


She would not eat anything different from what she made him. Some days he could not eat much. He said just watching the spoon move made him dizzy.”

Roy shook his head. “Only Junior could get water in his ear and end up with a case of blood poisoning and vertigo. Lee had it right when she called him a walking incubator for bacteria.”

~E! ~!


Monday morning Johnny was up before the alarm. He tried to be quiet but Lee was awake as soon as he got out of bed. She laid there waiting for him to come out of the bathroom.

 

“Good morning. I think I should be upset you’re in such a hurry to find out if you’re not stuck hanging around with me anymore.”

 

“I’m in a hurry to spend time with you. How about I take you out to breakfast?”

 

“What a lovely idea…Any place special you have in mind?” She answered. She began doing her exercises.

 

“One of Mick’s corn beef hash omelets and biscuits?” Johnny said. “Or the hash with sunny side up eggs. I’d even let you dip your biscuit into some of the yolk.”

 

“What can I say I like the taste of the yolk but not the plain egg white?”

 

“That leg lift didn’t count, no cheating.” He gently pushed her leg down. “If you ate an egg like a normal person. I mean who ever heard of someone just eating the yolk then taking a bite of the white. You’re supposed to cut it and mix the two parts together.”

 

“Oh, who made you the official rule maker for eating eggs?” She giggled as he held her foot down. “Now who’s cheating? Besides, all this talk about food has made me hungry…and you can’t eat until after we see Kel in case he wants blood tests.”

 

“I am so sick of needles and being poked and prodded and probed.” Johnny said as he lay down beside her. “Bet you’re tired of listening to my aches and pains.”

 

“No, I hate seeing you sick and in pain…but never tired of you or being with you. I hate it when I feel like I can’t take care of you as good as I should.”

 

“The things you can do outnumber what you can’t….We agreed a long time ago we were gonna have a good time finding out all the things can do.”

 

When they got to the hospital Lee went up to her office while Johnny waited to see Kel. She checked the notes Nell had left her and left one for her. When she went down to the waiting room, he was in with Kel. Soon as she saw the smiles on both men, she knew they would be dropping off a return to work release to the station on the way to breakfast.

 

“He is going back to work Wednesday.” Kelly said as he handed Lee a stack of papers. I want him to continue on the iron supplements for another week, keep feeding him healthy and if he seems excessively tired, sluggish or pale bring him in. If he runs a temp over 100 I want to see him.” He turned to Johnny, “I want you to carry a set of swimmer’s ear plugs. Any water rescues use them if at all possible.”

 

“Thanks Doc, and thanks for not doing a blood test.”

 

Lee waited in the car when Johnny went into the station. There was a sub captain on shift who Lee had not met so she did not want to impose. Johnny went into the kitchen.

 

“Hey Gage, good to see you.” Dwyer said as he made a fresh pot of coffee. The others are out in the bay. The Cap is out there too.”

 

“What’s he like?” Johnny asked.

 

“Good so far. He just transferred from up north. He was just doing some drills to get to know us. Go on out. I figured Lee would be with you.”

 

“She’s waiting out in the car…” The two went out to the bay.


Captain Woods, this is John Gage, A shift’s paramedic.”

 

“I’ve heard a lot about you, Gage. Glad to meet you.” Tom Woods extended hand. “And your wife.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Captain.” Johnny shook the man’s hand. “I just saw Dr. Brackett and he signed my return to work release.” He gave it to the Captain with a large grin. “If Chet Kelly told you anything just believe about half of it.”

 

“Yeah I thought so when I heard some wild tale about you starting your own IV after getting bit by a rattle snake.”

 

“Yeah that was wild from what I remember of it. Not something I’d want to do again.”

 

“Hey, Cap, Gage here holds the station record for fastest time in getting suited up and for typing knots. And for the most time spent on sick leave.” Murphy said with a grin. “But then if I had a wife like Lee I’d gold brick too.” Tom Woods lost his smile at that. The fire department was no place for gold bricks or anyone who didn’t pull their weight.

 

Dwyer saw the change of expression. “Murph is just teasing Cap. Johnny never milks an injury. If anything, it is the opposite. Lee hears you bad mouthing him and this shift will never see another one of her care packages.”

 

“Yeah why didn’t you bring her to see us? We heard all about the cupcakes she brought to a shift.”

 

“Well, we haven’t been to breakfast yet. She’s out in the car waiting for me.”

 

“Bring her in if you have time. I would like to meet her. Hank said she might be able to help us find a place to live. Is she a real estate agent? He said he was going to arrange for my wife to meet her and his wife. Maybe get her involved with the auxiliary.”

 

“No, she works for the state but also has some connection with a real estate company. I’ll go get her.”

 

Johnny told her that the Cap wanted to meet her and they went back in to the station.

 

Johnny had also told her they were complaining about A shift getting cupcakes.

 

Tom Woods thought he did well hiding his surprise when Gage pushed the wheel chair into the bay.

 

“Capt. Woods, I’d like to meet my wife. Lee, the captain and his wife are looking for a place to live. And Hank thought that you and Em could help her meet some of the other wives and tell her about the auxiliary.”

 

“It would be a pleasure to help in any way I can. Now the Boyo is going back to work maybe I can get something done.” She smiled and shook the Captain’s hand.

 

“Johnny is treating me to breakfast at O’Sheas’. If you and your wife have not been there yet, you are missing a real treat. Just to give ya all a heads up…there will be an Information Committee board meeting next week so anything you can think of that we might be able to address…Please nothing that comes under the advisory committee. Any suggestions on a new name for the committee would be appreciated.” They all laughed, except Capt.Woods, knowing she had only given into Brice after making him look petty to end the argument before it got out of hand.

 

“Hey Gage, before you go will you show Capt. Woods how fast ya can tie this dang knot.” Murphy tossed him a length of rope, which Johnny easily caught.

 

“Ok, then I am going to take my lovely lady to breakfast before its lunch time.”

 

Cap got his stopwatch and said “Now.” He was impressed how quickly and effortlessly Gage tied the knot. “Good work. You made it look like a piece of cake.”

 

“Thanks, and speaking of cake…See ya all later.” He took the handles of her chair. “Ready Baby girl?”

 

“It was nice meeting you, Capt. Woods. You all have a good day and stay safe.” Lee said flashing them a smile and a wink.

 

Charlie laughed as they left the room. “Anyone want to bet we don’t get a box of cupcakes before the day is over?” No one would take that bet.

 

“How did he ever learn to do that knot so fast? Every time I see it looks faster and easier.” Murphy said with a smile.

 

“That’s just Johnny for you,” Charlie said. “Guess when you grow up on a reservation you have to learn stuff like that to survive.”

 

Lee and Johnny went to lunch and afterwards dropped a box of cupcakes off at the station before running the rest of their errands.

 

~E! ~

 

Johnny was awake before the alarm went off and laid there thinking about going to work. He felt Lee reach over and brush his hair back from his forehead. He should have known she would sense his being awake. “Good morning darlin’ Boyo. Hope you have a great first day back.”

 

“Thank you…the only drawback is not being with you.”

