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One For The Money, Two to Get Ready

Part 3

Three To Go

An Emergency Story by


LINKS TO PART 1. 2. 3.




CRASH! The sound of the small china figurine hitting the wall echoed in   the room. The silence that followed was even louder than the crash. 


“Lee----” Johnny’s voice was soft.  “Stop” He moved towards her.


“Stay away from me all of you. When were you going to tell me?  As you drove off to the airport?”


“Baby girl.”     Johnny moved towards her. 


“Don’t call me that.”  She moved backwards.  “The man who calls me that respects me.”  Her eyes were wide and blazing and stood out against her pale skin.  “He would never lie to me, he loves me.” The hurt and sadness in her voice hurt him more than any blow could. 


“Listen to me.”  The voice she loved was strained and low. “You need to listen.”  The sound came to her through the swirling fog that made breathing hard.


“John, Roy go, just leave us alone.”   Jo’s voice was soft and gave Lee a feeling of security that had been snatched away from her minutes before.  “Now”


Neither man said a word just left the apartment.   However, the door opened again and Johnny came back in, going over to her.  Squatting down before her.  “I do respect you and love you.   I may have not handled this right but I never lied to you.  Believe me?”  He had a hold of her left hand


Lee looked at him, knowing that their future hung on her answer.   “Yes, I believe you.”   He kissed her hand and got up giving her a sad smile. “Talk to you soon, ok?”   She nodded and he left. 


“Let’s go out on the balcony.”  Jo said pushing the wheelchair outside. It was early evening, the air was warm, and the balcony plants gave off the soft scent of lavender.


“Why would Roy do this?”


“Think about it. He was the first to hear the horrible stories about his life in Lame Deer.  He worries about him as much as you do, wants to protect him as much as you do.  He loves his family with a passion that includes Johnny and you.”  Her words conveying how much she loved Roy.


“I know, it’s just this is something between us.”  Lee covered her mouth and nose with her hands, looking down.  Jo thought she looked as if she was praying.  “Why would he tell him it was ok to go there without me?  Encourage him not to take me?  Make plans never saying a word to me?  Cut me out completely…”


“Lee, do you like Mike’s spaghetti sauce?”   Lee nodded not trusting her voice, not understanding the reason for the question.  “Remember Johnny   telling you about the fight Roy and I had and then how he called me?”    Lee nodded yes. Jo was sitting across from Lee at the small patio table.  “At first Roy was mad because he called.  So was I since it was a private matter between us not a topic of casual discussion.”


“He told me how bad he felt.” 


“Do you know why he did it?  Not because he wanted to add to the problem but because he wanted to help.  Johnny didn’t want his family arguing. It was threatening his sense of belonging.  The idea you could get hurt is even more threatening to him now.  That is always in the back of his mind when you two talk of Lame Deer.   I’m going to go in and make some coffee and hot chocolate.  When they come back we’ll stay or go your choice.”


She went in leaving the miserable younger woman sitting there alone shivering not just from the cool air.  She sat there going over the argument in her mind.

~E! ~

Johnny didn’t say a word just walked towards the rover, Roy following. Johnny got in and sat there, his head resting on the steering wheel.   Roy sat waiting for Johnny to speak. 


“Will she?” Johnny asked. “Will she listen? What if she doesn’t?”   His    voice was neutral.   “What did I do before she was part of my life?  I don’t even remember what it was like.”    He sat up straight. “I know there were good times with you and Jo and the kids and the guys.  There was something missing.  She brought that something into my life.”


“You brought that same thing into hers,” Roy answered.  “She isn’t so much angry as she is scared.”  Johnny turned on the ignition without a word.    Roy didn’t ask where they were going.


Neither said a word as Johnny moved in and out of the traffic.  Johnny had checked his watch but still said nothing.  Roy was starting to worry at the quietness of his friend.  Roy noticed after looking at his watch that he drove a little faster.  Making a left hand turn, Johnny let out a sigh.  Johnny stopped the car and ran to the door of the shop.  Looking at his watch, he banged on the door.  For what seemed like an eternity to Johnny but was actually less than five minutes a dark face was at the door.


“Nana…I need…”  Johnny stopped taking a deep breath continued, “Can you stay open for just one more customer?”  The desperation was clear in his voice even through the locked door. 


“Of course, Johnny.”  She unlocked the door.  The paleness of his face   made his eyes seem even darker.  “Of course, come in.”  He went in with Roy again following without hesitation or question.  “Something for your Lee?”


“Hopefully, she is still my Lee” Johnny said.  “Before when I was stupid, you made a bouquet that helped tell her how sorry I was. Can you help again? So she will forgive me?”


Nana looked at the two men, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.  “That girl cannot breathe without your love; John…Your love is the oxygen her heart needs to exist.”   The elegant Black lady from the Caribbean Islands smiled softly.   “Now, trust her and your own heart.”  Her smile seemed to reassure Johnny and his face relaxed.


Nana went into the back room Johnny and Roy looked around room.  Roy picked out a bouquet for Jo.  He and Jo had been here many times helping with the wedding and other occasions since then.  Roy smiled as he remembered Jo telling him about Lee’s first encounter with Nana.


Nana came out of the back room.  Johnny looked at the simple but perfect   flowers in the elegant crystal bowl.  He had expected roses or some other dramatic flowers.  Nana’s voice was serene and did much to calm the agitated paramedic.  “Red for true love, white for forgiveness, purple for fidelity.  These will tell her the words in your heart.”


“It’s perfect.”  His voice faded off as he saw the delicate china figurine.  It was a perfect match for the one Lee had flung at his head.  It was a Victorian lady holding a bouquet of flowers. They had found the first one at the Central Market in Papeete on their honeymoon.  The seller had said it came from one of the old French plantations.   He went to the counter, gently picking it up, taking it back to Nana.  “She had one like this I got it for her on our honeymoon.  Because of my stupidity, it got broke. Maybe the tulips and this will let her know how sorry I am.”  They paid for their purchases and started to leave.


“Johnny, let her be angry so she can heal.  So you both can heal and learn from this.”  Nana said in a tranquil voice that matched her smile and eyes.


The drive back to the apartment was quiet but had none of the tense foreboding the trip to the florist.


~E! ~


Lee waited for Johnny and Roy to come back from wherever they had gone.  The fear that he wouldn’t come back still gnawing at her heart.

Jo had stayed inside giving her time to calm down and think.  Lee smiled,    thankful for such an understanding friend.  She went back inside, the chilly air making it uncomfortable to stay out any longer.


“Do you want some hot chocolate?” Jo asked as if nothing had happen.


“Yes please,” Lee looked at the empty place on the end table then at the floor.  “Thank you.”


“It was beyond repair.”  Jo answered the unspoken question.


“I can’t believe I did that.  Jo, will Roy forgive me? Or have I messed up so bad it can’t be fixed either.”


“No, he understands more than anyone how Johnny can drive you to extreme reactions.”  She laughed, “He has more than once been driven to that point.  But like you, he loves him and forgives him.”


“He  off handily said he’s taking the plaques to Lame Deer next week and I should plan to do something with you and Jenny. Then Roy said for me not to worry he was going too.  How do I make him understand?  I have to go.”


“Talk to him but listen to him.  If you need us to stay we will or if want us to go we will do that.”  Jo told her as she sat in the other room with a magazine she pretended to read.


“It would be better if you stayed and we all talked.”  Lee said as she picked up the cup of hot chocolate.    Did she really think that or was she afraid to be alone with him.  That thought frightened her so badly her hands shook as she sat down the delicate bone china cup.   “Where do you think they went?”


“With Johnny I have no idea for Roy’s sake I   hope it isn’t a 10 mile walk in the mountains.”   Jo said in a matter of fact voice.  Her calm   manner what Lee needed then? 


“Jo, thank you for being here with me and for understanding and for being smart enough to send them away.”


“All part of being family with the whirlwind that is John Gage. Now, that whirlwind has paired with one that is just as formidable.”


Before more could be said, the doorbell rang.   Lee let out a sigh of relief as she recognized the Morse code ME.    


“They’re home.” She looked up at Jo and smiled.  “Do I look ok?”


“You look fine.  Soon as he sees that smile he’ll be telling you how beautiful you are.”


The door opened and the worried paramedic came into the room moving so he was standing in front of her.
“I’m   glad your back.  I missed you.”  Lee said looking up briefly then down at her feet.   He  didn’t say a word  just kissed her very  lightly  on  the  forehead  then gave her a long  hard kiss  before  sitting  down  next to her.  He had a tight hold on her hand.


Roy and Jo stood off to the side and watched the two.  He kissed Jo long and deeply then whispered in her ear.  “Do you think they’d notice if we leave?”  


“She has been in a panic since he left.  She’s afraid you’re mad at her.”   She was leaning against him, his arm around her.  “You know you two really didn’t handle that conversation well.”


“Yeah I kind of got that feeling when the figurine just missed Johnny’s   head.”  Roy chuckled. “Lee, I wanted to apologize to you before we leave.”


“Can you stay awhile so we can talk?  I think I owe you an apology.”  She waited for them to sit down across from her and Johnny. “I’m sorry for screaming at you and for throwing the figurine. But, I still don’t think what you two did was right.” She looked at Roy.  “I understand why you told him you would go with him.   However, you have no say in the matter of me going.  For you to sit in our living room and so calmly say, ‘You don’t need to go since I am hurt.  Then you,” looking at Johnny, “You used the girls against me.  I’m going to be the bad guy for disappointing them.  You had no right to tell Jenny we would be taking a trip too and she could ask Stacy to go. That is not only unfair to me but to them.  Jo and Kathy and I  will  be  doing  something  with  the  girls so  they won’t  be  disappointed.”  She took a deep breath.  Right now I can’t talk about the worst thing you said, I still have some pride left …not much but some.”


“It wasn’t done to hurt you; it was done to protect you.”  He got up and went over to the table by the door.  He took the flowers to her.  “Maybe these will help you understand that.”  She unwrapped the tulips and read the card.   She recognized the writing and smiled at the wisdom before tucking the note in her pocket.  


“Thank you.”   The simple phrase said much when spoken in the soft tones.  The look on her face said even more, sad but with a smile that was real from her heart.


“Baby girl.”  He waited to see if she objected to the name.  “You and our  family are…The idea  that  any  of  you could  get  hurt  because of  me…any of  you…” Looking over to Roy and Jo with a slight nod.   “But especially if you get hurt because of me…”   He was getting flustered and stopped trying to focus on his words and thoughts.


“I know, Boyo, I know.   But you can’t let the fear and the what if’s rule us. That makes me more of a cripple than that wreck did.”  


It was like a knife in his gut to hear her call herself a cripple in such an unemotional tone.   “Lee…stops.”  He found it strange that the screaming had been easier for him to hear than this flat lifeless tone,


“Lee, he doesn’t…”  Roy started but the look Lee gave him quieted his protest.


“Roy,  you  can’t  defend  him  or  protect  him  from the  truth  this  time.  He married me knowing I was dependent on this  chair  for  functional  mobility as the doctors so kindly put it…I  tried  not to love him but that  was pretty much impossible after that first  date after  that first meeting . We made our choices and now we have to live with them for right or wrong”  


“We made the right choice, the only choice.”  Johnny said.  “You knew it wasn’t going to be easy for you to deal with my job and the other stuff.  But you never backed away from it.”

Nana said let her be angry and let her heal.  That was basically what Dr.  Hightower had told him, what Roy had told him.  Don’t be ashamed of your emotions, to face them and the consequences. The only thing he was ashamed of now was hurting her by not facing up to what he had been feeling.


“I think Lee and I are going to have to talk this out, guess that is what I should have done in the first place, talked to her.”


“Talked to me or talk at me?  Boyo I love you with all my being but I will not be talked down to by you or anyone else.”   Her temper was getting the best of her again.  But she was so tired of this feeling of always being wrong.


“What they are saying, they are going to have a good old air clearing fight and want to do it in private.”  Jo said with a laugh.  “A bit of advice, Johnny, makes sure there isn’t anything she can reach to throw.  You two have been walking on egg shells over this and you need to get over it.   Both of you. Call us later to let us know you haven’t killed one another. “


After they left Johnny went out to the kitchen and got a cup of coffee for himself and a soda for Lee.   “Ok, are we ready for this?  He asked with a crooked grin as he moved the tulips to another table before sitting down so he was facing her.


Feelings. “She was trying to be a rational civilized adult.  “It’s not funny. I want you to listen to me, to at least try to understand my feelings.”


“That’s a two way street, ya know.  Have you tried to see my point of view?”


“What see a helpless cripple who has to be protected?  You aren’t seeing anything pass that bloody wheelchair.   You were the one person I trusted never to throw it back in my face!”  She was clutching the small pillow so tightly her hands were numb. 


“I do see you for you.  I see the strong willed girl who fell and had bruises because she was going to walk to me on our wedding day.  I see the woman who stood up to a mad man and clawed his face trying to protect me.  I see someone who  cringes  at the needles when I get a shot or  have blood  drawn but  never even notices when its her getting stuck.”  He took a deep breath. “I remember the times I heard you crying softly because I had another nightmare.  Did you ever stop to think its dreams about you getting hurt that terrify me?   You think you are the only one that worries about someone they love getting hurt?  And what about being practical?   The last time I was in Lame Deer…”  He stopped to take several deep breaths.  He had gotten louder the longer he talked.  “Let’s just say it’s not wheelchair friendly.”


“There! That proves my point…not wheelchair friendly.”


“It’s a fact of life, you are in that wheelchair and that limits you! It limits you it doesn’t define you. I know how hard you worked in therapy.  Don’t forget I’ve been through pt a few times.  OT and speech therapy…been there done that more than once.”


“I know that but you always knew you’d walk again. That you could still do the things you loved to do…But then you made the mistake of   marrying me…”


“IT ISN”T A MISTAKE!”   He yelled in disbelief.  “I have never thought it was a mistake.    If our being married is a mistake then I have nothing.  Can’t you understand, I need to keep you safe?  I  have lost everyone who has ever loved me.   Until  Roy I didn’t want  friends,  didn’t want to care.  You cared about someone they left you and you were alone again.  Each lost  hurt more than  the last.  The possibility of you  getting  hurt again  because  you  loved  me isn‘t  worth the  risk. Because I  want  you  in  that town with me. I  want to  show  them  they’re wrong, I  am  worth  loving.  But I  can’t  risk  you in that place.  It’s  hard  enough   agreeing to  Roy  going  there.   Being my friend was dangerous. The few I did  have…my  friends …they  got  picked on  too.  They became  targets…just like me.  You  being  crippled is no different  than  me  being  a breed.   That’s  just a fact of  life.  Live with it, deal with it.”


Lee  reacted without thinking…not at the word crippled but  breed.  Her  hand raised poised to  slap his face.  His reflexes were quicker and he grabbed her wrist holding it tightly mid air.     


