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Johnny was still complaining about the latest practical joke even after bringing the victim to Rampart. Roy gave him a light pat on the back... "Go get some coffee junior...," he suggested as he followed the nurse into the treatment room.
John headed for the base station where he ran into Miguel Santos. Miguel greeted the younger Paramedic, “Hey man, I haven’t seen you since graduation.”
John nodded, “How’s it goin for ya?”
Miguel shook his head, “It’s not…I’m quittin.”
“What?” Johnny asked in shock...“Why?”
“I found out from a couple of others that there are Doctors hiring guys like us…, Private practices. We are certified for that.”
“Yeah…? For real…?”
“Yeah…and they pay better too.”
“But… what about bein a Fireman…? Isn’t that what you wanted to do?”
“More money man…that’s what it’s all about.”
“Oh…,” John replied. He worried his lower lip with his teeth. Johnny had wanted to be a Fireman his whole life, but this might be an opportunity too good to pass up… besides nothing seemed to be happening with this Paramedic bill anyway and he was getting discouraged, not to mention that it would solve another problem…Brackett and Joanne’s dislike of he and Roy’s partnership.
“Well gotta run... See ya.”
“See ya...,” John replied, deep in thought. He jumped and flinched back as his Partner slapped him casually on the shoulder.
“Sorry Johnny,” Roy said, seeing his partner shrink away.
“What’s up?” Roy asked as he reached to brush pink icing from his friend’s hair.
John swatted his friends hand away…“What?” He growled, reaching up to touch his hair. He felt the stiffened strands and his mouth tightened.
“Frosting...,”Roy said with a gleam in his eye. “Pink…It’s ah… really quite…pretty.”
“Ha Ha,” Johnny growled as he brushed the frosting from his hair.
“What were you and Miguel talkin about?”
“He’s leavin the Fire Department?”
“He says there are Doctors out their hiring Paramedics for their private practices.”
“Great,” Roy said sounding depressed.
“Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”
“Look Roy…this bill isn’t goin anywhere and I’m qualified to work for them and I don’t need any law passed to do it.”
Roy stared at the floor in dismay…he didn’t want to lose John.
Johnny continued, “They pay better... besides it would clear the way for you to get a more mature Partner... That would make Brackett and your wife happy,” He said quietly.
The real reason for his wanting to leave had just become clear.
“Maybe so but it won’t make me happy,” Roy said quietly. “Please Johnny…stick it out with me a little longer? Jo and Brackett will come around.”
Johnny looked at the floor… “Okay, I mean if you’re really sure.”
A pretty blonde nurse rounded the corner… Johnny’s eyes lit up. “Be right back,” He said with a grin following after her.
Dixie rounded the corner from the other direction. Her eyes sparkled in amusement as she watched her favorite Paramedic follow the girl up the hall. It was the only time she saw Johnny express any kind of open interest in anything other than fire fighting…chasing girls. She shook her head.
“Hey Roy,” She said with a smile.
“I ahh…see our young friend is at it again.”
Roy shook his head with a long suffering expression. “His favorite pastime,” he stated.
“Let’s get some coffee while you wait.”
She led him to the base station and poured two cups... she handed one to Roy, watching him over the rim as they took a sip.
“So Roy….What about John Gage…?”
“Not you to Dix,” Roy said irritated.
“Roy…Kel told me what he said to you... I told him he was dead wrong.”
“Oh... Well that’s good to know.”
“So what about him…? You find out anything about him?”
“Not much…he’s pretty closed mouthed. He doesn’t talk much and almost never about himself. Why so curious…?”
“Oh come on Roy, you can’t tell me curiosity isn’t killing you too?”
Roy grinned, “Yeah it is…but I hate prying and at the same time he almost begs you to with that…,”He hesitated trying to find the right description.
“Lonely look in his eyes,” Dixie finished.
“Yeah…Yeah almost like he’s…”
“Yeah…! Lost…vulnerable…alone….I don’t know what it is but…I can’t seem to just write him off as a loss. Joanne says I should just leave it alone but…I can’t Dix...I like the kid...besides it’s like we’ve worked together forever. We’re a good team.”
“I know... I’ve seen you work together in the field.”
“He’s finally starting to open up a little. I figure when he trusts me enough, he’ll talk to me.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then that’s his right too.”
“Will that change the way you feel about him...? Make you give up on him?
Roy grinned, “No.”
“I didn’t think so. You’ve grown pretty fond of him, even a bit brotherly at times.”
Roy’s face reddened in embarrassment that it had been that noticeable.
“C’mon Roy, there’s nothing to be ashamed of...,” She teased. “He needs you… he’s learning to trust you…, that’s a good thing…and if it helps… I’m pretty fond of him too."
“He’s hard not to be fond off, “Roy admitted sheepishly. “I think he needs someone to stand by him… watch out for him.”
“You’re right…I think he hasn’t had much of that in his life and it’s time he did,” Dixie agreed.