 

“But don’t you see, the time we are apart only makes the time we have together all the sweeter.” He had gotten up and after a quick kiss had, began helping her with the exercises. They were up early enough they grabbed a quick shower for two and she still had time to fix a nice breakfast. His duffle bag was packed and sitting next to the front door. He was not surprised to find a picnic basket sitting there also. Lee came out of the bedroom looking frustrated.

 

“You don’t have to wait on me. I know you’re anxious to get to work”

 

“No, I like going down with you and making sure you get started off safely. What are you looking for anyway?” She was frowning and chewing on her lip.

 

“I lost an earring. Oh well, I’ll find it tonight.” She took the simple gold stud out of her ear. “Just glad it wasn’t one of my special pairs.”

 

“You’ll find it.” He kissed her lightly. “Ready?”

 

“Yes.” She looked around to make sure she had everything. They left with Johnny checking the door was locked. He pushed her over to her car. Once she was in and the chair in the back he bent down and kissed her, It was a long deep kiss.

 

“You have a good day and don’t worry about me.” He told her giving her one of his wonderful crooked smiles.

 

“You have a good day and a safe one. Tell the guys I said hi.”

 

She pulled out and he watched her until she turned the corner before getting into his rover.

 

~E! ~

 

“Good morning, good morning, good morning.” Johnny cheerfully said as he placed the picnic basket on the table. “There is enough here for both shifts…But the juice is mine, ok?” It was a fortified orange juice that Lee had gotten for him at the health food store that Joe Early had recommended.

 

“What happen to the rule you bring it in you share?” Chet asked as he came into the kitchen. Chet was in a bad humor. He had gotten stopped on the way in for not having any brake lights and speeding. Then while changing clothes he had broke a shoestring.

 

“Look, Chet, if you want some fine. I’m not going to start the day arguing over a bottle of orange juice.” Johnny backed off, a little hurt at his friend’s attitude. The others just looked at Chet also surprised at his attitude. As the others from A shift came in they wondered about the tension they felt between Gage and Kelly.

 

Marco, Mike and Roy greeted John warmly welcoming him back. Cap slapped him on the back and said, “Good to have you back.”

 

“Thanks, it’s good to be back.” Johnny smiled all the tension going out of his face.

 

“Lee sent coffee cakes and sticky buns.”

 

“Roll call in five minutes.” He went into the office to catch up with the news from last shift. He took a sticky bun with him.

 

Roll call went well and since all were on time latrine duty went by the rotation, It was kind of a shock when Roy was given that chore. The rotation schedule for that particular chore wasn’t used often since the antics of Chet and Johnny seemed to be the deciding factor most shifts. Johnny had dorm and Chet had the bay, Marco was cooking and Mike the day room. After he finished his chores, Johnny went into the kitchen to get a glass of juice. Marco was making a pot of coffee.

 

“So, you feeling ok, Johnny?” Marco asked, concerned for his friend. “I would have visited more and Mama would have sent more food but a couple of the nieces and nephews had colds. And I didn’t want to risk bringing any germs.”

 

“I appreciate that. In addition, I know Lee did. She was pretty frazzled. I mean it scared her she couldn’t do much to help me when I fell.’ That had happen twice. She was really glad Hector and Maria were back from Denver.”

 

“How are their grand babies?” Marco knew his mother had been concerned for her friend and her grandbabies. “Mama has been lighting candles for them.”

“The whole family is doing fine. No more operations are needed on either baby.”

 

“Look, I’m not sure what Chet’s problem is today, but I do know he’s glad you’re back.”

 

“Chet and his moods, I don’t let them bother me anymore. He probably just got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.”

 

Just before lunch, Cap called everyone into the bay.“Ok, a few weeks ago we were doing ladder drills and you all did good except John. He asked me if he could have a do over…And under the circumstance I think he should be allowed one.”

 

Before they could begin the drill, the SCU sounded. Johnny let out a sigh as he slid into his seat. Roy looked over and echoed the sigh. Now he really was back at work.

 

The small building was home to a radio station that was part of local community college. It was located out away from the main part of the school. A group was standing out near the tower. The squad and engine pulled over close to the tower. As they got out of the squad, they could see the two boys up on the tower.

 

“What were they doing up there?” Cap asked the man who had came over to the engine.

 

“They were putting up a flag. The annual spirit week contest…Each department is encouraged to put up a flag or banner to represent their discipline. Those two are in the broadcast journalism program.”

 

“It looks like they are all tangled up in that rope and material. DeSoto, Gage, think you can get up there?”

 

“Wouldn’t do that. That tower is not made for climbing on. Those two fools have already bent it. They go up there it will give way. Maybe one of them could get up there without it falling.” The ground maintenance man said. “I told them it would be trouble if they climbed up there, they don’t listen.” He put a hand on the framework. "This is set in concrete but the ground around it is soft, it wasn’t dug deep enough. Said they wanted it to be able to sway in the wind so it would give…It’s gonna give alright, right out of the ground. Wouldn’t listen to me, had to have some fancy engineer tell them how to do it.” You could hear the bitterness in the old man’s voice.

 

 “I don’t have no fancy degree just 30 years of working on rigs and buildings.”

 

“Cap, let me go up there. I can untangle or cut that rope and get them down. Put a safety belt on them and let them down slow…Looks like they are just stuck not hurt.” Johnny said.

 

“You sure?” Roy did not want to challenge Johnny in front of strangers but he didn’t want him to do anything he wasn’t 100% ready to do. Not just for his safety but those, two kids up on the tower.

 

“If I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t have come back to work. That kid who thought he had something to prove or felt like had had nothing to lose is grown up. Now he has something to lose, a wife and a family he cares about a lot.” They were talking off from the others as Johnny put on the equipment he needed.

 

“Yeah, I guess you have.” Roy was always proud of his partner but never more so than after listening to that. The two went over to the tower. With the extra two belts and a coil of rope the over his shoulder.


Johnny started up the tower. The tower was swaying but he kept climbing forcing himself to concentrate. The higher he climbed the more confident he felt. There was no dizziness or shortness of breath…He felt fine. He reached the two teenagers. They both began talking at once.

 

“Hold on. I cannot understand all that chatter. Now, is either of you hurt?”

 

“I got a cut on my leg from the broken metal. Wayne there has asthma and is having trouble breathing if he moves around.”

 

Ok, I am going to help you get this belt on. Then after I tie off this rope and get you untangled I’ll take care of your friend.” He would have liked to taken the other boy first but the way they were positioned it wasn’t possible. Helping the boy get the belt on he had a chance to check out the cuit. It was about 3 inches long and had stopped bleeding. Easily getting his knife out of his pocket (he had moved it to his coat pocket before starting the climb) he began cutting the material and ropes. He soon had him free and helped him reposition so he could start the climb down.

 

Roy had everything set up when Chet and Marco walked the shaking boy over to him. The helped he sits down on the bench of a picnic table. “So, how you doing?”

 

“Your partner, he’s going to help Wayne, he was having trouble breathing…me , I just got this cut.” Roy took the vitals and listened as the boy, Clark Higgins, explained why they had went up on the tower. Roy cleaned the cut then putting a bandage on it. “We’ll take you into Rampart and let the doctors decide if they want to stitch that up.”