“You  don’t  ever call  yourself  that  filthy name  again.  Breed is what you  do to animals…You’re a  human, a good  honorable, loving man.  Damn all those stupid people who hurt you…Damn  them to hell.”  She  slumped against his body crying.  “Oh God,  forgive  me.”  She  pleaded  with   God and Johnny.  “I’m  sorry”     She  said  over and  over.  He  moved  around  until she was on his lap, still crying, her face  pressed  into  his  shoulder. 


“It’s  alright…shush  now…”   He  sat as she  rocked  gently back and forth  trying to calm herself  down.  His hand slid  up and  down her back in a  soothing  calming  manner.  But  the  movement  was anything  but  calming to  him.  The  range of  emotions being  played out in his  mind  and  body was confusing to say the least.


“Love me?”  She asked he voice soft and wishful yet compelling.


“Always, Baby girl.” He  kissed the top of her head.  “Even when we don’t agree, I  love you with all my heart.”


“Even when you see the wheelchair and not me?   That is what hurt   most…You didn’t see me,  didn’t love me enough to  trust me.”


“NO…that’s not  true…Love you too much to  risk your  getting  hurt.  That  is  my  only  reason for  not  wanting you to  go.  Time  away  from  you   isn’t  something  I’m  look  forward to.”


“Love me .”   She said  again. This time he realized what she was really saying.   

 He  was almost asleep, lying  there  feeling  her  move  slightly  as if  to find  a way to  get even  closer to  him.  He  reached  over and  gently  began  stroking her lower back and  hip. 


  “You know you have two choices.  Either I go with you and Roy to  Lame  Deer or I follow you on my own.”  She whispered softly.


“I  know,”  He answered with a  resolved  sigh.


The next morning Lee woke up to him bringing her breakfast in  bed.  There was also a wrapped  package on the tray..  Lee  cried  when she  opened the  china  figurine.  Except this time, it  was  tears of  relief and  joy.  When she  got  dressed she  made sure the  long sleeves of the shirt  covered the angry fingerprints  making a  black and blue  bracelet  around  her arm  just above  the  wrist.


Dr. Steve Handly and  Dr. Sean  Carlton were  having  dinner with Fire Chief Colin Sullivan and his wife, Claire.  Colin had gotten a phone call from Lee Gage asking him make hotel reservations for her and  Johnny  and  their  friend  Roy as they were  bringing the plaques and the symbolic checks to Lame  Deer at the end of the week.


“Colin, you can’t  be thinking of  them staying at the hotel?  How would  she get about?  There isn’t  any elevator in that place…Fleas don’t need  elevators.”  Claire had heard the details of Steve’s  visit  to  L.A.   She  was  intrigued by the feisty young woman. 


“There aren’t  a  lot of  choices here about.”  Colin  said  knowing  what  Clair was  going to suggest.


“You  and the  boys  will  just have to clean up the house.  It  should do fine  for the two of  them…  their friend can use Marc’s  bedroom  since he won’t  be  here.”  (Their  youngest  was off to college. ) “That  way if she needed  help I would be nearby.”  The little  house was a  small 1 bedroom  house  behind the Sullivan’s house.  Claire’s  parents had  lived  there  when  they  were older and could no longer manage without  help.     


“When I talked to John he still wasn’t  happy  about her  coming,  so I  think  that  really is the  best idea.”  Sean  said. 


“You  tell the boys they  can  help  cleaning it.  Windows  need  washed,  limens aired,  just a  general  good  cleaning.”    She looked at  Steve. 
“Will she be needing anything special  to make it  better  for her?”


“I’ll  give you her  number and  you can call  her.  I  think  whatever you do to make  John  feel at  ease she  will  be  most  grateful.”  Steve  said, knowing  Claire  had always  had a soft  spot  in her  heart  for  John  Gage.

“Did Steve tell  you about the madman  who targeted John and was going to  take  he her  as his  bride?”   Claire  shook her head no.  “Seems  this  guy  had already hurt  John  and was  ranting and raving.  Told  Lee if she  didn’t  walk  to him he’d kill  him.  So she stands up, takes a few steps and as she is falling rakes her nails down his face. Gave the men who were there to rescue them time to do it.”


“The  poor child, was she  hurt?”  Claire said feeling as if she was listening to a mystery show on the radio  like they use to when she was younger.


“Some but nothing serious.  They  don’t see her as much as  being  disabeled as inconvenienced.  So  I think  them  staying  here is the  best  solution.”  Steve said  as he  poured  himself  a  cup of  coffee.  “Being in a wheelchair  didn’t stop her from being a fine cook.”


“That’s good to hear…Those aunts of his never went out of there way to see if that the poor child had anything to eat or not.”


~E! ~

The flight from L.A.  To  Billings  was  uneventful .   It  didn’t  take  long to  gather the  luggage and  plaques  after they  picked  up  the  rental.  Lee had  taken  the plaques  over to  WBS.  They had  packaged  them  for  shipment  and sent  them  ahead  for  her.   They  stopped at a small  drive thru and  the  guys  got coffee  while  Lee  got  a  soda  after  Johnny  insisted  she  get  something to  drink.


Roy was driving as Johnny did the navigating.  It  just seemed natural to them.  Lee was in the back seat reading.


“”So, do we have any idea what the plan for the day is?”  Roy asked. 


“Have an  informal  meeting with the doctors and with Colin after we get  settled at the Sullivan’s  house.   Then  tomorrow  a  more  formal  meetings  with the town and reservation leaders.  From what Steve said and what Claire said,   Mitch Sherman and his bunch of  friends  more or  less run the  town, she doesn’t think much of him.   Then the next  day the ceremony  its self where you  present the plaque to the fire department in the  afternoon.  Then a  dinner and the  presentation to the clinic  out at the reservation  the next day.  Then home the following morning.


“We should be there in about 20 minutes,” Johnny said.  “You doing ok?”  He turned to look at her.  “I still don’t understand how you can read in a moving car.” 


“Will you stop worrying about me?  I am fine…I just concentrate on the page.  You need to turn around and watch the road signs.”


“Yes ma’am.”  He gave her a smile and a wink.   The smile faded as he noticed her absent-mindedly rubbing her arm just above her left wrist. The bruises were gone but not the memory of seeing them for the first time.   The conversation replayed in his head.


  “My God, Lee I did   that to you?   Why didn’t you tell me I was pressing that hard?” 

  “I never   felt it…I was so humiliated at what I almost did.”


~E! ~

Watching the road  signs  they soon  found the house they were  looking for  on the outside of town.  It was a well kept  three story house in the  Victorian style.  Lee loved the gingerbread work on the wrap around  porch.


“I  want a house like this.”  Lee said as they pulled up into the front yard.  “It’s wonderful.”


“Hate to be a spoil sport, Baby girl,  but I don’t think you are exactly stair  friendly.”  He was lifting her out of the van and  held  her  long enough to kiss her.” He  whispered into her ear,  “But if  that is what you want  then that’s what we’ll  build  someday.”


“Steve told me they were like that. That  there are times  when  no one  else is in their world.”   Colin  Sullivan  said as he walked  over to Roy.   “Welcome.,  Mr.  De Soto.”   He  held  out his  hand.  “He  isn’t  happy  about  all  this is  he?”


“It’s  Roy,  Chief  Sullivan.”  They  shook  hands.  “Yeah,  Junior,  has  some   trepidation  about  this  whole  idea.  He  doesn’t  like  being the  center of attention. He  just  thought  he  could  come here,  give you the checks and  plaques and  head  back  to L.A.”


“What  about  her?”  Colin  asked as he  watched  Johnny  put her into the  wheelchair and  hand  her purse and  a small over night  case.


“We’ll,  for one  thing   she  doesn’t  like to  be  talked about  but talked  with.  Secondly,  not to be indelicate…”  She  looked  towards the  house.


“Of  course,   Claire’ll  have my head  for  keeping you out  here with  questions.”  He  noticed she  was shivering.  “Springtime in  Montana is a little different than springtime  in  California.”   He  extended his  hand  to  Johnny,  “Good to see you John, mighty  well.”


“Good to see you too, Chief.  I think you’ve  talked to my  wife a few times.”


“Yeah,  we’re  old  friends  now.  Wasn’t  sure she  liked me very  much the  first time I talked  with  her.”  Colin  said  with a  grin.  They  were  walking towards the  smaller house.  “You  get  settled in and  come on  over to the  house when you’re  ready.”    He and  Roy  carried  the  suitcases into the  little  house.   “Claire has  lunch  ready for  you all  whenever you are.   Roy,  you’ll  be sleeping in our son’s  room.  He’s away at school.”


Lee  looked around the room and smiled.  It was a large uncluttered square  much like the apartment.  A  table and  chairs  were  over in one  corner  near a  small  kitchen area.  A  seating  area was  furnished  with a comfortable old  fashioned  sofa and  chairs  with  end  tables,  no  coffee  table.  A wider than normal doorway lead into the bedroom.(There  was a sliding door to close the bedroom off  from the living  area.) As  they  went into the  bedroom  they saw the bathroom  doorway with a  curtain across it  rather  than a  door.   They put Johnny and Lee’s  suitcase and  garment  bags on the on the bed. 


“Come on  over  whenever you’re ready.  There is soda and  juice I the fridge and a few other  things if  you need a snack.   “John,  it’s  good to  see you  healthy and  happy.  I  always wished  we  could have  done more seemed  like  everything we tried to do just made it worst for you.”   Colin, Roy  and  Johnny  had   walked  over to the  door  leaving Lee in the  bedroom.  


Johnny went back into the bedroom; Lee was sitting over by the dresser using the mirror to fix her hair.  She looked up at Johnny when he came in. 


“You about ready?” 


“Soon as I get my jacket.  This is a lovely little house. Maybe  when we  build our house we should  have a  guest house, it could  double as a pool house.”    Johnny listened but did not say anything.  He was hoping she would get over this urge to move soon.


Claire knew about the wheelchair of course, but seeing Johnny lift her into it so tenderly was a shock.   The mental  picture she had  formed  from her conversations  as well as the stories Colin and  Steve had  told about their encounters with the couple was totally wrong from the couple she saw. Watching from the window she saw a laughing  girl as he  pushed  her towards the  big  house, tipping the chair  backwards so he could  lean  down and kissed her   The balancing looked precarious but the girl took it for granted she was safe in his hands.   Not a  hard-nosed  serious  businesswoman but a joyful young woman deeply in love. John was taller  but still too thin,  He moved with a grace born of confidence not the  awkward shyness she had always associated with the lonely boy. 


“Welcome, come in from that wind,” Claire urged the laughing  couple.
“Lunch is  waiting.”  She had  opened the screen door but didn’t go outside.


“Now,  that will get his attention,”  Roy said from  inside the warm  comfortable room.  Colin had brought him a cup of coffee as his  sat in the  front room.   “We’ve been hearing his stomach growl for the last hour.”


“That’ll make Claire happy.   She still cooks like all the kids were at home.  The boys from the station know they can always find a meal here.”


Lee looked at the steps that lead up to the porch.  Sensing the reason she had stopped laughing, Johnny bent down and whispered in her ear.  “I can carry you up or it’ll be a bumpy ride.”    Before she  could  answer there  were 2  sets  of  strong  hands  lifting the chair as Johnny steadied the back.  Colin had followed when Roy sat down his coffee cup and started out the door.  


The five were soon seated around the large dining room table.  The rich beef stew and tender biscuits with homemade berry jam had filled even Johnny up.  Claire had  been  surprised when  Johnny had chosen milk   over coffee or  soda with his meal but had enjoyed a cup  with his slice  of  dried apple pie. 


“Steve said they would be done at the clinic by 5.  You are having supper with them at the café.  Colin and I have another obligation tonight.   Colin, do you want to take Johnny and Roy over to the station?  Lee,  you’re  welcome to stay here  or  go  back  to the  little  house  if  you don’t  want to  go to the  station,”  Claire said as the men  got  up  from  the  table.”


“Baby  girl I  think  it would  be  a  good  idea if  you  stay  here…I’ll  help  you  transfer  into that  big  ole  rocker/recliner  and  you can stay out of the  chair for awhile,”  Johnny  said  quickly.


As much as Lee wanted to go with Johnny,  they both knew he was right.  Besides, she did not want to add to his stress.  She could feel the nerves and tension every time they talked about her going into town.  Maybe after he went and saw what the mood was like it would be easier for him.


“Ok   but would you bring my book and tote over before you go?   Or maybe I should go over to the…”   She  said  embarrassed  by  admitting  she  might need  help need help  in the unfamiliar  bathroom.


“Just bring her book over, it’ll be ok.”  Claire said   guessing what Lee was hesitant to say.


~E! ~

The men drove into Lame Deer talking about fire stations in general. 


“Most of the men  you  knew are  gone, me and  Jake Wilson are the two  old  timers.  Garrett’s  son  works  here and  some of the others have family or  friends  that  work  here.   Will  Tudor’s  nephew  Kevin  works  here. A  good  man, not  like his  dad and  uncle.”  Johnny didn’t  answer  just  frowned.


“I use to  go there after school so I  could spend some time polishing the  engine or  just  hanging  out.”  Johnny said.  “Then I  would have to  run  back to the  reservation  and  hope I  got  my chores  done before my uncle came  home.  My aunts were just as glad not to have me around.”


“Mind if I ask a personal question?”  Colin had been curious since he had first talked to Lee about Johnny.


“Go ahead.”  Johnny  answered  not  sure  what  was  going to  be asked  or   if he  would be able to  answer  it.


“Before you left here, you had some problems at school and with your speech.  How did you get over that?”


“My Aunt Rosemary hired tutors to help me catch up in school.   I went to speech therapy to overcome the stuttering.”    Colin  let it  drop  at that  not  asking  about  the  black outs,  figuring if  it  was  anything  serious  he  would  never have  passed the  physical  for the  fire  department. 


They pulled up to the station and Johnny just sat there looking at it.  Roy watched him closely.   “Looks   pretty much like I remember it…Remember how Carl Turner would set there and whittle?  Made  whistles  for the  kids   who  came  by.  Sometimes  he’d  send me over to the gas station to  get  him a  root beer.  Would  buy me one  for going after it.  Seemed like you would always had peanut butter cookies.  After I  helped  polish the  engine  you’d  give me  3 or  4 and a glass of  milk.   Lee makes great peanut butter cookies….Still my favorite.”


“Anything she makes is your favorite, Junior.   Told you that before.”  Roy was hoping the friendly teasing would ease the tension he saw in Johnny’s eyes and mouth.   “She even had you eating Brussels sprouts last time she had us all over to dinner.”


“Put  enough  bacon and  garlic  with  something and its  edible,”  Johnny laughed.   “She loves  those smelly little cabbages.  Besides she fixes   things she doesn’t like because she knows I  do.”


  Colin introduced Johnny and Roy to the five men  manning the  station.  