He got on the biophone.

 

“Rampart, this is Squad 51. How do you read?”

 

“Loud and clear, 51.” Dixie McCall answered.

 

“Rampart, we have 2 victims. The first is 19-year-old male. He has a three-inch cut that has been cleaned and bandaged. The cut was made by a piece of rusted metal. Vitals are…”

 

“51 bring him in. What about the second victim?” Dr. Joe Early responded.

 

“Second victim is still being brought down from a tower. According to his friend he was having difficulty breathing due to asthma.”

 

“We’ll be standing by 51.” Dr. Early replied.

 

They heard the ambulance as it pulled up beside the squad.

 

Johnny made his way up to Wayne and began talking to him as he made his assessment. The 18 year old was in a panic which was making it harder for him to breathe.


“Now, just calm down. We will have you in this belt and down in no time. Then we’ll get you to Rampart for a checkup.”

 

“I’m scared of heights Clark said this would be a good way to get over it.” In his struggle Wayne had gotten his foot and ankle really twisted in the rope and flag. “He was wrong.” The boy began to wheeze more.

 

“Do you have an inhaler with you?” Johnny saw the change in his coloring and the increased difficulty he was having breathing.

 

“In my coat pocket…Couldn’t let go to get it.” Johnny reached into the pocket and smiled as he held it up to the boy’s mouth. “Now breathe deep. I kind of like hiking in the mountains and high places don’t bother me…Now my wife, she says she isn’t afraid of heights just doesn’t like them…Found that out and teased her until she went on a ferris wheel with me.”

 

“So does she like heights any more now?”

 

“Nope. But she still says she isn’t afraid.” Wayne laughed at the expression on the paramedic’s face. As he was talking, he finished cutting thru the ropes and started on the material. The wind was picking up and there were rain clouds forming. Slowly Johnny got the material cut and untangled. “Ok, now we’re going down.”

 

“Not like Clark…I can’t do that.” He gripped the side of the tower even tighter. “The rope’ll break or slip…I can’t.”

 

“Ok, calm down, now. What if we are hooked together and go down together? I’ll be right there with you and everything will be ok.”

 

“Ok…you do this a lot?” Wayne was still scared.

 

“Yep. And from higher places than this.” His easy manner and friendly chatter had put the teenager at ease which helped his breathing. After rechecking all the ropes and belts the two made their way down the tower.

 

Once they were down Johnny walked Wayne over to the picnic table where Roy had set up. Vitals were taken and as a precaution it was decided the two boys would go into Rampart. Roy rode into the hospital with the two boys.

 

Johnny put the equipment away and was just about to start into Rampart when Cap went over to him.

 

“That was good work up there. And don’t worry about that ladder test, you just passed it.” Cap announced. “With flying colors.”

 

“Thanks Cap. Better, get over to Rampart and pick up Roy. It’s getting near lunch time.”

 

“Yeah, I want to get back to the station before this storm hits.”

 

Johnny went into Rampart whistling. He hadn’t realized it until he was driving how in the back of his mind he had been worried about climbing however, once started up that tower it had just seemed so right and natural.

 

Joe, Roy and Dixie were at the desk. Roy had gotten the supplies they had needed while waiting.”

 

“Good to see you back in uniform, Tiger.” Dixie said as the smiling paramedic joined them. “You made a real impression on Wayne Courtland.”

 

“He seemed like a nice kid. Just a little tense.” Johnny said shrugging it off.

 

“His parents were impressed when he told them how you talked to him and made him laugh to help him get his breathing under control. From what they told me, his asthma attacks are usually pretty severe and often have emotional triggers.” Joe told them

 

“So both boys are doing ok?”

 

“Yes, Clark hadn’t had a tetanus shot in awhile so we took care of that. Wayne’s getting a breathing treatment on advice from his family doctor.”


“Glad they are doing well. They seemed like nice kids.” Johnny said a smile suddenly spreading across his face. “”Hey there, beautiful.”

 

“Hi. Did not know you were here. Just brought this file down for Kel.”

 

“We were just about ready to go back to the station. Talk to you later.” He bent down and kissed her lightly. “You don’t worry too much, ok?”

 

“I won’t, luv ya Boyo.” Another kiss and they were gone. No one had noticed the couple watching him or her. Lee gave Dixie the file and started back to the elevators.

 

The couple who had been watching them got up and followed her. They hesitated for a minute then went into her office. The woman could not help but smile at the smiley face come in sign.

 

“May I help you?” Lee said as she looked up from the keyboard.

 

“We’d like to talk with you if you have a few minutes.”

 

“Of course, please have a seat. There is coffee or tea or soda over on the counter, please, helps you.” She had transferred back into her desk chair.

 

“No thank you.”

 

“Now, what can I do to help you?” She noticed them looking at the pictures she had on her desk. In a double silver frame was their favorite wedding picture and on the outside a picture of her and Johnny on a ferris wheel. “My husband is a firefighter/paramedic. When we were planning the wedding the only thing he asked was that the guys wear their dress uniforms not tuxes. Which he looks wonderful in.”

 

“You were a beautiful bride. The reason we came up to see you was to talk you about your husband. Our son told us how much he helped him. We would like to do something to show our appreciation.”

 

“That is very kind you. The best suggestion I can give you is to write a thank you note to them at Station 51. You could always send a copy to the HQ.”

 

“Our son is very smart when it comes to electronics…He is studying to be a recording engineer or to work in the control booth at a radio station. That is how he was caught up on that tower. Wayne does not have too many friends, Clark is about the only real friend he has.


Wayne gets shy and not very at ease with people. He was telling us how he felt like he had been friends with your husband forever. We just wanted to thank him and let him know how much we appreciate his kindness.”


“Wayne said your husband told him the story of your ferris wheel ride. Said it made him laugh and that after that he could breathe better.”

 

“That makes sense…the laughter would ease the tension and relax the muscles. And Johnny seems to think it’s very funny I don’t like heights. He has done that a few times when I had panic attacks.” She giggled. “But then I have given him and a few of our friends a few panic attacks.”

 

They talked awhile longer then they went downstairs so Lee could meet Wayne.

 

When Johnny and Roy got back to the station Mike was putting lunch on the table. The grilled cheese and ham sandwiches went well with the salad that Lee had sent in.

 

“Lee wants to know when you all want to come over for a game night.” Johnny said as he was finishing his second sandwich. “She has a lot of new recipes she wants to try out.”

 

“I’ll check with Emily. She was talking about how we had not had a get together in a while. She is going to call Lee, Jo and Melissa about having lunch with Tom Woods’ wife. They don’t know anyone down here except his mom and she isn’t in good health.”

 

“Is that what took you so long to get back, talking to your wife? I mean what gives you special privileges? You do not think the rules apply to you. You didn’t think maybe some of us were hungry and maybe were waiting on you to get back here?”

 

“What’s your problem? I saw her in the hallway at the hospital as we were leaving.

 

Cap, you can call over there and check. Dixie and Dr. Early were there. I said hi, gave her a quick kiss and we left.” He didn’t want Lee or Roy to get into trouble if Cap thought he had been goofing off.

 

“Calm down, John, I know you never take advantage of the situation. Especially if you think we are waiting on you.” Cap said as he glanced at Chet. “Chet, if you have a problem we can go into my office and talk about it.”

 

“I get stopped by CHP and while I’m getting 2 tickets, Gage goes flying by and has the nerve to honk his horn at me. Then he comes in here and you all act like he is some sort of long lost hero…Announces no one can have the orange juice in the fridge but him…” He looked around the room. “Then you all treat me like I’m the bad guy.” He was mad. He realized how petty he sounded and that didn’t help his mood.


“Kelly, if he passed you when you were stopped getting a ticket, how did you get here before him?” Roy asked quietly.

“Maybe he had to stop somewhere…” Chet answered grabbing at straws.

 

“I didn’t say no one couldn’t have the orange juice in the fridge. I said the orange juice in the basket was mine.” He said looking very confused. “Dr. Early wants me to drink that instead of ice tea or soda. It’s some kind of blend of orange juice and apricot juice and a bunch of added minerals and vitamins”

 

“I think Kelly was just taking bad mood out on you John,” Cap said. “But it’s over now. “Let’s get back to work.”

 

The rest of the shift was quiet. The squad had to make three more runs but they were all minor. Johnny talked with Lee before going to bed. He called her to reassure he had survived the day.

 

Lee and Johnny settled back into routine. They received a letter saying the fire department in Lame Deer had received the packet and had sent it over to the city’s law department.

 

~E! ~


The advisory board meeting was going well. (Lee and most of the ones on it still thought of it in those terms in spite of Brice’s objection). They had covered everything on the agenda in record time.

 

“Anyone have anything else they would like to bring for discussion or just share with the group?” Lee asked.

 

“Just a reminder in June there will be a Firefighter/Paramedic Skill challenge. Lee is on the planning committee as we are doing this in conjunction with the state as public awareness and education event.” Chief Houser said

 

“And I want it understood that before I agreed to that certain ground rules were laid down concerning my involvement. I am doing registration and nothing else.” She gave an icy stare to some committee members. “If there is nothing else, have a good day.”

 

As Johnny and Roy were fixing the care package for the station.


“You look tired Baby girl, is something wrong?” Johnny asked as she sat at the conference table making

 

“Nothing. Just trying to figure out what I am doing the rest of the day. I think after I type these notes I think I am going to go over to WBS and pick up the new grant requests. Did Jo send any more packets back today?”

 

“No the last ones were turned in last shift.” Jo would read the information, write down her comments then send them to Lee via Roy and John. It was working out well.

 

“Why don’t you just go home and rest? There isn’t anything that important is there?”

 

Johnny went over and put a hand on her forehead. “Sure you feel ok?”

 

“Yes dear heart. You tell the guys I said hi…and let me know how they like that ham salad.” After they left Lee let out a deep sigh of relief. Her head was splitting. She had gotten a call from the company that was casting the plaques for Lame Deer so she needed to go there. It was not in a neighborhood she was comfortable in by herself.

 

She was proud of her independence but she was not stupid or foolish enough not to be practical. She would have liked to get that done today so they could just stay home on Johnny’s days off. It had been two weeks since he returned to work but she still worried about him getting over tired. He had gained his weight back and the last hearing test had come back fine. She was the one having night mares about how sick he was, but only on the nights he was on shift.


She cleared up the few remaining plates and cups, closed down her computer and left a message on the answering machine for Nell.


On a whim, she called the Alvarez apartment.

 

“Hello.” Lee was surprised but happy to hear Hector’s voice.

 

“Hi, it’s your favorite pest. Asking for a favor as usual.” Lee said with giggle.

 

“Ah, I see, what would this favorite pest be wanting this time?” Hector teased back.

 

“I need to go over to the foundry and pick up the plaques for Johnny’s mom and dad.”

 

“And if you went into that part of town alone you would be in bad trouble with your husband, me and Maria and Cisco to name a few.”

 

“Yeah something like that.” She agreed.

 

“Maria and Louisa Lopez are at the church…You buy me some lunch and I’ll go with you.”

 

“You’ve gotta deal. I can meet you at the foundry or come pick you up.”

 

“I have a better idea…I’ll pick you up. They have had some car jackings over in that area. The mustang might be too tempting.”

 

“Good point. I will meet you down in ER. We can leave my car there.”


(Lee paid for the parking space as part of the rental agreement on the office.)


Lee was surprised when Hector pulled up to the door and Cisco got out of the truck.

 

He put her in the cab and the chair in the back with practiced ease.

 

“Dad told me where you were going so I decided to tag along. That ok with you?” Cisco said as they pulled out of the parking lot.

 

“I guess you can, you use to let me tag along with you. I know there were times you really didn’t want me to go with you but you seldom said no. And the bullies learned even when you weren’t around you’d always find out when they would try to scare me. I never learned who told you.”

 

“Bonnie Nathanson. She was scared of Bobby; he would be mean to her too. She figured if I beat him up enough times he would get the message. She walked out of that house the day her mom died and never went back. Not when the old man was sick or when he died or to the funeral. Bobby was killed in a gang fight in prison.”

 

Cisco looked out the side window. “He just liked being mean.” Cisco had arrested Bobby more than once when he was first on the force.

 

“So did his dad. Made him feel important to be a bullyboy. He never realized what a pathetic creature he really was.”

 

“Let’s change the subject please…Even talking about him gives me the creeps. I was so scared of him…. Use to walk the long way around to the library so I wouldn’t have to walk by their house.”

 

“I never knew you to be afraid of anything except heights.” Cisco teased.

 

“Don’t let him rile you; he was afraid of geese on his abuelo’s farm. Would run if he even heard them, especially the old gander.”

 

“Yeah I was what 6 years old when we moved here. That goose was almost bigger than me.”

 

“Speaking of running, when are you and Johnny going running? Think he is bored with running around the track while I swim. He can do five laps now without any problem. We went for a walk the other day and he said he was ready to go running on the trail you two do out near the canyon tower. The one he promised me he wouldn’t run alone.”

“Next time we have the same day off if you haven’t got plans for him we’ll go for a run.”

 

“That will be the plan for the day…Check your schedule and give him call. I am trying really hard not to be so clingy and so controlling of his time. When he was so sick, I was afraid to leave him. Afraid he would try to get up and fall, afraid, afraid of losing him…afraid he would get mad at me for being so clingy.”

 

They pulled into the foundry parking lot. Cisco and Hector both frowned. The lot was full of bikes and trucks and guys just hanging around talking and watching everyone.

 

 Lee didn’t say a word as she noticed Cisco reached into his jean pocket and pulled out a ponytail holder and pulled his long hair back, slipping the rubber band into place. She also knew that he besides the knife sheath hooked onto his belt there was most likely a small pistol in an ankle holster under the boot cut jeans with the split seam.

 

“You stay in the truck and keep the door locked.”

 

“I have to check that the plaques are ok, “she protested. “Before I pay the rest of the bill.”

 

“They want their money they’ll bring them out here for you to look at.”