“So  you  made  your  dream  come  true,  good  for you  boy.”  Jake  Wilson said  as  he  shook  hands  with  Johnny.  “Knew that  stubborn  streak   would  do you some  good.”   He  looked at Roy, “He  still  hard headed?”   The shift  captain asked  with a wink.


“Yes  sir,  in  more  ways  than  one.”  Roy said good  naturally.  Soon  the men were talking  equipment, machinery, fires and  rescues.   Comparisons  were  made and  Roy was  glad to see  Johnny relax some more.   The  younger men began to enter into the conversation asking questions.  Especially Skip Jenner who would be one of the station’s  paramedics.  “How  do you deal  with the times you can’t save someone?”


 “I  guess it’s like Dr. Brackett  told me when I had doubts about my ability.  I thought about quitting after I lost a patient and a doctor told me  I wasn’t  qualified to make decisions.  Sometimes you  ask yourself,  is  there  anyone  else here right now  who could do  my  job  better than  me…If  the answer is no then I  better  get  moving  and  do  what I’m  trained to  do…help  the patient.  When you lose someone its hard especially when it’s a  child  or an  older person…but  you  need to remember the ones you do save.  It might  be a  child or a young mother or a grandparent…or it might  be a  fellow  firefighter or a policeman.  It  might  be  your  best  friend. ”  He  looked  over at Johnny who was nodding  in  agreement.   “All you can do is your  best…what you were  trained  for.  Remember and  learn from the ones you  lose  but don’t  let  fear or guilt paralyze you.”   To  lighten the mood  he  turned to Johnny.  “If  you’re  my partner  you may  even end  up starting an  IV on  yourself.”    This  lead to more stories  until Colin  held  up  hand in  a STOP  gesture.


“Claire will have my head if I’m late getting home…We’re  going  over to my son’s for his father- in - law’s 70th  birthday dinner.   Our  daughter-in-law has been cooking for a week getting ready for this.  Claire  too.”


“If  mama  ain’t happy no one in the house is  happy,”  Jake Wilson  added.  “My  Tilly’s  pa  told  me  that on my wedding  day. That’s  good advice  for  you, Johnny.   You to,  Roy.”  


“Yes  sir.”  Both of the younger men told him.  “That’s very good  advice.”


“The  men should be here  soon.”   Claire came down  the  stairs.  She had changed  her  clothes and  fixed  her  hair.  “Colin  gave Roy a key to the  house and  you have one for the  little  house.   I  left the number  where we’ll  be on a pad by  the phone. Jordon and Cindy are expecting  their second  child in  a few  weeks.  I want to get over there and help her set up.   Family dinners are always  fun.   The dinner is going to be at the  church  fellowship  hall.  Luckily the  kids  live  very close to the church so getting the food over there won’t be hard.”


Lee listened as the older woman  went about  the  business of  packing the  food  she had  been  fixing  all week.   “Mitch  Sherman and his  crowd  has   everything planned for  tomorrow  evening.   Are you and the  boys going out to the reservation  tomorrow?” 


“I’m  not  sure...Johnny hasn’t said what he decided.  I  know that most of the memories he has from there aren’t ones he wants to share , so I  just  let  him  decide what and when he wants to tell me.  I  try to  do that with  his  job too, especially when it’s a run that goes sour.   You remind  me of  two  very dear ladies at home.  Maria who  raised me and  Emily  who has helped  me learn what  I need to do to be a  good  fireman’s wife…I promised I would  call  Maria tonight to let her  know  we are  fine.”


The   door  opened and the three  laughing men  came into the  room.  Colin   gave  Claire a  quick  kiss and  went  upstairs  to  change.

  “Boyo, there are several  boxes that need to  go out to the  car , why  don’t   you  two you  help Claire get them  loaded.”  Lee  said  after  Johnny’s  greeting.  “Then we can go over to the little house and you can  tell me about  your  day  while I  change  for dinner.  And I’ll  show you what I learned  today.”


Lee  decided to wear a black turtleneck top  with a lavender V-neck  sweater  over it.  The  dark purple wool  slacks and soft  black  leather  boots  gave  her just the right look.  She had pulled her long  hair  back into a lose pony tail  with a  multi colored  scarf tied into a lose  bow.   Her make  up  was perfect.  Johnny  sat on the  large  old  fashion  4  poster  bed and  watched  as she  put the earrings that matched her locket in her  ears.  “You  know,  we’re going to be on display tonight.    Are you going to be ok with this?”


“I’m going to be with you. So I’ll  be fine.”   Johnny looked  very  handsome  in  his tight  black jeans and a green western cut  shirt.    A  matching  Levi  jacket  was  laying on the  bed next to  him.  Lee  looked at him  and  smiled remembering what Claire had said earlier.
“The men around here should be thanking you or  otherwise their women  would be eying that fine young man with open lust.  Don’t be getting jealous when some of those  shameless  women  start  flirting with  him. I’m  sure he has to deal with the men flirting with you.”


“It’s  kind of you to say so but no…I’m  not the kind men flirt with.”


“Don’t sell yourself  short.  That chair doesn’t  hide the fact  you’re a very  pretty young woman.   And that tomorrow night they will play up to you. You’re pretty, rich and influential, that makes you a target for Mitch  Sherman.   Don’t trust that man or his  friends.”


Roy  came in looking good in his  jeans and dark  blue sweater over a  white shirt.  Lee felt  proud to  be in the company  of two such handsome  men.


“Ok,  are we ready for this?”  Johnny asked.  He was feeling better after  spending the afternoon at the fire station.  There didn’t seem to be any  outright racial tension.  A  few sideway looks  when he had  mentioned    running back to the reservation  hoping  to avoid  some  of the more vocal  town boys had gotten some strange looks.


There wasn’t  any  parking close to the  café so it was decided Johnny and Lee would  go in and  get a  table while Roy found a parking place An 
older  couple  was  coming out as Johnny and Lee  were starting  up to the  door.  The  man  held  the door  open with a  friendly  smile.   The  restaurant was busy and  Lee sighed  when she  realized all the tables were taken.  There were several open booths along the back wall. 


“Wait or sit in a booth?”  Johnny asked bending down whispering in her ear.   “It’s your choice.” 


“The booth will be fine.”  She said feeling like she was on display sitting there.  He pushed her carefully to the back of the restaurant.   He helped her stand and slide into the booth.   He looked around for a place to put the folded chair.  A busy waitress saw him looking around.


“Put it up next to the juke box.  No one will bother it.  Let me get this order delivered then I’ll be over to take your order.” 


“Take your time. We’re still waiting on friends.”   He gave her one of his quirky crooked smiles.  He put the chair where she had  told  him  went  He  didn’t  notice the  three  men  watching him or  hear their  mutterings.   Lee looking at the list she had made hadn’t noticed the men either. 


Johnny slid into the booth next to Lee.  She looked up at him. “So is there anything we need to do before the dinner tomorrow night?”  Looking at the list.


“No..I thought maybe in the morning we could go to the florist shop  then  to the  graveyard.   My  mother  loved  flowers.   I  use  to  go  out and pick  wild flowers and take them to her.”  The sadness in his voice tore at her heart.   “I need to go out to the reservation.  It’s something…its something  I have to do.” 


“It’s something WE need to do…You can tell me no but I really do want to go with you.” 


“What are you two looking so serious about?” Roy asked as he slid into the seat across from the two.


“Just talking about going out to the reservation tomorrow.”  Roy frowned at the two.  “Here comes the doctors.”  Steve set down next to Roy and Sean next to Johnny. The waitress, who had left menus, came back over when she saw the doctors.


The food and conversation was good. They had finished eating and were just talking.   Johnny felt Lee’s hand on his leg and felt her grip. 


“Ok, I think Leona Elizabeth has had as much of this seat as her back can 


“Leona Elizabeth, pretty name.”  Sean laughing at the stories they had told was really enjoying seeing Johnny so happy and confident.  He would have  liked to ask Johnny some questions but this was a too public for the conversation he  wanted.


“When he calls her that you know it’s serious.”  Roy said.  “Now,  when  she calls  him  John  Roderick,  it isn’t so easy to figure out.”


“If I was easy to figure out, wouldn’t that be boring?” Lee laughed at the private joke.  Johnny excused himself and went to pay the bill and get her wheelchair.  As he walked passed one of the tables a paper wad hit him in the shoulder.  He ignored it.


“That is one uppity half breed. Think we need to teach him a lesson?”  Frank Weston said as he watched Johnny talking to the cashier before  getting the chair and starting back to the table. 


Roy held the chair while Johnny lifted her into it.  He frowned at how tense she back and hip felt.  The muscles were jumping slightly.


“Lee, if you don’t  have  any  medication  with you I can  come over to  Colin’s  with  some  muscle relaxers.”  Steve said as a pained look passed over her face.


“I will be fining just a little stiff.” She answered to reassure Johnny. “But thank you for offering.” Roy left first to go bring the car around to the  cafe.  Even with his jacket, Roy could feel the cold wind.  The nice sunny 55 degree day had turned into a 35 degree chilly evening. Johnny and Lee  were waiting for Roy alone as the doctors had started walking to their  cars.


The short pudgy man smiled as he watched the others get into place.  “Let’s just see how fast you can move, Chief Running Scared.”  


The sidewalk outside of the café was crowded. A group of laughing   slightly drunk men headed towards Johnny and Lee.  The couple was busy watching for Roy, not paying any attention to the men. One man bumped into Johnny, an elbow finding a rib with a sharp well-placed jab as Johnny started moving the chair off the curb.


“Watch where you’re going, ya stupid breed.”  Johnny stiffened but didn’t say a word.  This was the sort of thing that Johnny had worried about.  Lee held her tongue not wanting to make things worse for Johnny.  As he said  that  another  man gave Johnny a push causing  him to jerk the wheelchair  before losing his grip on the handles. A combination of  the shoving, Lee  twisting to see if Johnny was ok, and gravity sent it moving forward then  tipping on its side.  Johnny couldn’t reach it because of three men  blocking his way.  One of the men in the group grabbed for  the chair but  wasn’t  fast enough.  Screaming as she fell, Lee put her arm up to try to protect her face.  The impact took her breath away.  She closed her eyes as the world was swinging. 


“Lee, open your eyes, now.”  Lee heard the fear in Johnny’s voice.    She felt the icy cold bag on her cheek.  “Please, Baby girl,  I need to see your eyes”    She opened her eyes slowly afraid the world was still spinning crazily. She felt something  pinch her arm.


“You‘re  hurt.”   She asked, seeing the smear of  blood on his face. She  reached  up to him.  The  pain  was  more of a burning ache, not sharp like she  remembered  from when she  first  fell


“No, they didn‘t hurt me…”


“Blood on your face,” It still hurt to take a deep breath.


“You had a bloody nose…Steve gave you a shot when you started having multiple muscle spasms. You’re at the clinic.  The X-rays showed no broken bones but you have some bad bruises.   I am sorry…I should have been able to stop you falling.  Should have stopped you from coming here.”   He gently wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, 


 “No  way  Boyo…would have come  after you…Can we go back to the  little house? I want to sleep curled up next to you.”


“In a few minutes…Roy and Colin are talking to the sheriff…”


“Why?”  She was still a little fuzzy on what had happened.   “Why   did they push you like that?” 


“They were just showing off.”  Lee knew there was more to it than that but she was too tired to argue right now.  Besides she knew he was having a hard time accepting what had happen.  “Go back to sleep.”  He stayed with her, holding her hand, stroking her forehead much as she did for him when he was ill or upset.


They went back to the little house.  Johnny settled her in the big four poster bed.   He felt sick to his stomach at the bruise on her face and on her side.   Roy had wanted to stay with them, sleeping on the couch.   Lee had gotten upset saying Roy had to get some sleep as did Johnny.   He had gone   back to the main house and made two phone calls.  One to Jo the other to Maria Alvarez.   Lee had promised Maria to call her every night but between the shot and the pain pills was in no condition to talk to anyone.


Maria  Alvarez  was  on  the phone before  Roy  could get from the  front  room to the  kitchen where Colin and Claire  were waiting  for  him.


“So what did your wife have to say?”  Claire had heard all about Johnny’s wonderful family…The Desoto’s. 


“Livid. If it wasn’t for the kids she woud be here tomorrow.”   Roy knew that Jo had become just as protective of Lee as she was of Johnny.   “I think Maria was even more livid.  Lee is her daughter in all but blood.  If they had their way both of them would be on a plane right now to take them both home.”


“Wouldn’t you be the third one pushing for that?” Claire asked with a knowing look. “I get the feeling you would have been happier if they hadn’t got on the plane in the first place”


“Most of their  family  and  friends  were  not  happy  but  this trip  is something  Johnny  needed.  There was no way he was coming without her.” 


“Yes, I heard all about that argument.  She was worrying about him this afternoon.”  Claire said.  “I think she paid me a great compliment today.  She said I reminded her of Emily Stanley and I would fit well into their group.”


“That is indeed a compliment.” 


“Now, lights out in 10.  I’ll be up at 6 but I would suggest you sleep as late as possible.”


Over in the little house, Johnny laid close to Lee listening to   her even breathing.  She  was  sleeping  soundly  and didn’t  stir  even  as he  softly  pushed  several strands  of  hair  back  from  her  face.  The swollen discolored cheek breaking his heart.  Soon  her  soft  relaxing  rhythmic  breathing  lulled  him into sleep,  one  hand  lightly resting across  her body.


~E! ~


“Morning, Mijo, Little Sister.”  The look on Lee’s face was priceless Roy thought as he watched her.   Cisco saluted the very surprised couple with his coffee mug.   “Heard you had some trouble with a few drunken cowboys.   Ma wanted to come   kick some backsides   but dad convinced her to send me instead.   He  wanted to  come  too  but Ma  said  if  she  couldn’t  come  neither  could  he.”  He laughed but in reality, he had been more than ready to kick some butts.  Even more so after seeing her bruised and swollen face.  He watched the careful way she moved.  Worst for him was the look in her eyes.   “Nice Irish Mouse.”


“They weren’t that drunk, it wasn’t any accident.   It was a well planned attack.”   Lee said once she found her voice and could control it.


“How do you know that?”  Johnny questioned.  Roy and Cisco both noticed he didn’t question the fact, just how she knew it.


“Darlin’ Boyo, you grew up hanging around with firemen,   wanting to be a fireman right?”   He nodded not sure, where her logic was leading.  “Well, think about it.  I  grew  up  hanging out  with  police and  private  detectives  and  various   inappropriate  types,  wanting to be  in law enforcement .  I think I know the difference between a stage drunk and a real one.”


“You would have made one helluva cop.”   Cisco said with pride.


“Junior?”  Roy could see Johnny was struggling with something.  “You may as well tell us now what’s bothering you?”


“Th…They use to   do that to   m-m-me   every day.”   Lee’s eye widen at the slight stutter.  She hadn’t heard that for months except when he was seriously ill.   “They c -- called me Chief Running Scared…Recognized some of them last night.”   He was studying a spot on the spotless floor.    The red tint of embarrassment covering the high cheekbones.


“Look, Mijo, you have more guts than most people I know.  You were brave enough to marry that hellcat.  What’s that saying …Running in when all others are running out?   You were a lone scrawny kid.  Your only option was to run.  You don’t have to run now.” 


Roy stood back smiling at the tone of Cisco’s words.   Just the  right  mixture of  anger,  pride,  humor  and  support  that his  little  brother  needed to  hear.  Roy wasn’t sure if anyone else heard Lee’s softly whispered “Never alone again.”  


“John.”   Hearing   Roy using his given name Johnny looked up at his best friend.    No  words were  spoken  aloud  but  the others  knew a very important  conversation  had  taken  place.  Colin and Claire were impressed   by  the  love and  support  they  were seeing  these  3  give  Johnny   They  realized they had  just  seen  what Steve Handly  had  described as a  silent  conversation  past  between the  paramedics.


Claire offered to make all breakfast but Lee had refused.  “We are going to have breakfast at the café then go about our plans for the day.  Francisco, did you pack a decent set of clothing?” 


“Yes ma’am…Ma taught me some manners in spite of myself…Been told I clean up right nice a time or two.”


“ That  bushy mustache, a 3  day  old  beard  and  long  hair  must  have  given  Claire a  fright   when  you pounded on her  door this  morning.”  Lee giggled. 


“Not  sure I  would have  let  him in or  told  him  where to  find  you if 
Roy hadn’t  been here to vouch  for  him,” Claire  replied.   Laughing at that they said their goodbyes.


Claire watched as they walked back over to the van.  Turning to Colin, she looked concerned.   “Do you think they’ll be safe?”


“Them yes,   Lame Deer I’m not so sure about.”    He told her what 
Roy had told him about Cisco’s   background.  “Every one of those men would fight Beelzebub himself for that girl.  And she for them.”


~E! ~


There breakfast  rush  was  over and  the  lunch  rush  wouldn’t  start  for another  hour.  As they found a table, the five men at the counter glared at them.    Paying  them  no  mind  the  four ordered and  soon  were talking   as  if they  didn’t have a care in the  world.  The guys   had all ordered the  steak and  eggs  special and  Lee  had  biscuits and  gravy,   which  Johnny  was  eating  part of after finishing off his  steak,  eggs and  hash browns.   The older couple that had been in there the night before came in.  They stopped at the table.


“We   heard about your accident…Glad you weren’t hurt worst.”  The man said kindly. 


“Thank you but it wasn’t an accident.  It was a bunch of over aged juvenile delinquents.   A bunch of cowards and bullies hiding behind a group mentality.  My  husband and his  partner and  their  crewmates  show  more  courage in a  day  than that  bunch  of  losers  do in  a  life time.”
Lee spoke in a normal voice   but she knew everyone at the counter could hear her.   She didn’t care she was going to have her say.   “I can almost feel sorry for their families.  I am proud of all that Johnny and Roy do to make the world a better place.  Can their families say that?”


“Young  man,  I  remember  seeing  you and  your  parents,   you  were  just a  small  child…I  think  they  would  be  proud of  you and  your  wife.”  The man said   before walking off.     The men  at the  counter  avoided  looking  directly  at  Cisco  when he  took  the  bill  up  to the  register.    But it was clear to him that they were sizing him up.   He  had on  an  old  biker  shirt,  a denim  jacket and  jeans,  biker  boots  and  a  everyday  well  worn  cowboy  hat.   He had   his hair pulled back and   stuffed up under his hat.   He smiled  remembering the  look  Claire  Sullivan had  given  him  when he  knocked on her  door at  7o’clock  that  morning.    While  he was paying the  bill  Johnny, Lee  and  Roy  walked over to  the  small  florist  shop  to  buy  an  arrangement  to take to the  grave yard. 


At the  cemetery  they  stopped at the  small office so  Johnny  could  find  out  where  his mother  was  buried.   Roy went in with him while Cisco and Lee waited in the car.   


“Ok, tell me what’s going thru that devious mind of yours?”  Cisco chuckled at the oh so innocent look Lee gave him.


“Three of the men at the counter in the café were in the group that shoved Johnny last night.    Remember  when I  said I  could  never  hate anyone as  much as I  hated  Richard Palmer  and  Lewis  Montoya?”   Cisco nodded.   “Well,   I  hate  those  men as  much if  not  more…not  just the  ones last night  but all  the ones  who hurt  Johnny  and are still  trying to. The Boyo, he tells me not to hate them…that  hate only  grows  more  hate…but its  hard  when I  see that  hurt  look  in  his  eyes.”   She  stopped  talking  when she  saw  him and  Roy  coming  back  to the  car. 


It was a small well kept cemetery except for one section.  Many  of the  graves had  no  markers and others had  small  ones  that were  weather  worn and  broken  towards  the  back.  As  they  drove  down the  into this  section  the  paved  road  gave way to a  dirt  path.   As Roy parked the van. 


“I   want you to stay in the van. That ground is too rough for you.”


“No.”    Softly but firmly.  “If  you  want me to  stay because  you  want to  be alone with your  mom   that’s  fine   and I  respect  you  for that.   But, 
See me not this chair.”  He didn’t say a word just kissed her lightly.  Roy and  Cisco  stayed  with  the  van  as the  two  moved  carefully  over the  rough  ground.  Lee sat quietly as Johnny knelt down and talked with his mother.  The soft Cheyenne words sounded like a prayer to her.  She said a prayer of her own waiting silently for him.  He stood up and came over to her.  The tears were visable on his cheeks.  She   reached up and brushed them away.
“I  know  without any doubt  that  she  and  your  dad  are  so  proud of  you,  my Boyo. ..Don’t ever let anyone tell you different.   They are   as  proud  of  you and  love you  as much as I  do  if  not  more.  I  thank  them  every  day for  having  such a  wonderful loving  son and  for  sharing him  with me.”   He didn’t say a word just kissed her softly. 


“Roy, I need   to talk with someone in the cemetery office. Would you go in and ask them to come out to the van?”  She asked looking at Johnny.


  They pulled up in front of the office and Johnny went in.  A few minutes later, he came   back out.   The gentleman   who came out with him looked puzzled but pleasant.


“Lee, this is Mr.  Collier.  He’s the manager.”


“Thanks for coming out to see me.  This  cool  weather  plus last night’s  incident  is  starting to  catch up  with  my achy bones.  I would  like to make  arrangements  for  flowers  to be  put on  Kate  Gages’s  grave once a month.  Also I would like  you  to  talk  someone  about  repairing and maintaining  that  section of the  cemetery  as the rest of the sections are  maintained.  Our  friends Claire and Colin Sullivan  will  periodically  check on the  progress of  the  repairs  and  to make  sure  that it is  being  maintained  once the initial  repairs are  made.  All  bills  for this are to  be sent  to our accountants…Also  flowers  should  be  placed on  all the  graves in  that section on appropriate  holidays.   Our accountant  works  closely with  my  grandfather’s  company  and  so  they   have a  very  good working  knowledge of  what is a  fair  price for the  work and  flowers.”     She was in full professional mode playing the part with great style.
“I’m sure we can do that.”  Mr. Collier said a little over whelmed by her.


She took a card from her purse and gave it to him after adding some information.”  “Our lawyers and the accountants will answer you any questions you may have.  We have another stop to make before   going back to the Sullivan’s.”   Like a queen dismissing a lowly servant she smiled and nodded, dismissing him completely.


As they drove away, Lee began giggling. “That poor man was not sure what to think.”


“You didn’t have to do that.”  Johnny said with a hitch in his voice.


“I did that because I wanted to do that…It was a disgrace the way that section was kept.” 


~E! ~


“We are going to meet with Micha Little Bear and James Red Eagle after lunch.   They want to talk to us about something.”  


“Are you going to see your family?”   They were in their bedroom in the little house.  Cisco and Roy were up at the big house with Claire. 


“I don’t think it really matters any more.    My family is in Los Angeles.
The plaques are closure, validation I don’t know whatever you want to cal it.”


“I call it a loving act of respect and honor.  Let’s  go  have our  meeting then  come  back to  get   ready  for the next  act in this  farce.  Claire is   convinced Mitch Sherman is going to try somehow to get control of the money.”   She looked at herself in the mirror.   “Do I look ok?   Claire  seemed  to think I  should  use  make  up to  cover the  bruising  but it   hurts  to touch it.   Taking the makeup off would hurt even more.”

She had  changed out of the  casual  slacks and  sweater  she  had  worn to the cemetery  into  a long dark  green  skirt with a  softer  green turtle neck  sweater.    Her hair was up in a French twist.   Her only make up was a pale rose lipstick.   Her locket was the only jewelry  she  wore besides  her  rings,   since  one of  her  earrings  had  been  lost  when she  fell.   Johnny  had  changed into a  pair of  black  slacks  with a  deep  red V neck  sweater  over a  white  shirt. 


“You’re elegant and proper looking.”  She giggled.  “Even with a black eye you’re beautiful.”


“Thank you kind sir.  May I say you are very handsome and charming?   I am sure that the tribal elders will be impressed.”  


Roy and Cisco were in the kitchen drinking coffee with Claire.
“These two look like an add for some fancy car in a fashion magazine.”  Cisco teased.  Every time he saw Lee’s face he got the urge to break something or someone into pieces.


“I guess since we’re just the hired help it doesn’t matter what we look like.”  Roy joined in the teasing. 
~E! ~


There was very little traffic on the road between the Sullivan’s   home and the reservation.  The mood in the van was playful.


“Ya  know,   we  may  just have to include  Linda and Cami  in the  long  week end  us  girls are  having  soon.”


“Not until after soccer season, I hope.  Jen is turning into a good player.   Her and Stacy and Cami work really well together.”   Cisco said a huge grin on his face.  “Seems like someone has taught them some sign language and they communicate well on the field.”


“That was Uncle Johnny not me.”  


“Uncle  Johnny  says is a phrase I’m  hearing a lot at my  house…Stacy and  Jen  have adopted  Cami  into their  cousin   clan.    And I heard a rumor that someone is getting a Lee doll for her birthday.  First name yet to be decided.”


“We have company…coming up on the left …,” Roy said.   “I’ve seen that pick up on off all day.  It was outside the café and I saw it again when left the cemetery.”


A second    pick up came at them   from a lane blocking the road.  Roy had no choice but to hit the brakes.   Muttering to himself, Cisco pulled a pistol from under his jacket and turning   handed it to Lee.  “You stay in the van with her, Mijo.  You listen to him.  Roy, you be ready to drive off   and if someone is in your way…run the S.O. B.  Down.”


“Cisco…you can’t…”   But   knowing he could and would fight the five
men Lee still worried.  


“There are only five of them.   Don’t worry about me.”  As he was talking he had taken the smaller gun from his ankle holster and slipped it in his pocket.   He unbuckled the knife sheath he had on his hip.  “You,   don’t shoot unless I tell you…and if you do, remember your lessons.”


Roy was looking doubtful at this exchange.  Johnny couldn’t help smiling even as worried as he was, remembering what Cisco had said in the hospital.


The two pickups stopped and two   men got out and started walking towards Cisco.  The other three stood back to watch the fun.  Leaning against the front fender of the rented van Cisco   spit on the ground.  “Hope this is gonna be a quick conversation.  My mijo has an appointment so we don’t have a lot of time to tend to trash right now.”


“Hey Frank, think we need to teach this over aged hippy a few manners…    Maybe even give him a haircut.  What did that mouthy bitch called us?  Over aged juvenile delinquents?”  Will Tudor said with a sneer.


“Yeah,   Little Sister can be mouthy.    Takes a lot of guts to attack a girl in a wheelchair and her husband.   What it only took   10 or 12 of you to get your courage up…Really brave.”  The easy Texas drawl and the look of contempt were making two of the five uneasy.  They were cowards.  The only reason they had been in the group last night was because they had been too afraid to say no to the others.   They were exactly what Lee had called them ---cowards and bullies.  If they went along with the others then the bullies tolerated them leaving them   alone most of the time.


“I’m going out there.” Johnny said as he watched the men coming towards them.


“No, stay in here with me.”
“You’ll be fine, they won‘t hurt you again.”   He kissed her then got out of the van.  Roy also got out. They stood guard by the open van door.   Will,  Frank,  and  Yancey  Black  had  been  the ones  who had  started the  Chief  Running  Scared  garbage. Lee  knew  in her heart  this  is  what he had to  do  for  his own  self  respect and  peace of  mind.  He had to do this to put an end to Chief Running Scared. 


“Frank you ready to teach this guy a lesson?”   Will Tudor challenge his friend? Since they were kids, Will had been goading Frank into doing his dirty work.  “He doesn’t look so tough.”


Frank  and  Yancey moved  closer to  Cisco  waiting for the  tall  lanky  stranger  to  back away  from  them.  Frank was taller  than  Cisco  by  about  2  inches   and  outweighed  him  by  30  pounds.  Yancey was an even match as far as size.  Both men charged at Cisco.   With a  spin  neither man  had  seen  coming  Cisco  planted a  swift  kick  in  Yancey’s  rib  cage.  As he lost his balance, Yancey stumbled in front of Frank.   This further enraged the bigger man   who bellowed an obscenity as he regained his balance.   On the sidelines, Tudor was screaming at Frank and the others to get them.  Easily side stepping  Yancey’s  clumsy  attempts  to  fight  Cisco  grew  tired of  playing   with  him  and  snapped  his  arm,.  The paramedics cringed at the sound   but did not move from the side of the van.   With  Yancey  out of the  way  Cisco  could  concentrate on the  bigger  more  skilled  man.   Cisco  knew the  bigger man had  been hanging  back  letting  Yancey  take the brunt of the blows in an effort  to tire  Cisco  out.  Frank used brute strength more than actual fighting skill.  He had good instincts but had grown complacent   over the years.  Thinking no one would ever really challenge him he had lost that some of the swiftness he needed.   He  landed a  blow  to the  side of  Cisco’s  face and  followed  up  with another to his  mid section.  The jabs were coming faster now, not aimed as they had been at the first.  Both men had blood on their faces.  Frank  from a  broken  bleeding  nose  and  Cisco  from a  split  lip. 


Will Tudor  watched as  Frank  Weston   struggled  to maintain  his  balance  as  the  stranger  did a  series of  jumps and  spins  combined  with  hard  blows to the  head  that  had the  big   man   going  down  on  his knees.   The  men standing next to  Tudor  had slowly started  backing away towards the  pick up  truck  parked at an  angle  near the  van  intending to make a  hasty  retreat.
  “Knife!”  Johnny   yelled.   Will Tudor had pulled a hunting knife from   the fancy beaded sheath he wore. 
“DUCK,” Lee shouted as she fired the pistol   she had been holding.  With a thud and a hiss the tires on the nearest pick up went flat.  Roy and Johnny   had dropped to the ground at her command.  Roy turned   so he could see the hysterical   girl with the gun.    He  let out the  breath  he had  been   holding shaking  his  head  as he  realized  she  wasn’t  crying  but  laughing. He followed her gaze and began laughing too at the puddle forming   at the feet of the nearest man.