 

“Tell them that Ben Oliver and WBS won’t be happy with them if I am not.”

 

“Why is it the only time you use your connection with Ben and WBS is when you want something for Johnny or other people?” Cisco asked trying not to laugh at her.

 

“Because that’s the only time it matters.” Her very matter of fact tone tickled Hector.

 

“Yeah like the guy you threatened last month when he told the old man here he had to wait two weeks for the parts for his tractor? After your call they were delivered in 6 hours.” Cisco said laughing as he got out of the truck.”

 

“I just told him that WBS couldn’t /wouldn’t do business with suppliers who couldn’t provide reasonable service. Those parts needed to be available in a timely manner.

 

And Alvarez and Sons are part of the WBS consortium.”

 

The two men walked away from the truck mumbling about bossy women.

 

The counter man looked up from the paper he was reading when the two men entered the office area. He went back to reading making a show of ignoring them until Cisco hit the bell on the counter.

 

“What’s your hurry? Can’t you see I’m reading?” The man growled.

 

“The lady in the truck needs to inspect the plaques you made for her. Then if she likes them we’ll have you load them in our truck.” Hector said pleasantly. “It’s a little inconvenient for her to come in here.” The office where you ordered the plaques was at a different location from the foundry.

 

“Well, you just tell her that it’s inconvenient for me to bring them out to her. What is she, some rich bi…?” Before he could finish the sentence, Hector had him by the collar twisting tightly. “Now, she is a lady who is very special to me and my son, to our family. You wouldn’t want us to think you are disrespecting her, now would you?”

 

“No,” the man barely squeaked out as Hector was cutting off his air supply.

 

“Let him explain to his boss why all of a sudden WBS finds another foundry to do their casting… and the related work…Just because he was too busy reading a racing form to walk this order out for Lee to check out. I mean just because Ben Oliver recommended this dump to do these pieces doesn’t mean this fellow needs to be inconvenienced.” Cisco’s slow Texas drawl was very pronounced and Hector knew his son was enjoying watching the wormy counterman sweat. “And Ms. Lee will give your boss a royal chewing out as she refuses to let her company do business with his again.

 

“That order, why didn’t you say so in the first place…We’ll have it right out.” The guy called back and very quickly the two plaques were brought out. Regardless of the jerk that had waited on them the plaques were beautiful. Ben had been right, this was the best place in the county for fine castings as well as the industrial work they did. Lee was thrilled with the workmanship.

 

They got back to the hospital and Cisco helped Lee out as his dad brought the wheelchair around.

 

“Thank you…I hate to admit I was afraid to go there by myself. I guess sometimes this chair is more than a hindrance than I want to admit.”

 

Not this time, I wouldn’t want Maria or any woman to go down around there by themselves. That one bunch was eyeing the truck until Cisco there flipped out that knife and casually cut a piece of rope, showing off flipping it and catching it,” Hector said with a wink.

 

“Like you didn’t make a show of moving the shotgun so they could see it? What if they had called your bluff?” Cisco knew it was broken beyond repair.

 

“Then you would have used your ankle gun,” Lee said and the two men laughed at her matter of fact tone. “Or I could have used the gun under the seat.” Both men knew she would have without second thought if needed.

 

~E~

 

Collin Sullivan, Steve Handly and Sean Carlton were having lunch at the local restaurant. It had been two weeks since they had received the packets from L.A. In addition, the town’s lawyer had just returned his to Collin.

 

“From what Jack (Coy, the town’s legal advisor) said this foundation is very well respected and so is Lee Gage. The people he talked with had only good things to say about the foundation, the company and her. I called the fire department’s headquarters and talked to a chief there who couldn’t praise John Gage and his partner enough. Said they were the excellent firefighters and paramedics as well as being good people. That booth wives were active in auxiliary and departmental charity events as well as the community.”

 

“So there isn’t any hidden agenda like Mitch thinks. He is convinced this is all some sort of con.” Sean Carlton said. “Mitch Sherman and that bunch are throw backs.

 

They would be perfectly happy sitting on the veranda drinking mint juleps served by a house slave. In addition, they would not care if that slave had red or black skin. Any white who isn’t acceptable to them isn’t much better.” He laughed. “Me and Steve are just shanty Irish to them but it looks good for them to accept us in their social circle.

 

~E! ~

 

As Roy and Johnny were on their way to Rampart, Johnny listened as Roy told him about the Jenny’s first soccer practice with Cami and Stacy. Cisco was the official coach but Hector and his brother Eddie were his assistants.

 

“And then this giant purple people eater with a horn in his head began playing Jingle Bells.” Roy said deathly serious.

 

“Yeah that sounds like the girls had fun.” Johnny answered as Roy sat silent waiting for a comment. He turned back to the side window looking at the passing scenery but not really seeing it.

 

“Ok…” Looking sideways at his partner while they were stopped at a traffic light. “Are you gonna tell me why you aren’t listening to my story? Usually anything about your Princess holds your attention.”

 

“Sorry. Lee was asking about when we were going to plan our spring fishing trip now that the weather is getting better.”

 

“What did you tell her?” Roy knew Johnny could not lie to her. He had hard enough time keeping birthday and Christmas presents a secret from her.

 

“That we hadn’t talked about a fishing trip yet. There has to be…I mean there is gotta be …Maybe … we…should…just send the money and plaques and trust they put them up.”

 

“No, that would just drive you crazy worrying about it and that would make it worst for her. You have to tell her.”

 

~E! ~

 

Lee was typing when the door opened and man she did not know walked in. She looked up and smiled. “Hi. May I help you?”

 

“I hope so; I’m looking for Lee Gage. My name is Steven Handly.”

 

“Doctor, please have a seat. This is a surprise.” She looked at him surprised he was there but trying to be fair. Looking at him it was harder to dislike him. The eyes and smile were friendly not the cold monster she had pictured him.

 

“If you have a few minutes, I’d like to talk with you about the grants you and your husband are giving to Lame Deer.”

 

“I see.” The tone was not exactly friendly but there was not the iciness


There had been earlier in their phone conversation. “Checking t sees if we really are giving you the money and if we really do have it. Please, have a seat.”

 

“That is a lot of money to giveaway. Especially to people you don’t like.”

 

“It makes no difference if I like or don‘t like those people. . . What matters is that this is something Johnny wants and is important to him.” She let out a sigh. “What matters is that Johnny loved his parents and this is his way of showing that he is proud to be their son. He is not giving you these grants to show off. He is giving the grants because he believes in helping people and doing whatever he can to make life better for everyone, friend, foe or stranger. That’s why he and his friends risk their lives every day so others can have a safer better life. When he told me what he wanted to do I was surprised. I honestly thought he was going to give the money to the L.A. County Fire Department’s charities or Rampart Hospital. In addition, you know what his reasoning was for not? Because they have other people to help them but who is gonna help Lame Deer? Not too many people outside of Montana even know it exists, So who will help them if he doesn’t is where his heart and mind lead him. Who am I to argue with his logic or his heart? Especially when it’s such a loving and kind and gentle heart?”


Lee looked at the doctor who was looking at the pictures of Johnny on her desk. “So there is the reason why the town is getting the grants. In addition, he has his own reasons for wanting to go back there to see the plaques are put up. And for some reason he is determined I am not going with him.” The sarcasm was hard to miss in her voice.

 

“Mrs. Gage, you may not like what I am going to say. I think it would be a very bad idea for you to go there…either one of you. I can understand why John would want to protect you from that rough environment. It can be a very physically demanding environment.”

 

“Johnny knows that I am not a china doll.” She said with just a hint of laughter in her voice. “Although I have been accused of it, it is no way near accurate.”

 

“Really? I would have guessed the most physically demanding thing you do is play a hard game of tennis.” As soon as he saw the expression on her face, he knew he had said the wrong thing for some reason.

 

“Sorry, swimming is more my style, haven’t played a game of tennis since I was 15. Is there any other questions?”

 

“Just why the WBS Foundation is willing to give this amount of money to us?”

 

“Maybe because William Bishop Spencer was my grandfather or because Marine Col. William Bishop Spencer, Jr. was my father or because it is something that I want to do for the person I love most in the world. Johnny works long and hard to be the best possible paramedic he can be. He does not have to work at being a loving and caring human being. That comes naturally to him.” There was no mistaking the love and pride behind her words. “Oh, by the way, most of our friends don’t know who my grandfather was. They know I have a trust fund, not just how much was in it.” She giggled. “In fact they think I spent it all on the wedding.” Steve was amazed at how her whole appearance changed when she giggled. Alternatively, was it just she relaxed or because she was talking about John and the wedding. “Any more questions?”

 

“Tell me about John and his work. The paramedic program will be starting in Montana soon.”

 

“Ok, but would you like a soda or some coffee? There is plenty of both and snacks…I keep them for the guys when they miss a meal or are just hungry.”

 

Steve got up more out of curiosity than really wanting anything. “Can I get you anything?”

 

“A Dr. Pepper would be great, thanks.” He brought the sodas over and set them down.

 

“You know, I need to apologize to you. I was taking my frustration out on you when we talked on the phone before. And you weren’t even there when Johnny lived in Lame Deer.”

 

“No and from what I have heard it was difficult to do more than offer a safe place for him to go for a little while…There were people that wanted to help…It was complicated.”

 

They talked for over an hour. Steve laughed at some of the stories and shook his head in amazement at others. Lee was explaining about how the guys worked together and about the uphill battle it had been to get some of the doctors to accept the paramedic program. “I can send some information to you from the survey that the state did. It was because of an advisory committee I chair that I met Johnny. It’s too bad you don’t have time to do a ride along with the guys. But maybe Kelly Brackett could spare some time to talk with you.”

 

“That would be very helpful.”

 

The door opened and two hot, dirty paramedics came into the room. Johnny automatically went over to her and kissed her. “Hi Baby girl.”


It was only when he heard his partner‘s chuckle did he realize someone else was in the room. Johnny looked up and shrugged. “Hi.”

 

“You get use to that…He has tunnel vision when she is in the room.”

 

“I get the feeling it’s mutual. Steve Handly. I would assume you are Roy De Soto. We have been talking about the paramedic program and how well you work together.”

 

“Junior, we need to get back to the station. So grab some juice and let’s go. If we’re lucky we might get a chance to clean up before the next call and get some hose hung.”

 

“Yeah ok…sorry to interrupt your meeting.” It had not registered who Steve was at first. “Dr. Handly from Lame Deer?” He did a classic Gage double take. He shook hands with the doctor.

 

“Yes and we are going to be doing some serious talking with Kel how the paramedics work with hospital personnel. And depending on the schedule we may make it over to the station…But you be careful up on the tower, ok? Grab my chair please. Nell put it over by the file cabinet Johnny got the chair and held it steady while she transferred into it. “Thank you sir. Now, get a couple of bottles of your juice and go. I have worked to do even if you do not. Do we need to go to the health food store tomorrow?” She had gathered up some papers to take with her. Come on and walk with us…” Johnny had grabbed three bottles of juice and a soda for Roy.

 

Seeing the look on Dr. Handly face Roy chuckled. “She didn’t tell you, did she?”

 

“No now I understand her reaction when I said I thought she was probably a tennis player.” Roy could see the doctor felt bad” Don’t feel bad, Johnny asked her to go dancing on their first date.”

 

“How did she react to that?”

 

“Threatened to have security throw him out of the office. Come on lets go Romeo.”

 

They talked about the program in general terms as they rode down the elevator. They reached the ER desk. Lee handed the bottles back to him “Stay safe all of you. Luv ya.”

“Love you, see you in the morning.” He kissed her not caring if the whole world was watching. “Nice meeting you, Dr. Handly. Maybe we’ll see each other again soon.”

 

After they left Lee introduced Kel and Dixie to Dr. Handly. “Ok, you all play nice. I have some inner hospital errands to run.”

 

“You mean you’re going up to read to the kids. I just saw Jennifer from pediatrics.

 

The kids are excited.”

 

“Hey they like me. Almost as much as when my Boyo visits them…Steve if I’m not in my office when you’re done have someone page me. Lois or anyone in the office across from mine will do it for you.” She smiled and left the three standing there.

 

Kel showed Steve the base station and explained the system for keeping track of the various units. Steve had lots of questions and they tried to answer them. After about 30 minutes, the radio signaled an incoming call. They went over to the base.

 

“Rampart. This is Squad 51, how do you read?” Kel recognized Mike Stoker’s voice.

 

“Loud and clear 51.”

 

“Rampart, Gage has a victim male age approximate 20 years who has a severe cut on his left arm due to a single car accident. He is requesting permission to start an IV…Vitals are…”

 

“Establish IV and transport as soon as possible once the cut is bandaged.” Brackett ordered.

 

“Sorry Rampart due to circumstances unable to transport in a timely manner.”

 

“What kind of circumstances 51?” Kel was worried about the concern in Mike’s voice. Stoker was not rattled easily.

 

“The truck the victim is in is carrying explosives and there is a man with a missile launcher aimed at the truck. Says he will kill anyone who attempts to rescue the driver. Gage is with the driver.

 

“Can he treat the victim?”

 

“Affirmative Rampart. He was able to reach the victim with drug box and trauma equipment without being seen before the demands were made… However, he is pinned down now. We don’t think the gunman knows there is a paramedic with the crash victim.”

 

“51, where is DeSoto”

 

“He is treating a wounded CHP officer …Squad 36 is here also and he is assisting them with several victims. Their biophone is not working due to a bullet.”

 

“Keep us informed 51.”

 

Dixie came back to the base. “Kel, they have the news crew out there.”

 

“Should someone let Lee know what is happening?” Steve Handly asked as they gathered around the television for a minute.

 

“No…they have a rule…she doesn’t watch any news footage of him unless they are together. In addition, no one tells her anything about it until he is safe or in here for treatment. They decided that after she watched him on a high-rise rescue…She does not want him worrying about her while he is working. And if she doesn’t know he is involved in situations like this she doesn’t worry more than usual.”

 

“They make an interesting pair.” Steve said with a nervous laugh.