Cisco   turned at the warning from Johnny.  As he turned, the Bowie knife was in his hand then in the air.  The  cry of the  furious  man  as  the  Bowie  met its  target  went  from  rage to  pain


Johnny and Roy went into paramedic mode the best they could with limited supplies.  Cisco had used the CB in Yancey’s truck to call the county sheriff.   After looking at the men and at his watch.
“Mijo, you’re going to be late but I think the tribal leaders will understand.  You three go on we’ll just wait for the sheriff.”   Tudor   was in the  back of the  pick up  with a make  shift  bandage on his  shoulder,  Yancey  was  sitting  next to  him  cradling his  splinted  arm.  Frank was tied   hands behind his back and at the ankles on the ground.  Roy thought he had a concussion from the way his eyes reacted to the light.  The other two were sitting in the cab of the disabled truck.
“Was  thoughtful  these  guys  had a  cooler of  beer in the  back of that   other  truck…Think   the  sheriff   might  be interested in  some other  things I  found   back  there.”    Cisco had  used  some of the  water from the  melted  ice  to wash  his  face and  grinned  at the  look  on Lee’s  face as he  took a  long  swig of the  beer.   “Good shooting, Little sister.”


“Thanks…for everything.”  Lee said.   Now  that it  was over and  everyone  safe she  was ready to  fall apart  but  knew  she  couldn’t.  She would   wait until she was home in California and have a good old fashion melt down


~E! ~

Micha  Little  Bear  was  working on the  speech he  was  giving  when the  plaque  was  presented to  the doctors.  While the main  clinic  was  in Lame  Deer  there  was a  smaller on  on the  reservation its  self.  That is where the plaque honoring Kathleen Gage would be located.     James Red Eagle came in and sat down after getting a cup of coffee.


“What did you find out?”   Micha said.   “Anything we should know?”


“There are two men   with the Gages.     The second one came in early this morning.   Looks   like a biker.   Tom   Medicine  Bull  said she was  pretty  vocal  in  the  café  this morning  about  bullies  and  cowards.  I think Gage must have recognized some of them.   Rumor is that our two local bully boys are both interested in them.  Tudor’s  crowd  pulled one of their  group  attacks,  her  chair  was  tipped over   but  no  serious injuries.  Still not sure, what Sherman and his bunch are up to.   Tudor use to make life miserable for Gage before he left here.”


“Did you talk to his aunts?   I don’t want them causing a problem.  We need that money.  Steve Handly seemed to think they are interested in improving the health care for the women and children on the reservation.


“Be nice if we could get some money for scholarships to   Dull Knife.”  Micha said.  “Colin seems to think that is a good possibility.”   The two tribal   leaders were in their early 40’s.  They had taken over the tribal leadership roles within the last two years.   Micha’s  father  had  retired  from  public  life  following a stroke and  James’  dad  had  decided  he  was ready to retire and  concentrate on  building  good  solid  programs at  Dull  Knife.  He had  great  hope for the  future of the new  small  school  and  what it  would  do for his people.   The two younger men had worked hard at trying to improve the relationship between town and reservation.  They heard the door to the outer office open and went out to greet their visitors.


Seated at the long conference table, Johnny looked around the room at the pictures on the walls.  He had never been in this room before.   He had never been included in any of the ceremonies or tribal activities other than working on the ranch or where ever he had been told.


“You have  been very  kind  and the  money  will  do much to improve the  health of  our  women and  children.”  James Red Eagle said after listening to what the doctor and the couple had discussed.   The tribal leaders looked uneasy.   What they were purposing would be so beneficial to the reservation and the town and they would hate for it not to happen.


“I hate to bring up unpleasant memories,   but we need to talk about your family.”  Micha Little Bear said.  “They aren’t happy with your being here.”


“Yeah.”  Johnny looked down at his hands.  He  turned  the  wedding   band  around  as he  thought  out  what he  needed to  say.   “I didn’t come here to cause trouble for any one.   I came to honor my mother and father.  If  the  aunts  and  uncles  can’t  accept  that…Since  they never accepted me I  don’t  think  I  expected  them to  be happy  about    my  coming  back  here.”   Roy could see the sad lost boy he had befriend years ago showing in Johnny’s eyes.  He wanted to make sure   these men, all of Lame Deer saw the real John Gage this time.


“John is one of the most well liked and well respected men in the L.A. County Fire Department.    He has a family back in California at Station 51, who admires and accepts him.   I  am proud  to say  he my  partner,  my best  friend  and  my little  brother.  My  wife sees  him  as her  little  brother and  sometimes as our  third  child…My  kids   love  their  Uncle Johnny  for  all the  fun  things  he  does  but  even if  they  don’t  put it into  words  they  also  love  and respect  him  for his  goodness.  He sees the best in the people around him.  He teaches them respect and   honor and caring by his example.   He  was  taught  that men don’t  show  emotion  that its weakness…I think  Johnny is one of the  bravest  people  I  have  ever been  privileged  to know.   He has  worked  hard  through  terrible  tragedies  and illnesses  but  never  gives  up,  never  lost his faith in  life’s  goodness.”
“Thank you.”   The soft heartfelt words spoke volumes.   Lee  wiped the  tears  from her  eyes  wincing  a little as  they stung a  small  cuts  on  her  cheek.  She  had  an idea of  some of  what  was  going on in  Johnny’s  mind  and  what those two  words  really conveyed.


“If we have time, I’d like to go to the trading post.”   Lee said.  Then we need to get back to Claire’s.”  She wanted to change the mood and bring the smile back to Johnny’s eyes.  “I won’t mention any  names  but  someone  promised me a new  pair of  earrings  to  replace the  on  one I  lost .  And, if memory serves me  right  he  owes  two  little  girls  a  present because  he promised.   And if  he  buys  them  something he  needs to  get  something for the  boys…which means  he  also needs to  buy  something for the  parents…Then there are the people I want to buy presents  for.  By the way, Claire said she would ship home anything I couldn’t take on the plane.” 


“Sounds like this is   going to be expensive.”  Roy  smiled  knowing  Johnny  had  planned on  getting her new  earrings   and some moccasin’s  like she had seen  on  TV.   Jo  had  tried to  explain  Lee’s  obsession  with  shoes and  boots  to him  several  times.


James Red Eagle laughed at the look   Johnny gave his friend.  “Just   because a guy is frugal   doesn’t mean he doesn’t like giving presents.”  His annoyed look spoiled by the twinkle in his eyes.  “I admit, I use to be more conservative with my spending.”




“You  come back here but do not  visit your family  You show none of the  respect due your elders, your  family.  You have  money to  waste on  strangers yet  you have none  to help  your  family?“ The  bitter  harsh  words  startled Johnny and Lee.  The  older woman  stared  definently  at   the  couple.   “You let your own  family live in  need  yet  you make a  big  show of  giving money to others. You  are an  ungrateful  selfish man.  You bring us nothing but embarrassment all your life.  You have a duty to   us, your   family   who had to take you in.”  

The  others in the  trading  post  stopped and  looked  at the  small  group  over  by the jewelry  counter.  Johnny stood there his head bowed as he listened to the poisonous hate.  Lee  looked  to  Roy then  to  Johnny   not  knowing  what to  say  or  do. Johnny did not say a word in   his own defense.  


“You are so weak you cannot even wed a proper woman.”


“That is enough of your foul mouth.”  Johnny said in an angry voice.  “You   will not speak of my wife in that manner.”   The rage in his voice showed clearly on his face.  Lee and Roy were shocked at the tone of his voice, the look on his face.     “I have listened to you   speak of my father and mother in such a voice.  You speak of respect…respect is not given   but earned.   My only duty to you is to treat you politely like I would any stranger.”


“You dare to speak to me in that tone?   You owe me …I …”


“He owes you nothing!”  Lee had reached the point where she could not hold her tongue.  “You never were family to him…  In  your  pride and  your  stupid  hate you  allowed  your  husband to  beat  him  almost to death.   You allowed others to treat him as badly as you did.   Was it jealousy because his mother was so beautiful?    That you knew your husband wanted her not you?    Jealous  she had  found a  good  kind  man  that loved her for  her  soul and  gentle  nature  as much as for her outer  beauty? Did  you  let  your  jealousy and  hate  steal  your  soul   so  that  you  could  not  see   her  son  as a person  but  only  as a target for your  spite?” 


The old woman took a step closer to Lee and raised her hand.  Johnny was standing behind Lee and moved to   stop her.  Lee reached up and grabbed the hand and held it mid air.     Lee knew it would be so easy to snap the wrist just as they had done to Johnny when he was a defenseless child.    But  she also  knew  that  Johnny  never  wanted  her to  hate  anyone  because of  him  and  would  never  want to be the  cause of  another’s  pain  because of  him.  Still holding the wrist tightly she continued talking.  “The  only  thing I  can feel  for  you is  pity…you  let the  hate and  anger  stop  you  from  knowing  this  intelligent,  gentle  man. He   shows his courage every day in ways you are not capable of understanding.  Do   you  think  he  and his  friends  stop to think of a person’s  race or  religion  or  status  when they  go into  burning  building?  Or crawl around in a collapsed building?   When  they climb  down  cliffs or  go into  such  dangerous  situations  you can’t  even imagine?   They  don’t  do it  for  glory  and  certainly  not  pay  or  social  status…They do  it  because they  care  and  want to  help  people.  And I  feel  sad  because  you will  never  feel  the  joy  that his  smile  can  bring  to  you or the  comfort of  his  gentle  touch…”   She let go of the wrist and turned to look at him.   “Well, darlin’ Boyo, shall we finish our shopping?”    The  cold  look  of  dismissal   she  gave  the old woman   spoke  loudly  as Johnny  pushed her  over to  where the  boots  were.   She  may  have  looked  calm  on  the outside  but inside  she  was  trembling.  Thinking   back   when   Johnny  had  grabbed her  wrist and  held it  she was  again  horrified  at the  thought of  his  being  abused  by the old  crow.


“Mr. DeSoto, I’m sorry you had to see that.”  Red Eagle said as he and Roy followed slightly back from the two.  


“I’ve seen the  X-rays  of  the  scars  from the  broken  bones  Johnny  suffered  at the  hands of  his  aunts and  uncles,  one in particular .  I think that as uncomfortable as it was, that might give him closure.”


“George?  He was an ugly drunk…not the  nicest  person when he  was sober…He is  in   the  county  home…the alcohol  abuse  caught up  with him..  Yes, closure for John and something for others to think about.”


Twenty minutes  later  they  left the  trading  post  and  made their  way  back  to the office.  Several  people  stopped   them and  told  Johnny and Lee  thank  you for  what they  were  doing for the  clinic.    Lee was anxious to go back to Claire’s to check on Cisco.


Cisco was waiting for them when they got back to Claire and Colin’s   home.  Johnny  insisted  that  Lee  get out of the  wheelchair and she  was  soon  settled in the  big  soft  rocker   with her  legs  up on the  footstool.   Claire had put a warm   woolen blanket over her legs. 


“The sheriff is going to come out and talk to you.  He wants you to identify this.”  He held out her lost earring.  “One of the guys I turned over to him had bragged about having this.  Then he changed his story insisting it was something he bought a few weeks ago.” 


“I have the mate and they area one of a kind pair.  Am I going to be in trouble for shooting at the truck?’


“Nope…talked to  some of my  buddies  in  Billings…seems that Tudor and his friends  had  caused  some  trouble  up  there  too.  I stopped in there before I came down here.  Thought it might be a good idea.”


“Hope my eye doesn’t clash with my dress.”   They were in the little house.  Lee was lying on the bed resting after their shower.  Johnny was standing by the window.


“You’re beautiful even with a colorful eye…Baby girl, are you sure you feel ok?  This … dinner isn’t that important…Not for you to be I pain.”


“I’m fine, maybe a little tired but nothing to worry about.  Besides, this is my chance to show off my fantastic   husband.   Johnny, this is as important to me as it is to you.  I told you that…”


“What you said back in the trading post…”


“Was what was in my heart?   I’ll  admit I wanted to hurt her for  hurting  you,  for  all the  horrible  things.   But  you taught me  that  hurting  someone  who  hurts you…that  doesn’t  lessen your  hurt,  only adds to  it.”

“Come lay down for a few minutes… I …if I tell you something, promise not to laugh?” He laid  down  beside her  and  helped  her  get  situated the  way  she  wanted,  her  head on his  shoulder,  his arm around  her.   He knew when she said that something   was bothering her and she needed to talk it out.
“I  came here  thinking I wasn’t   going to like anyone  other than  the Sullivan’s  and the doctors…And  really didn’t  expect to  find  anyone  out  on the  reservation  I  would  like…I’m  sorry  for  being so  narrowed  minded.”  She turned her head.  “You were right there are good people here.  I’m glad  now  you  chose  the  way  you  did .  I think our parents will be watching the ceremonies, so proud of you.  Even more tha usual if that’s possible.”
He  kissed her lightly on  the  forehead  and whispered  softly to her in  Cheyenne  to  her until  she  was  asleep.  (They had enough extra time for her to sleep 15 minutes)


Johnny called and asked Clair if she could come help Lee with her hair.   Lee was frustrated at not being able to raise her right arm high enough to fix it herself.   Her frustration level was high and she was almost in tears.  Johnny knew his being there was just making it worst for her.


“Some of my  best memories  are of  helping my  girls  do their  hair  for special  parties…You   just  tell me  what you  want…John,   why  don’t  you take  your  clothes up to the  house and  let me and Lee  finish  here.”


Grumbling happily, John got his garment bag and headed towards the house.   “Call me when it’s safe.”    He kissed her and left   with a sigh of relief and some guilty feelings.  He was soon dressed in his western cut suit and dress boots.   Waiting for Lee, he paced and worried while his friends   just let him rant.


Lee explained   how she wanted her hair and Claire happily began fixing it.   Lee let her chatter away.   She could tell Lee was upset about more than just her hair.


“Johnny   hasn’t seen this yet…Do you think he’ll like it?”  The long   black  dress  was  form  fitting  and  had a  high  halter  neck  with a  cream  colored   bolero  jacket.   Her  hair  was  up  like  Johnny liked it  with   her  butterfly  hair  pin .    She had on the quahog jewelry Johnny had gotten her and black spiked heels.


“When  you and Johnny came  I  thought  you  were a  pretty   young  girl…Even  with the  black  eyes and  bruises   you are a  beautiful  woman   tonight.  Johnny is going to be the proudest person there.”