 

“That is an understatement.” Dixie said as she walked away from the TV and went back to her paperwork.

 

~E! ~


Earlier as they were driving back to the station:

 

“You’re awfully quiet. Because that doctor from Lame Deer was at the hospital?”

“I don’t want Lee going to Lame Deer and I don’t want her to hear about what it’s like living on the reservation. I do not think she would have invite Dr. Handly to L.A. without telling me. Do you?”

 

“No the only secrets she keeps from you are presents and good stuff. You two don’t do serious well, remember?” Johnny had told that to Roy during one of his recuperations. “I don’t think she did invite him.”

 

“Yeah but we both have things in the past that we want to stay there.” Johnny said with a look that let Roy know the conversation was uncomfortable for his partner.

 

“Lee grew up in a family that was held together by love and respect. Mine was held together by distrust, dislike, and the feeling of being forced on each other. I just do not see any need for her to be in that kind of situation. Besides I don’t imagine Lame Deer is that entire wheelchair friendly.”

Johnny turned towards the window, looking out at the passing scenery.

“That first big fight we had about Lame Deer…she said it was the first time I ever saw her as her wheelchair not her. That hurt her bad, you could see it in her eyes and her whole body just kind of went limp.” Turning back towards Roy, very softly. “And the worst part was she was right. I was thinking about that wheelchair, not about her feelings or her.”

 

“Naw, I’d say you were thinking of her comfort and safety. If you really don’t want her to go you have to make her understand why. Even if it means telling her about things that you don’t want to remember.”

 

They were almost back to the station when they were called out on a traffic accident. They reached the accident before the engine. Johnny grabbed the trauma and drug boxes. He made his way over to the overturned truck. He stopped when he saw the sign on the truck.


“Roy call dispatch this thing is full of explosives.” He put the boxes down and made his way towards the passenger door. The driver’s side of the truck was crushed against a concrete bridge support.

 

Roy turned back to the squad and keyed the mic. “L.A. dispatch this is Squad 51. The truck’s cargo is some type of explosive. This appears to be a military truck.”

 

“The bomb squad bomb squad has been alerted, 51.” As the engine pulled up Roy motioned for the fire crew to stay back. He returned the mic to its proper place and trotted over to cap.

 

“There a problem?’’ Hank asked.

 

“That truck is loaded with some kind of explosive…Johnny saw the markings when he got over there…Dispatch is sending the bomb squad.”

 

“Ok, guys, let make sure there isn’t any gas from that truck leaking…Mike, back the engine out to block traffic…Chet you and Marco set up the hoses just in case we need to wash down the pavement.”

 

Roy started over to Johnny. The explosion was behind them not in front where the truck was. There was a truck sitting in the field they had not noticed until now. A man with a large a missile launcher was standing in the back of the truck. He had thrown a grenade and still had several in a mesh sack hanging over his shoulder.

 

“Any one goes near that truck…I’ll blow it up and all of you with it. That man deserves to die…You don’t…He left my brother and the others to did in that stinking hell hole…He has to pay…He could have done something to help them.”

 

Roy saw movement from behind the over turned truck and heard the sirens of the approaching police and firemen. The man put down the missile launcher but picked up a high-speed riffle. The well places shot flattened the wire tire of the first police car. Roy and the others stopped and watched as the police car skidded but the driver managed to regain control. Maybe the newly arrived responder could keep the man busy enough that he would not notice Johnny. Roy moved slowly closer to the over turned truck.

 

“Johnny can you hear me?” He worked at keeping his voice at a low level. He needed to be loud enough for Johnny to hear him but not loud enough for the gunman to hear.

 

“Yeah. This guy has a bad cut on his arm and a gash on his head…Semi conscious, pupils sluggish but reactive…” H gave Roy the other vital signs.

 

“Stay low, so far the guy in the field hasn’t spotted you. Let’s try to keep it that way.”

 

“Good idea. Can you relay the information to Rampart and get permission to start an IV?”

 

“Yeah just take it careful back there.” Roy did the relay and just sat back feeling very helpless.

 

Johnny was inserting the IV and had done what he could for the truck driver. The gash on his head was bandaged and so was the arm. Johnny took another set of vitals and noted a slight drop in blood pressure. However, most alarming was the smell. Something was leaking…


Moving slowly and staying low as possible he made his way to where he could see Roy.

 

“Roy, we got some problem, his blood pressure has dropped and there is a chemical leak.”

 

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound o of gun fire and several cries. Roy moved over to where Cap and a CHP sergeant were talking.

 

“I saw you trying to get over there to help that traitor…I said leave him die. Nice and slow and knowing there are people who could help but will not…too afraid of getting hurt. Too afraid to be a man.”

 

Roy looked over to where the paramedics from 36 were working on a second police officer. “Johnny said there was a leak and gave me new vitals. The person in the truck has a head injury and his vitals are dropping. Any ideas?”

 

Vince came over and listens for a minute. “We think we have an id on the shooter. He fits the APB that we just got. Tyler Dundon. His brother died in a POW camp over in Viet Nam. He was in the same camp…captured different time and place. He has been in and out of the VA since coming home. He disappeared from the hospital last week after a group from a Viet Nam veteran’s group went in to visit. And as far as we have been able to find out the truck driver has no connection with that war except what he’s read in history class.”

 

Cap and the other people were getting antsy just waiting around. Squad 36 had left taking the two wounded CHP men and a sheriff’s deputy to Rampart. Roy moved from the group over to where he could talk to Johnny. He had figured out how close he could get without making the shooter nervous.

 

“How’s it going?” He tried to look casual as if he was just leaning against a large rock that had some kind of ornamental grass growing around it.

 

“The driver fades in and out…vitals are holding steady.”

 

“What about you?” Roy was concerned about the leak; he could smell the chemicals now for the first time. “The fumes getting worst?”

 

“So far the wind has kept them pretty cleared out. The sun is making this little corner warm…A big glass of ice cold water would taste good right about now. Roy, um, do you think he will shoot? I mean …if it looks like he is going to…you and the guys get out of here as far away from the truck as you can. And you give my love to Jo and the kids…and…tell Lee…” Johnny’s voice was soft and Roy thought it was sounding hoarser. However, that could be just from being dry…not necessarily the chemical fumes.

 

By the time they had been out there two hours everyone was ready to explode. They had talked with Dundon and had tried to reason with him but he was too lost in the fantasy. They had come to the realization Dundon was not in a field along a California highway but in a jungle surrounded by the enemy. He wasn’t holding firemen and police officers hostages but fighting for his life and the life of his friends. The TV crews had left as the time passed and that had helped to calm Dundon down. Roy moved over closer to the rock where he could talk to Johnny. He made a show of pacing and then finally moving over to the rock.

 

“Roy, contact Rampart and see if I can start another IV. Just did another vital check…This kid’s BP is dropping and its harder to keep him awake. It’s getting harder for me to move, getting stiff back here Roy, the fumes are different…Like something new has been added in.” Roy could definitely hear Johnny’s voice becoming harsher and harder to hear. “Getting’ he lava headache…”

 

Roy went over to the biophone and called in the new vitals. Kel could hear the strain and tension in his voice.