“No, that will be me.   He is   gonna   give me a  hard  time about the  heels  but  this  just  didn’t  look  right with  flats.  I love pretty shoes.”  She let out a deep sigh.  “I   had made up on the bruises   but it had to be so thick it looked terrible….Well.  I   guess  we  should  go  over to your   house and  see if   the Boyo   and  the  guys are  ready  to go…Claire,  wish  you were  going  tonight.”


 “Colin said it was my choice and I said no.  He has to go…I don’t like being around that crowd.   Never have.   Come on, that man of yours is waiting.   Poor laddie, he was a nervous wreck worrying about you.”


“Mijo,   that’s a damn   fine looking woman   you got there.” Cisco said as the two women went into the   house.  “Damn fine.”


“John Roderick?   Do I meet your approval?”   Johnny nodded his eyes wide and a grin that said it all to her, more than words could have.


“Chet Kelly is never gonna believe this…A speechless John Gage.”  Roy said.    “It   could get interesting   tonight.”


“Yeah that girl is ready to explode.”  Cisco muttered as they watched the van pull out of the driveway.  


~E! ~


Soon as she saw him, Lee didn’t like or trust Mitch Sherman.  He reminded her of too many sleezy types she knew in L.A.   Men  who used  their  charm and  money  to  get  what they  wanted under the  guise of  being a civic  leader.   The  men he had invited other than Colin  were his buddies  or  people he  thought  he  could  use  for   his own  benefit.  He and his wife Deborah were both snobs and bigots.   Not the  in  your  face  Archie Bunker  types  but the sly sneaky  kind who  had a  hidden  meaning  behind the  compliments.   The men had taken their drinks and went out to the stable.


“That’s a very lovely dress, Mrs.  Gage.”   Deborah said with a condescending smile.   “It   looks very comfortable.”


“It is. The designer has a wonderful shop that sells vintage clothing as well as her own designs.   We have become   good friends since she did the dresses for our wedding.  I actually  got  this  for a  charity fund  raiser  we ‘re  going  to  next  month but I  love  it  and  decided  it  would  be  fine  for this  also.” 


“Does your job   require your job require you to go to a lot of   charity functions?   Isn’t that   hard on you?    What   do you do actually?   Besides, being some sort of secretary for the WBSF?  My husband was very impressed when he had   that organization checked out.”


“I am a special project manager for the state of California working in conjunction with the fire department and Rampart Hospital.  But I did recently take on more responsibility at WBSF.”


“It  must  be  hard   you HAVING  to  work  two  jobs and  the  strange  hours  your  husband  works…Don’t  you  worry  about   finding  enough  time together?”



“  I  don’t  have to  work  two  jobs,  I like  my jobs  but nothing is  more important  than  being  Johnny’s wife.  My  bosses at state agreed  to  my  changing  my hours  so I wouldn’t   quit.  When Johnny is off shift, I don’t work.  The WBSF work is done mostly at   home   in my own time.”


“That must keep you very busy.”   Not  grasping the  fact  that  a secretary  wouldn’t  be able to make  such  demands.  A woman in her mid 40’s came in   laughing as she greeted everyone.   “Katherine, where have you been?   You’re late.”


“Out at the stables…I wanted to check on   my mare.   Was talking to  the most  gorgeous  man …He  seemed to  know  horses…But   looking like  he does he  could  be  dumb as a  box of  rocks and I  wouldn’t  mind.   Wonder if he is as good in bed as he looks?   You could drown   in those eyes of his…I’m assuming he   is the guest of   honor?  Definitely not  what I expected  listening  to  Carl  talk about the crazy  half  breed  who  would  zone out and  stare and  rock.  This may not be such a dull evening after all.”


Lee sat there feeling all the eyes on her as the woman talked.  It was obvious the woman had been drinking.  If   she wanted to play games, Lee was an expert player.    Looking at Katherine in the eye, Lee   smiled.  “Johnny is a very accomplished   person in all aspects of his life.   He was  offered  several  scholarships   but   chose to  follow  his  heart and  dreams to  become a  fireman.    He was one of the first paramedics   in the field,   actually saving lives.  He’ s this  wonderful   fun loving  adventurous  person   who  lights  up  the  world  with his  smile and his  gentle  heart.   Too many people take his good nature as a sign of weakness… That is so wrong.”  She rolled her eyes.   “He has very strong values and a personal code of conduct.   A   gentleman in the truest sense of the word.  And to answer   your   original question,   better than you could ever imagine.   He   is a flirt, it comes natural, is part of his charm.   He  knows I  am  never threatened  by it because I  know  his  heart  is  mine.  And all the attached body parts.”


   Katherine stood there   looking shocked.  No one ever spoke to her like that, not even Deborah Sherman.  They didn’t dare risk her vicious tongue


“Really  I  would  think  your   being  crippled would   put a  damper on  that  sort of  thing .”   The sarcasm   dripping    from her.


“No, not really.  John Roderick is much more interested in what I can do   than what I can’t…”  She batted her eyes.  “He   thinks I’m fine just the way I am.  We  have   a  great fun  finding  out   what  I  can  do”   Her  tone of  voice  left  no  doubt   what she  thought of the older  woman.   “  I  am  sure he  was  very  charming  when  you  spoke  out in the  barn. That is just  him,  besides, he   was raised to  respect  his  elders  even  when they  didn’t  deserve it.”


The men  came  back  from the  stables  and  that  line of  conversation  was  dropped.  Dinner was announced so   Johnny pushed her towards the dining room.  He had seen the shocked   look on the faces of the women and the angry glare from the one he had been talking with in the stables.   They let the others go ahead of them.  Roy and Colin were directly in front of them.   He bent down so he was talking softly in her ear.


“What was that about Baby girl?  You   looked like you were ready to pounce.”


“Just   answering a question.  So how were the stables?”


“He has some good horses.  Lucky for him he has good men working for him.   He doesn’t know anything but what they tell him.”


“Rich and stupid seem to be the theme here.  Bullies  with  money and  are  even more dangerous  since they impact  more  people  with  their  stupidity.   So what does Mitch   Sherman want?”   Sherman came over to them before he could answer.


“Lee, I’m sorry I haven’t had time to talk with you more…hopefully   during dinner.   I  was  wondering,  if  you  wouldn’t  be  more  comfortable  sitting  in a  regular  chair  at  dinner?”   Mitch Sherman gave her a smile that almost made her gag.  “Of course you will be sitting next to me…Carl Phelps will be on your other side.”


“A regular chair will do nicely.  Thank you.”  Johnny pushed Lee to the large dining table.


Lee  felt all  eyes  on  her  as  Johnny  and  Roy   moved the  wooden  chairs  and  pushed her  closer to the long  table.  Johnny winked at her as he folded the foot rests and slipped   her   shoes off.  Pulling  herself  up  she  waited  for  Roy to pull the  chair  back  as  Johnny slipped  the  wooden   chair into  position.  Once she was seated,   he   bent Dow and slipped the heels   back on.  He gave her a quick kiss as he stood up.  “Brat.” He whispered in her ear.   From the corner of her eye, she saw Katherine glaring at her.   She smiled at her very politely.


“Thank you gentlemen.”   Mitch   sat down.  Johnny   was sitting across from Lee between Debrah   and Katherine who was married to Carl Phelps.   Roy and Colin were seated across next to each other.    Mitch Sherman   was the perfect host.   Drawing   everyone into the general conversation.  Roy told several stories about rescues he and Johnny had been on.   Lee answered the   questions asked in a very general way.    Katherine   Phelps   was leaning  close to  Johnny  talking  to  him  in a low  voice.(Lee  was sure  it  was Katherine’s  version   of   sounding  sexy.).  She could see the dislike in his eyes.  He hated the smell of liquor on anyone’s breath. 


They  finished  the  meal  and  Katherine  latched on  to  Johnny’s  arm  as  he  stood  up. 


“Excuse me; I need to   help Lee back into her chair.”   He pulled back from Katherine’s grasp.   


“It   must be a burden to you having to tend to her like a helpless    child.”  Katherine said.  “You’re very noble taking such good care of her,   poor thing.” 


“My wife is not a helpless child.   The  fact  she  can’t  walk  is  just  a  very  small  part of  our  lives.”   He  easily   lifted  her into the  wheelchair Roy  had  brought  over  from the  corner,   They  went into the  living  room.  Johnny  moved   her   so  she   was  sitting  between Roy  and  Colin,  then he  stood  behind  her.  Katherine came in and sat down next to her husband.


“John, Lee we appreciate what you are doing for the doctors and the fire department.   However,  we  feel  that it   would  be more  beneficial  to the town  if   we,  the  city  council  was  able to  decide  where the  money  would  go.   Dr. Phelps, the president of our school board   has several very good programs he would like to implement.  We need a new town hall…A community center for the town.   Of  course,  some of the money  would  go to  the  fire department and  the  doctors  to improve  the  clinic  here in  town.”


Johnny looked   at the men in the room.  If Carl Phelps, Jr.  was anything  like his  father  he  had a good idea  what   programs  he  would  be  implementing.  White supremacy had been the older’s man stance.  The   clinic in town had been mentioned nothing for the reservation.   “Mr. Sherman, I   think you all know what my position is on this.   The money is given for the fire department and the clinics. I don’t see any reason to change.”


“Just to  clarify  a  point,  there is  no  way to  divert   the  funds  to other  projects.   There is a clause that states any misuse of the funds will result   in termination of the balance of the grant and all future grants.  An  audit  schedule  will  be  set up  at the  convenience of the  foundation…The  agreement   you signed,  Mr.  Sherman and   also by the town lawyer, I believe.   As  the   designated  representatives,  Chief  Sullivan  and   the  good  doctors  can  opt to  have all  bills  sent  directly to our  foundation  so it cuts  down on the  paper  work.   Which I believe you did, Colin?”


“Yes. That was the recommendation of the town’s lawyer.” 


“The checks that John will be presenting are symbolic only.   Our accountants and lawyers have found this the most practical and efficient way of handling things.  And no supplier has ever refused   to do business with our foundation in this manner.”


“Being   a little presumptuous aren’t you?  Calling it   your foundation?  What  did  you  you  have to agree to get  the powers to  be  give  us  that  money?” Carl Phelps asked angrily.  He had already made plans and ordered materials for his new program.  Mitch had promised him.   Plans were drawn up for the new city buildings.   “ The  foundation  trying to impress  someone  with  their  charity to the  poor  Indians?   Someone want some good publicity for a change?  Or a kick back?”


“WBSF  doesn’t  need to impress anyone  ….Since I am the one  who  decides  who  gets the  money  available  I  guess  if  anything  people  , should  impress me with  what they  want to  do.   Johnny, I’m ready to leave.  I  don’t  think  anyone here  wants to  hear  my impressions  of  this  town or its  civic  leaders.  In  fact, I don’t  think I can  give my impression  and  still  be a lady.   Oh, by the way, Katherine, I  met  your  brother  today…Please  tell him I  am  very  good  shot and I  hit  exactly  what I was aiming  for…Just  sorry Johnny didn’t have a  camera  handy to record  for  history one of his  more heroic  moments.”    Roy and Colin got up and walked out  behind their two friends.   The men  couldn’t believe the nerve of the two.   They  had  never had anyone act like that before.   They controlled the town’s schools, bank, newspaper, the city government.  


“They can’t do that…We need that money…”   Paul Warren said.   “You’ve already spent $10,000 of it…buying  land for the city that you owned.”  He was the town’s largest real estate dealer and vice mayor.


“They can’t tie that money up like that can they?  Eli Howard said.   The town newspaper, which he owned,   supported Mayor Sherman in everything he did.  Besides being  mayor,  Sherman  was president and  largest  share  holder of  the local  bank.   Actually the shares in the bank had came from Deborah’s family as had most of the land they owned in the county. 


“Looks like they did.  We under estimated  them.”  Mitch Sherman  was  angry  but it was an icy anger  not hot  header  like  Carl  Phelps.   There would be a way to get the money they needed.


They  didn’t  say much in the van back to the house.  Lee  was so  mad she  couldn’t trust herself to not say something  that would make  the matters  worst.


“Give us a few minutes to change clothes  then we talk.”  Lee said as  they pulled  into the  driveway.   “Can  we   do it  down here?”


“Sure. “  Colin  said.  “Do, you want  Claire  also?”


“That’s up  to her but I think it would be good if she would.”  


Johnny  helped her change clothes and brush out her hair.   She was so tired  and  hurt  both  physically and  emotionally.   This  had  gotten  so out of hand.   Johnny had  just  wanted to  do something   nice  for this  horrible  place.  No,  that  wasn’t  fair, it wasn’t the  place that was horrible just  some of the  people.   Lee’s mind was whirling with mixed emotions.      


She was in the recliner and Johnny thought she was asleep when the others came in.    She opened her eyes when she heard Cisco’s voice, “They made bail.   The  charges were  about to  be  dropped  to misdemeanors  when the  state  boys  popped  in with their   charges.   Seems  Tudor and  his  bully boys  beat  up  a  girl and her  boy friend in  Billings…her  family has connections and they were  screaming  for  blood.   Tudor   was screaming I attacked him and his friends for no reason.   Yancey’s  arm   was snapped in  two places,  nothing  vital  hit  in  Tudor’s  shoulder,    Frank has a  cracked  rib and  hurt   pride.  Jason Courtland   and Fred Harper are the laughing stocks of the city, especially Harper.”


“So what is the good city council gonna do now?”    Lee asked.


“There isn’t much they can do. “  Colin said but he sounded worried.  “The whole town knows we got the money and what it is for.   The ceremony is tomorrow at the station and the reception afterwards…You have it tied   up so they can’t use it for their projects”


“We never meant for this to happen.   It should have been a positive thing    for the town.   Guess it proves the old saying you can’t go home again.”  Johnny sounded tired and discouraged.  “Sorry I caused trouble and let you all down.”


“Nonsense.  None of this is your fault.  It’s  the greedy   intolerant   idiots  who  think   just because they have some money they  are  better  than  anyone  else.   Mitch Sherman married for money.   Deborah’s father wasn’t a nice person and he taught his son -in -law well.   The others are sheep.”  Claire said.  “What you are doing for this town is good.   Don’t ever forget that.”


“Lee  got   hurt…Cisco  and  Roy left  their  families for  us…I  couldn’t protect  Lee …caused  you all so much  trouble.”


“Seems to me  I heard  there  were at least  three guys   holding  you  back   from   her …I’m  trained in  handling  scum  like that…You took  excellent  care of her.” 


“Stop it…John …You  have  every  right to be in  this  town and  do what you  want  with  your  money.   This  town has  let the  bullies  take over…The good people  like  Colin and the  doctors   can  only  do so  much if the  majority lets  them.   Micha  and  James are  working  hard to make  it better  out at the  reservation…You   are  doing the right  thing  and I  am  so  proud of  you…sorry  that I  caused  you  so  much  trouble  …not  just here  but  at  home.   Forgive me?”


“Always even when I don’t see anything to forgive.   Now, you are taking a pain pill and going to bed.   Things will look better in the daylight.”    The others left and he took her into the bedroom and got her settled.


“Harper’s  sister,  Katherine,   came in  and  said she had  been  talking to  you and  asked if  you were as  good  in  bed  as  you  looked.”  Lee  said  as she  was  falling  asleep  as  Johnny  massaged  her  legs.


“You   didn’t answer her did you?”  Not sure if he should be shocked or flattered.


“Yep  told  her  even  better and  your  heart  belonged  to me…  told  that old  cow you  were raised  to  be nice to your  elders…She  was  steaming.”  Lee giggled.  “Your heart and all attached body parts…mine all mine.   Don’t want to be a burden but can’t not be with you…love ya …need ya..”   She  muttered as she  fell  asleep.


  He  finished  massaging her  legs  then  covered her  up.   Kissing her  on  the forehead  he  whispered t  her,  “Sweet  dreams, love you and  need  you  too.”   He laid there a long time before falling asleep.


After breakfast with Claire and Colin  Lee and  Johnny went  back  to  their   place.   Lee  looked at the outfit  she had  planned to wear.  A high waisted, navy blue skirt and a  white  long sleeved  blouse with  lace at the cuffs and  throat.   After last night’s  dinner she  wanted to  be sure she   presented the  right image.   She  had  the shawl  Jeff had gotten her in case it was chilly.   Johnny  came into the bedroom.  “Something wrong?


“No,  just  trying to remember…Did I call Katherine Phelps an old cow out loud?”


“Yes, when we  were alone.   Want  me to call  Claire to help you with your  hair?”   He  was standing behind her, watching her face in the mirror.


“Would you braid it  for  me?  Are you as ready as I am to go back to  California?”

“Yeah  except I’m not looking  forward to  facing  Maria and  Hector .  They have to be disappointed I didn’t take better care of  you.”


“Boyo,  stop  beating yourself  up.  It  wasn’t  your  fault..we all knew  there  was a risk  but  we also  know it  was my  choice to  come  here.”  He was  brushing her hair as they talked.   “Besides, the  bruises are better…they are  now that dull yellow green  instead of the red  purple they were the other  day.  What else did I say last night?”


“Oh,  just something about my attached body parts was  all  yours.”  He laughed as she blushed.  He finished the braiding.  “Now,  a  ribbon  or a  scarf?”


“The  purple and blue  scarf…Chet  said I  looked  like an  old  fashion   school  marm  in this  outfit  when I wore it  last…Prim and  proper…”


He   changed into his  dress  uniform.  She had  checked with  Chief  Houser   who  had agreed it   did seem appropriate  for him to  wear the  uniform  when  presenting the  plaque  to the  Lame Deer  Fire Department.

Roy was wearing a sports  coat and  dress  slacks.    Claire and Colin had already left as she was overseeing the reception.  


“Well,  Little Sister,  do I  pass inspection?”


“You go way pass just passing.”   He had on a  black  suit and a  wine red  tie,  dress  boots.  His  hair  was  pulled  back   held  in  place  by a  silver  Celtic  knot.  He had  shaved except  for his  mustache. 


“Told ya,  Ma  taught  me  right.”   He  was  glad to see she  was in a  good  mood.  After yesterday and last night, he had  been  doubtful.


Lee  wasn’t nervous once they started for the ceremony.  She knew  Johnny had  went over  the speech  he had been working on  since they had  gotten a  date set up.    He did not like  being the center of attention but was more comfortable  with it now.   Johnny smiled and made a mental  note to thank  Colin  for the reserved  parking  space.  He knew it was Colin’s regular space  but a  handwritten sign simply said  Johnny  and  Lee.  


There was a large crowd gathered.   All the firemen, and their families, friends and just the curious.  Cisco frowned when he saw Will Tudor with Harper and Courtland standing at the side of the crowd.  


Colin, the  Mayor and  City  Council   standing in front of the  raised  door   posed  by the newest fire engine.   The wives were in a group near the front.   All looked over dressed and Katherine looked hung over. (Or so Lee thought.)   Johnny pushed Lee over to Colin. 


“Good morning  gentlemen.   I  think  you have all  met  Roy  DeSoto,  Johnny’s  partner and  best  friend.  This gentleman is one of my big brothers, Franciso Alvarez.  Cisco, this is Mayor Sherman, Carl Phelps, Eli Howard and Paul   Warren.”


“Yes, we heard about your adventure yesterday, Mr. Alvarez.”   Carl Phelps said with a sneer.   “You came off like a one man army.”


“Bullies are  cowards,  they  don’t  know  how to  handle  anyone  who  stands  up to  them.   Little  Sister,  she  and  my  mijo,  they  stand  up to the  bullies in  less  physical  ways.”    The  cold  eyes  never  left the  older  man’s  face and  Phelps   soon   broke the  gaze looking at his  feet.


“Well, shall we start the ceremony?”  Sherman said not liking the impression the Gages and their friends were making on the others.  


“As you all know, John Gage applied for grants from the WBS Foundation in Los Angeles.  These grants were to better the lives of the citizens of Lame Deer.  He has put some restrictions on the grants but we will endeaver to make the most of the funds available.”  The mayor said in a condescending voice


To  say  Lee was  upset  was  like  saying there  was a few  stars in the  night  sky.  She looked a t Johnny who shrugged.  He and Colin went over to the smug mayor.  Johnny had the fake check and the plaque in his hands.


“When I was a child, my father and I would walk by the fire station and I told him I wanted to be the tiller man.  He smiled and said it was   good to have a goal in life. Then we  moved to  California  and  when he  was  home from his job we  would  go by that  fire  station.  After he died, my mother and I came back to Lame Deer and the reservation.  The firemen would let me come and visit.  I  was  happy  when  they let me  help polish  the  engine and do  odds and ends around  the fire house.  After I left for California I still thought of this fire station with fond memories of some of the happiest days of my life.  To  honor my father,  Roderick  Gage,  my  wife and I  would  like to  present  the Lame  Deer  Fire Department  a  check  and a  this  plaque.    ‘Given to honor the memory of a good and caring man.  Given  to  tell  the world this  man is  not  forgotten  by his  son  who  will love  him  always   in appreciation  for  encouraging   his  son’s  dream of  being  a  fireman.’   The  check is  to  help  provide  training  and  safety  equipment  for the  firefighters of  Lame  Deer.  By having the training and equipment needed these brave men can better protect the citizens of this town and the area they serve.  To the new paramedics,   remember what  my  friend and  partner  told  you…You  will  be the  best  equipped and  trained  people  to  do  a  job  that  needs to  be  done  in  the moment.  Trust your training and trust yourselves.”   He handed the check and plaque to Colin.


“Claire and I have had the privilege to get to know Johnny and Lee these last few days.   They have shared stories of some of the runs Johnny and Roy have been part of with us.  Lee mostly as these two says they are just doing their jobs.  I for  one,  am  proud  to  say John  Gage is a  friend and I  had  some small influence in  his becoming a firefighter/rescue man/paramedic.   On behalf of our fire department and the citizens of Lame Deer, thank you.”  


“Our pleasure and thank you for the kind words.”  Johnny and Colin shook hands and then John shook hands with   the mayor.   The mayor didn’t look too happy.  The speeches of Gage and Sullivan had lessened the negative impact of his speech.


As Johnny was shaking hands with others Lee was sitting off to the side watching, so very proud of him.


“Mr. Gage,   I’d like some pictures of you with your wife and the Mayor and Chief Sullivan for the paper.”   A reporter pushed his way up to Johnny.      The  pictures were  quickly taken and  Lee even managed to look  like she  wasn’t  totally disgusted by Sherman  and his  earlier  remarks.  After several photos were taken the reporter started asking questions, fairly routine


“Mrs. Gage, is it true that you, personally, gave John Gage the money for these grants as payment for marrying you?”


“”No, there isn’t enough money in the world to buy John Roderick’s love…It’s given freely or not at all.”  Cisco moved closer as did Roy when     Johnny unlocked the brakes and moved the chair.  The reporter started to   follow.


“The interview is over.  I would strongly suggest you go back to the rock you slithered out from under.”   Cisco stood there blocking the way as the reported considered his options.   Wisely, the reporter turned and walked away.


Lee   was talking with Claire and some of the other firemen’s wives   when Cisco joined them. 


“Where are the guys?”  He was not happy seeing her there with no protection.


“Don’t be so surly, I sent them off to talk with some of our boys.”  Claire said.  “Lee and I are fine…Go join the men folk.”  Cisco nodded.  Claire sounded like his mom.


“Yes, ma’am.”  He left knowing she was in good hands.  


Johnny,  Roy and  Colin  were  talking  with  some of the  firemen  Johnny  and  Roy  hadn’t  met  before .  No one mentioned the reporter.   Johnny was only half listening. 


“There are some things you don’t learn in the classes…It’s the emotional side of the job.  Rule #1  is  you don’t  get emotionally  involved  with  your patients but  you’re  human.  Things will hit close to home, especially when its kids involved or a friend.  You just work through it and when you have time deal with it.  We know we can talk to our captain or each other.   Some  of the  guys  use sports  or  a  creative  hobby  to  deal with the stress.  Just don’t take it home or to the bar.  I guess that is the best advice I can give.”   Roy said in answer to a question.  “I’m senior   paramedic but I trust Johnny and listen to his input.   Develop a sense of trust if you haven’t already.  Go over calls afterwards when you have time but don’t second guess yourselves.   Learn to work with other paramedics, respect their style of doing things.”   He looked over at Johnny.  “Anything you want to add, Junior?”


“Nope, you covered it pretty well.”


“Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. After what happen…”


“Look, Lee and I know the truth so do the people who matter in our lives. “   Johnny said with a shrug.   “The others you learn to ignore.  If  we had  made a  big  fuss  it would have just given  the  jerks more  to  talk  about.  Come on.  Let’s go find Lee and Claire.  I want some of that cake Claire made yesterday.”


“She has one at the house for you.”  Colin laughed.   “Didn’t think you would have much time to eat here.”


A  group of  boys  in their  early  teens  came over and  began  asking questions and  Johnny’s  natural   way with  kids  was soon in  full  gear.  He had them laughing at some stories and seriously thinking about other things he said.


Katherine and Deborah stood off to the side watching as the people that usually hover around them stood waiting to talk with Lee and Claire.  ‘”She made that reporter look like a fool.”  Deborah said.   “Mitch   should have listened to me when I told him it was a bad idea.   Hopefully he can do some damage control   tomorrow.”


~E! ~
Johnny woke up early and was out on the porch watching the sunrise.  Lee had  finally   went to sleep  after he  gave her  one of the  pills  the  doctors  had  left  after the  fall.  He  wasn’t  really surprised  when  Roy  came  over  with two  mugs  of  coffee.


“You do ok?”   Roy asked as he settled on the old fashion porch swing.


“Yeah, think so.  I just want this over and we back home.   She was sick at her stomach after we got   back here that made her madder.   She was worried about me being   embarrassed by that jackass of a reporter.   Me…not her…”  He took a   long swig of the coffee. 


“That bunch knew you would be more likely to react badly   to them attacking her.   Colin   said that the newspaper owner is on the council.  Most  o the  people in town  owe  money to the bank  so  they   go  along  with  what  Mayor  Sherman  wants.”


“The lawyers have the money tied up so   they can’t get their hands on it.   But  I think  what is making  them  more  angry is  the  fact  we  aren’t  doing  what they  want.  They want to  buid a  new  city  hall  and a  community  center,  which  would be named  after  Sherman.   Carl Phelps’dad was principal when I was in school.   He was a mean   bitter man.   He hated  the  fact  his school  had to  let  kids  from the  reservation  go  there.  Most of  them  dropped out  or  if they  did  do  good in  school   ever  got  any  recognition.  If  there  was ever a  problem  between a  white and an Indian  it  was always  the Indian’s  fault.   Me, he hated more than the others because …”


“Because he was stupid.   Like Lee said, it was their lost.   I   have seen   you at your best and your worst.   Your worst is better than most   people’s best.   I have seen  you so  weak  you  couldn’t  hold a  spoon   but  still  struggle  to  do  your  best.  I’ve  seen  you move  heavy   items   by  yourself  that its  taken  three  others to  remove,  when you were trying  to save  someone.     You’re  a  good a noble  person,  an  old  soul  Claire and others have  called  you.   Just  know  whatever happen  in the  future,  you’ll always  be my  best  friend,  my  little  brother.   I’m proud of you, Junior, for too many reason to say.”


“I  owe  you my life  for  so many  reasons…guess it’s  good  we  don’t  have to  find  the words…Our  hearts  know  them  even  when we  can’t  say  it.”   They sat out watching the sky change colors.   Johnny   had left the door open so he could hear Lee when she woke up.  Without  her    pull up  bar it  was a  little  harder  for her  to  set  up  the first thing. Johnny had  moved her  chair  s  even if  she  did  manage  to sit on the  side of the  bed  she  couldn’t  go  anywhere.  “Excuse me I think I’m being paged.”


Colin and Claire had left for church   and were going to go out to the reservation after having lunch with their family.   Lee insisted on fixing breakfast for the guys.  It was just bacon and pancakes   but it felt good to her to be useful.  


“We  have to  be  at  the  reservation  by  2  and  are meeting  Micha  and  James  at the  Council  office  then  going over to  the clinic.  I   talked  to Ben  and he is  going to get in  touch with   a friend he has in Billings  to   look over the  building  and see if   it  would  make  more sense to   remoldel   or   just  build a  new one.   That will be done separate from the grant…Then tomorrow morning we   leave for home.   I  will have  everything  packed and  ready to go tonight  except  what we’ll  need  for tomorrow…We  should be on the road  by  7 in  the morning.”  She looked at Roy and Cisco and shrugged.  “You know, I think Johnny and I have the best brothers in the world.  What you have done these last few days…Just thanks…which doesn’t seem   enough.”


Lee watched as Johnny got dressed.  He had been really quiet ever since Roy and Cisco had went back to get ready.  She wanted to ask him   what he was thinking but at the same time respected his privacy. 


“There  is  going to  be a lot of  people  there today  who  really  didn’t  think I  would  ever  amount to  much…Some who  downright  hated me  for  being half  white or  even for  being  alive.”  Johnny said suddenly.  “I  use to  wonder  why  God  didn’t  let me  die  and  be with y  folks.   Maybe it’s  so I   maybe  help  others on the reservation  find  acceptance  in  what they  do with their  lives.   It’s hard  for  some of the  younger ones  not having  much  of a  chance for  good  jobs  if they  stay on the reservation  yet  feeling obligated to  stay for the elders…Maybe  this will  show  them  they  can  do  both…Have a  life off the reservation  but  still be supportive.”