 

“51 is there any word when this standoff might end?” Kel asked. What he was really asking was if there any chance Johnny would leave the injured man.

 

“None…there is some people from the air force base here now and I think a doctor from the VA…Doc the chemical leak is getting to Johnny’s throat. He said he has a bad headache. If I try to get any water over to him or get too close the guy with the missile launcher gets really aggravated.”

 

“Ok, 51 keep us apprised of the situation.”

 

“Rampart…do you think Lee needs to hear about this before she starts home? Might be a little easier on her if she is not alone. Johnny ‘s worried about her.”

 

“Tell that hose jockey to keep his mind on the job, Dixie and I’ll take care of things here.”

 

All during the hostage crisis Kel had stayed as close to the base as possible. Joe and Mike had done as many of the patients as possible, letting Kel handle the base station. Steve Handly had called the airport to change his ticket, saying a medical emergency was preventing him from leaving L.A. There was no way he was leaving until this was over.


Lee looked up when Dixie came in the office the smile faded from her face.

 

“Pretty soon you’re going to hate to see me up here.” Dix said with a sad smile. “Roy and Kel thought you should know, Johnny is involved in a hostage situation. Right now, he is fine as far as we know. It’s all over the television so they didn’t want you to hear about it on your way home.”

 

“I was just getting ready to leave…Thanks. Can I hang out down in ER for awhile?”

 

~E! ~

 

Marco, Mike and Chet were standing and waiting. The waiting and feeling so helpless and useless was the worst. Cap and Roy were talking with the police and military people. A military bomb squad had joined the group about 15 minutes earlier. Cap and Roy came over to them.

 

“They are gonna try one last time to talk to Dundon then if need be they’ll use a sniper. We need to be ready in case they miss or in case Dundon can still get a shot off. I want you guys to move in as close as you can and have your air masks ready to put on in case that truck takes a hit.”

 

“What about Gage? Can’t they do something to get him an air tank or something?” Chet asked the concern for his friend written all over his face.

 

“Anything we do could set Dundon off. Right now he doesn’t know John is back there…The truck has blocked his view. We thought about telling him the driver was dead…but the guy from the VA said it might just push him into shooting to make sure.”

 

The Air Force captain of the bomb squad went out to the edge of the highway. “Tyler Dundon…This is your last chance to surrender. Lay your weapons down.”

 

“NO!” Dundon pulled the trigger firing the missile but missed the over turned truck, hitting a police car instead. The crew from 51 quickly had a spray of water going towards the blaze. As the police and fire personnel were busy with Dundon, Roy raced to his partner and the victim.

 

“Johnny,” Roy yelled as he neared the over turned truck but didn’t hear any movement. As he went behind, he could see his partner leaning back against the bridge railing, his tee shirt pulled up over his nose. A surgical mask was peeking from underneath the shirt collar.

 

The victim was protected from the fumes in a similar manner. Roy heard people running towards them and with some help got the two unconscious men away from the truck. Oxygen masks were quickly placed on both men and Roy began getting vitals as Mike began contacting Rampart. None of the fire fighters paid any attention to the confusion behind them. The military and police had that under control. The sniper had done his job and the lifeless body of Tyler Dundon lay on the ground.

 

“Rampart we have 3 victims, a code I, a code F and a 20 year old male. The Code F was the shooter and the military and police are dealing with him. First victim is a 20-year-old male who has a head injury and a gas in his arm. Pupils are sluggish, equal and reactive. Both cuts have been treated and are no longer bleeding. He has received two bags of Ringers…Is on oxygen 10 liters to counter act unknown fumes. The second victim is also on 10 liters of oxygen due to fumes. Precautions were taken by paramedic to lessen the effects of the fumes. He is semi conscious at this point…vitals to follow…”

 

The tired and hungry crew finished the clean up stopping only long enough to watch the ambulance take the two survivors to Rampart.

 

“Roy,” the muffled voice was harsh and raspy.

 

“Keep that mask on.” Roy gently pushed the shaking hands away from the mask.

 

“The driver is gonna be fine…so are you. The IV is to get some fluids into you…So just relax.”

 

“The ---guy--with the gun?”

 

“Sniper got him…Just relax, we’re almost to Rampart….”

 

Lee was in her office. She had stayed down in ER for awhile but just sitting there had gotten to be too hard. She went upstairs put a favorite tape on and listened to music while doing some paper work. When the phone rang, she almost jumped out of her chair.

 

“Yes?” Her voice cracking slightly as she answered the phone.

 

“They’re on their way in…Roy said to tell you Johnny sounds like a bullfrog.”

 

“Thanks.” Lee hung up and said a prayer of thanks then made a few phone calls after she finished crying.


~E! ~

 

Lee was in the waiting room when the squad came in. She watched as the two gurneys went past. Roy saw her and gave her thumbs up.

 

Kel finished the exam and asked he nurse to go get Lee. Johnny was putting his shirt back on when she came in.

 

“Hi Baby Girl,” he croaked out. “Sorry to worry you.”

 

“No problem…Its one of the things I do best. Roy was right you do sound like a bullfrog…”

 

“Other than his throat and being hungry he is fine. He should be back to full voice in a day or two. Johnny, your idea of using the mask and tee shirt was quick on your feet thinking. I am sure it prevented a more serious problem…You know the drill. I want you to come in if there is any change in temperature or if it becomes more difficult to breathe or swallow. Go on home, drink plenty of liquids and get some rest."

“Thanks Doc.” The sound of his voice brought a picture of Michigan J. Frog to mind and she couldn’t but help giggle. He frowned at her but the look on her face made him laugh. “Brat.”

 

“You two get out of here. I’ve got sick people to deal with.” A smiling Kelly Brackett watched as Johnny pushed her out the door.

 

Johnny knew that Steve Handly had been in the treatment room but once Lee came in, he forgot about him. Steve watched the two go out.

 

“Are they always like that?” He asked as he and Kel walked back to the nurses’ desk.

 

“Pretty much.” The two doctors weren’t surprised to see Roy and the couple talking over by the door as Roy waited for someone to pick him up.

 

“Dr. Handly,” Lee moved back towards them. “I take it you aren’t going back to Montana tonight?”

 

“No, I’m leaving tomorrow. I need to find a place to stay.”

 

“We have two extra bedrooms that are always open to friends. You can follow us home. Dinner is gonna be pot luck…”

 

“She’s a great cook.” Johnny added. “I sound like a frog but it doesn’t hurt and I’m starving.”

 

After dinner, Lee and Steve talked more about the money and how it could be best used. Johnny added some comments but mostly dozed in the recliner.

 

“You know, he had several chances to get away from the chemicals. The gunman didn’t know he was there…” Lee said giving the sleeping man a fond look. “But he knew that driver was hurt and scared and he won’t ever walk away from a patient that needs him. That is the man that the narrow minded people in Lame Deer dismissed as a throw away…And if the money he wants them to have helps them to see the real John Gage so much better for them. Maybe it will help make life better for someone else. That would be his true gift to that town.”

 

End Part 2

Posted to Site 4/15/13

LINKS TO PART 1. 2. 3.

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