“You have a good point.   Johnny  what your  aunt  said  about  you  owing  them  and my  being a  burden…She is  a  bitter old  woman. I  don’t  think I  can  even  really feel  sorry  for her.  To me she is a nonperson; I can’t even find pity for her.   That may seem cruel and uncaring but it’s the best I can do.”


“That’s more than she deserves for what she said to you.   I never  hated  her  for  anything   she said to me or  did…feared her  yes  but  not  hate..Because my mom taught me hate was just as destructive to the hater…”


“She was as wise as she was beautiful I see that in you every day.  Besides,  we  know she  was partially right,  I  am   not  a  proper  woman.  But  I  love  you so  much  that  hopefully  that makes  up  for  what I  lack.”


“As far as I am concerned you are a perfect.”


“Thank you for thinking that way…Ok, I guess I should think about finishing getting dressed.   Would it be disrespectful if I wore slacks?  That air is chilly.”


“Your  legs staying warm are more important than what you wear…”


She settled on the Navy blue pants suit and a deep teal colored sweater.  She left her hair down   with a floral scarf as a headband.  She   had her mother’s pearl earrings on and her locket.   The earring that Cisco had gotten back from Yancey was damaged.   Johnny wore the  same  suit he had  worn  to Sherman’s  dinner,  the other  guys in  slacks and sport  coats.  

Again, there was a large crowd gathered for the ceremony.  Lee was more nervous than she wanted anyone to know.  She  wasn’t afraid  by any means  just  worried about  how  the attitude of his  mother’s  family and  people could hurt  Johnny.  Mayor  Sherman  nodded and  smiled  at her  but  seeing the cold  disinterested  look  she  gave him,  stayed over with his  friends.  Sherman and his  friends  were not  happy  when a film  crew  from  a  Billing’s  television  station showed up.  When they approached the TV crew, they were ignored. 


“Mrs. Gage, my name is Peter Graves.  We have a mutual friend, Cal Thomas.  He wanted me toget some footage for his show.  He said to tell you Uncle Jeff said   hello.”


“Fine as long as you stay in the background and are quiet.  This is very important to my husband   and you will respect that.”


“Cal said you would be cooperative as long as we showed the proper respect.   Do you have any comments you’d like to make?”


“Maybe after the ceremony.  If you excuse me thye want me over with the group.”  She  began  wheeling herself  towards  Johnny  and  the others  when  Cisco  came over  to her.


“Problems?”  He growled. 


“No, they aree friends iof Cal’s.  Shall we go?”


“Pete, what would have happen if she’d told the big guy there was a problem?”  The  camera man asked  watching  the  protec6tive  way  he  was  hovering over  the  wheelchair.


“We’d be out of here.  That’s the Cisco Kid…the martial arts champ.  Cal  said he  came  here after a  bunch of  guys   mobbed her and her  husband and  her  chair  got  knocked  over.”


“Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests.  I  am  proud  to  be  introducing  our  guest  of  honor  today.  John Gage is a respected member of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.  He is one of  an elite  group of  men  who  serve  not only as   fire fighters  but  rescue men and  emergency  medical  personnel.  They  receive  specialized training to  assist  the ill and injured  when  and where ever needed until  they  can be seen  by a doctor at a  hospital.   It is partly due to  this  dedication to helping others  he  and his  wife, Lee,  have  chosen  to  give  Dr. Handly and Dr. Carlton  a  very  generous  grant  for improvement  of the  reservation’s  health care   program.  Some of the improvements will also benefit the town of Lame Deer.    It is with pride, I introduce John.”  Micha   Little  Bear  stepped  back  as Johnny  and  the  two  doctors  stepped  forward.


“My  parents  met  here in Lame  Deer and  my mother  said it  was  love at  first  sight.   They  faced  many  challenges   but  that never  dimmed  the  love  they had  for  each  other.  After my father’s  death  we  returned  to  Lame  Deer  because  this  was her  home.   She died when I was 12.  I   can still hear her voice in my head and heart.  She loved the old traditions and the old stories.    We would sit outside when the weather was good and watch the stars.  She would tell me the old legends and stories about when she was a child.  It is  in  the memory  of Red Moon,  also  known  as Kathleen  Gage,  that I  humbly  present this  check and this  plaque  to  the  good  doctors and the Cheyenne people.   The  plaque is a tribute to the  love that  my  parents   shared and a  reminder that  love   doesn’t  see  the  color,  religion or  nationality of   people   but  what is in their  hearts.  This  plaque  is  my  way of  saying that I  am  proud  to be  the  son of  Roderick  Gage and  Red Moon.    I use to  think  love at  first  sight  was  just  something  my  mom  said  to explain  why she and  my  dad married so  quickly.   But  then I met  Lee and I  knew  exactly   what  my  parents  felt.   This  gift  to you  in my  parents   honor  and memory is  a  gift  from  both of  us  to  you and to them.”   He  gave the  fake  check and the  plaque  to  Dr. Carlton  and  shook  hands  with  everyone. 


Lee sat there tears running down her face.   She was so proud of him.  Every time she  thought  she  couldn’t  be prouder,  he  gave her a reason to  be prouder and  more in love with  him.    In  her heart she  felt  he  had  found  that  sense  of  peace and  closure  that had  been  missing.  He called her over for pictures.  Roy pushed her then went back to Cisco.


“Think today they saw the real John Gage.   He showed them his pride, his strength and the power of a caring heart.”  Roy said, a little misty eyed himself at Johnny’s speech.


“Gotta agree with you.  Think she had to do some growing up with   whole idea of coming here.  She knew it   was bad for him but she couldn’t really see it in her head.  I know she felt it in her heart.”  


The pictures were taken then they went to the community room for the dinner.   The women of the tribe had been cooking for days.  Everyone had enjoyed the meal and now most were talking and relaxing.  Sherman and his crew had left as quickly as possible after the ceremony, not that anyone really missed them.   Johnny had  taken off his  coat and  tie  and rolled up his  shirt sleeves and  looked  much  more  relaxed.  Lee smiled when   she saw him with a group of children.    Claire and Colin came over to her.  Claire looked at her trying to judge her frame of mind. 


“Is there anything you need?   We‘ll is leaving in a few minutes, I think…”


“No, I’m fine thank you.  Wasn’t he just wonderful   with that speech?  Wonder  how many  remember  when he  couldn’t  say  his own  name  sometimes  without  struggling ?”


“It may  not  be any of  my  business,  but does he  ever have a problem  with  drawing  into himself  like he had  when he  was  younger?  Watching him standing up there so confident.  Was indeed a miracle from the boy we knew to the man we saw today.”


“Not for a long time.  Thanks  to  Jo  and  Roy  and his  friends  they  found  the  answers they  needed to get the  help  he  needed.”  She looked up as he came walking over to them.  Claire   caught the look of pain in her eyes, which was quickly gone.


“Hey, Baby girl, this is Ethan.  His mother is my youngest cousin, Belinda.    He just had his third week birthday.”  He placed the smiling baby in her arms.   His dad is one of the best rodeo   riders around these parts.”


“Hi there wee one…You have a really pretty smile…and big dark eyes like your cousin Johnny…You are so precious.”   She looked up at his parents who had followed Johnny over to her.  “Congratulations.”  They talked awhile longer then Johnny went off when someone called his name.   Claire herself was soon called away.   About  ten  minutes  Lee  looked around   but  didn’t see  Johnny ,  Roy or  Cisco.   Deciding she didn’t have much choice in the matter started   over towards the hallway   marked Restrooms.  Just as she   started   down the short hallway, Lee felt the hand on her shoulder and shuttered.  It wasn’t a friendly touch.  She stiffened as the pressure increased.
“My sister  would  not  come here today   so  that you  could  humiliate  her again  in  front  of  our  friends and  family…Her self respect was all she had left.  You had no right to treat her like you did.”   Lee turned as much as she was able to see Johnny’s other aunt, the middle sister.  “You come in your fancy clothes and look down on us.   My daughter tells me you bought   many presents to take back to John’s white friends.  But nothing for his family.  The insults to his family are unforgivable.” The older woman moved so she was facing Lee. 


“You aren’t his family, you threw him away.   His family is in Los Angeles.”  The quiet voice   was contemptuous.  “You have no right to claim anything from him or me.    He owes you nothing because you never gave him anything.   He paid for whatever crumbs you ever threw him with his pain and tears.”   No one had noticed when Johnny’s aunt had came in or that she had followed Lee.
“You   know nothing about what it was like.  We had barely enough for our  children  then to  be forced  by  our  father to take in that  crazy child…to take care  of him and his  foolish  mother.”  The woman   reached out grabbing at the locket.  Without thinking as she pulled on the delicate chain, Lee lashed out.    Lee connected a hard blow to the woman’s midsection.  Lee heard the gasping sound the woman made in shock and rage.


“JOHNNY!”  Lee screamed as the woman staggered back   and sunk to the floor, the locket in her hand.


Johnny,  Roy and  Cisco  had  gone outside  with  some of the men  when  one of them  asked  Cisco  about  his  Bowie  Knife.  There was some practice targets behind the building.   


“JOHN!   LEE NEEDS YOU!”  Steve Handly stood outside the building and yelled.  No one for sure seemed to know where they had went.   It was a close race to see who reached the door first.   Steve had gone back into the building or he would have probably gotten run over. 


Lee was hyperventilating as she sobbed.  Sean  was  trying to  get her to slow  her  breathing  but  it  wasn’t  working.  His aunt   was over to the side and looked   like she was going to be sick.  “OK,  move her  chair  over  closer to me,”  John  said as he  sat  down  his  back against the  wall.  “Roy, you and Cisco, lift her out and sat her down here. Easy, her back   and hip are going to be tight.”


“Shush baby, its ok…I’ve got you.”  He pulled her close to his chest, his arms crisscrossed over her chest.  “I’ve got you, nothing is gonna hurt you now…Just relax.”  He whispered in her ear gently rocking.  He  could   feel  her  heart  pounding,  and   he  could  only  imagine  what her  pulse and  bp  was.   “You need to stop crying and tell me what happen.”


“Mmm akk   hherrr   giiive   it aback….”  Lee said as she sobbed.  “BBrrrk…”   Micha  and  James had  moved  everyone  to  the  front of the  building to  give   Johnny  and  Lee  as  much privacy  as  possible then had  came  back  to   the wall..   Sean   had left the group around Lee to check on the aunt.  She was sitting off by herself glaring at her nephew.   Her arm was across her stomach protectively. 


“Stop crying and tell me who has what you want back.”  


“Mmymyy   ‘ket…Shhhe pulled it and broke it…Said I owed her…”


Looking disgusted   Micha   went over to the older woman and held out his hand after   addressing her sharply.  Shaking her head no, several times she   then began a rapid angry monologue   against   the couple.  Finally, Micha had enough and demanded the locket.  Before giving it to him,   she spot on it and laughed wickedly.  He quickly wiped it off then   returned it to Lee.  She nodded thanks taking several deep breaths.  Having the locket back seemed to calm her and she stopped crying.


“She grabbed my shoulder …I was scared…When she pulled on the locket, I   hit her.  I’m   sorry I was scared and she took my locket…Don’t be mad at me…”  She began crying seeing the angry faces around her and feeling Johnny tense up.   “Didn’t   want to hurt her…but was so scared.  Couldn’t find you…She broke the chain and took my locket.”


“Shush, Baby girl…no one is mad at you.  At my aunt for scaring you but mostly, I’m mad at myself.  I thought you were with Claire or I wouldn’t have went outside.   Soon  as we  get   home  we’ll  get a new  chain…It’s  ok…Roy is  gonna  bring  the van  down  here and we’ll  go  back  to  the  house…It’s  all over…you’ll  be fine.   Will you let Sean give you a shot before we go to the van?”


“No…need to tell…everyone…”  She was getting upset again.


“Ok, after you tell everybody, you’ll get a shot for your back.”    He looked at the men standing there.  “Micha is my aunt hurt?”


“No, I think she just had the wind knocked out of her.  That and the shock of having Lee stand up to her.”


“Ok, Roy, you and Cisco take her while I get up…Micha will you hold the chair steady   please.”


“Yes…your aunt is complaining   of pain   in her side and stomach.  After you leave I will have one of the doctors   check her.”


Lee was in her chair and had regained   her composure.   Johnny was pushing her with Roy, Cisco on each side.  The grim faced Cheyenne   were waiting by the doorway.  


“Lee would like to say something to you about   what just happened.”  Micha said sternly.


“Johnny wanted to do something good for his mother’s family, his people.  He has  never  been ashamed   to  be part  Cheyenne  even  when  people  here  was ashamed of  him.   He  has told me  more than  once  Red  Moon  wanted his  to  be proud of his  Cheyenne  heritage and  know it’s  beauty.   He did not bring money and the plaque to shame you or brag   on his self.  He brought these gifts out of love and respect.  If  you  want to  be angry at  someone for  what  just  happen  then  be angry at me.  I am not proud of hitting another person, especialy one who is older.  However, have no doubt in your mind I am proud of my husband.  I   will never apologize for defending him or for loving him.”


Tom  Medicine  Bull’s  father  stepped  forward  and  looked at the  visitors  then  turned to  face  his  tribe  “It  is  right  that you  speak  of   your  love and  pride in  your  fine husband.  It  saddens  me that  you who have come to help  our  people  have  been  treated  so  rudely  by  his   family.”


“Not his family, but his aunts.  Others in his  family have  been  friendly  and  welcoming,  as  the majority  of  the people  I have  met  here.  It is wrong to blame all for the actions of a few.    I reacted in   fear and anger.  That woman had stolen something very precious from me, Johnny’s wedding gift to me.”


“It was your right to protect yourself and your locket.”  Micha.  “It was shameful for her to attack   someone   weaker.”


All were surprised at the chuckle that Cisco let out.  “That  one may  look  weak and  helpless  but  you  mess  with her, Johnny or  any of her  family   you’ve  got a  hell cat  on  your  hands.   Little Sister depends on   her arms and upper body instead of her legs.  That is where her body strength   lies.”


“We hold no anger towards anyone here.  I  know it  has  not  been  an  easy life for  my aunts  for many  reasons.  I need to get my wife home and let the doctors tend to her.”  He lifted her easily and   got her belted into the seat.   A few private words with Micha and James and they left.


~E! ~

The flight from Montana   to L. A.  went  smoothly   with  Lee  sleeping  most of it,  thanks to a  shot  from  Dr. Handly  before they  left for the airport.   Roy was sitting with Cisco behind   them.


“First class sure is nicer on the knees…Sure feels good   getting home. The girls have a game Wednesday, you   two gonna make it?”


“Yeah all four of us.  Lee and Junior   look forward to the games.”


“Family is their world.”  Cisco said simply.


“And all is good in that world,” Lee said sleepily.  “All is   good.”
                    The End

Posted to Site 05/12/13

LINKS TO PART 1. 2. 3.



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