“You don’t have to sell me Dix… I already figured that out. I’m not givin up on him, not by a long shot.”
“Good…I’d have been disappointed if you had.”
Johnny came around the corner, he grinned at his Partner. “I’ve got a date tomorrow night, her names Delores…,” John said smugly.
Roy shook his head at John as he grabbed his young friends sleeve and gave him a tug towards the exit. “Let’s go Romeo,” he said throwing a wink at Dixie…she laughed as she watched them leave.
John stood at the sink in the day room drying dishes. Roy and Mike Wolski sat at the table sipping coffee.
“You were in the fire service Mr. Wolski?” Roy asked.
“My Dad… San Francisco hook and ladder... Retired five years ago. You people still set up light housekeeping don’t you?”
“We live here at the Station twenty four hours a day…, when we’re on duty. We take turns doin the cookin and the dishes,” Roy replied as Johnny left the counter and headed towards them.
“Fine lunch young man,” Wolski said to John.
The younger man smiled politely, “Yes sir...we don’t need an act of Congress to practice cooking,” He said sounding disheartened. He threw a half hearted grin at Wolski, then shot a look at Roy and left the two men to their conversation.
“Moral is so low,” Roy said in a depressed tone... “If we don’t get some action soon…The way things are going we may not get enough new volunteers to continue the training program.”
“I know…I know,” Wolksi said understandingly.
“Then you should also know that some of the men who have taken the training are thinking of quitting.” Wolski gave him a concerned look as Roy continued... “Our chef of the day for one,” He finished casting a worried look at the door Johnny had gone through.
“They gotta be held together Roy… We’re close enough for that.”
“It was bound to happen... Roy, if we dump that bill on the assembly floor too soon; before we know we have a fighting chance. We get voted down now…we might have to wait another year for the second round.”
“What’s the key hang up…?”
“I’ll give you a beauty...one of the Doctors who helped train our men won’t come out in support of the program.”
“Dr. Kel Brackett...," Roy said knowingly.
Johnny and Roy came back from a run just in time for lunch. The Engine crew was already eating when they came in. Mike got up to get their plates from the oven, while Johnny and Roy headed for the refrigerator to get a drink... Johnny sat down setting his glass on the table.
Chet glanced up and seeing John’s choice of beverage he began to chuckle. “Want some cookies to go with that milk there Gage...,” He taunted. John glared at the older man, not finding him amusing at all. The constant jabs at his youth were beginning to fray his nerves.
Roy joined him at the table a moment later. He made a point of setting his own glass of milk in plain view of the curly haired Irishman. They were toned out before they could finish.
Halfway to their destination, the run was canceled…John and Roy returned to the station to finish their lunch in peace. Afterwards they stood at the sink doing dishes. John was still fuming over Chet’s snide comments as he finished drying the glasses. He had grumbled all the way back and was now sulking in silence when he opened the cabinet door.
An odd sound erupted… accompanied by an ice cold deluge of water. Johnny stood dripping in shocked silence. His angry glare met Roy’s look of amusement. The older man began to chuckle… John gave him a betrayed look and stalked out of the kitchen.
The next afternoon Roy and John were working on the deck, as they had been every day off for the last few weeks and it was almost finished. A railing around it and a couple of coats of paint and they’d be done. They were sitting in a couple of lounge chairs sipping soda’s when Joanne stepped out onto the platform, “Roy…?” She said calmly.
“Yeah Honey,” He said glancing up at his wife. He quickly got to his feet when he saw a grimace of pain cross her features, “are you alright?”
“Yes…but Honey…I think it’s time.”
John bolted to his feet, “Isn’t it coupla weeks early?”
“Yeah…I’ll get the car... Johnny can you grab her suitcase from upstairs? It’s behind the door.”
“Yeah, sure thing,” He replied racing up the stairs. He grabbed the suitcase and headed back down.
“Uncle Johnny?” A small voice questioned.
“Oh man… Chris, go on down stairs. Your Mom’s…uh… gonna go see the Doctor okay?”
Chris followed Johnny downstairs. Roy ran back inside stopping short at the sight of Chris.
“Look Johnny I hate to ask but could you come with us? I’ll call Eileen from the hospital and ask her to pick him up but in the mean time if you could maybe…”
“Sure…I’ll keep him in the Doctor’s lounge.”
Roy assisted his wife to the car. Johnny locked Chris’s seat belt in place as Roy pulled out.
They arrived at the Hospital fifteen minutes later. Roy and Joanne were whisked away to Obstetrics while John headed to the lounge with Chris. An hour later Dixie escorted a pretty auburn haired woman a couple of years older than Joanne into the Doctor’s lounge.
“Auntie Eileen,” Chris squealed jumping from the couch and running to meet the woman.
“Hi Sweetie,” she greeted giving him a hug. She eyed the handsome young man who’d stood up when she entered the room. Wow…If this was who she thought he was, Joanne was right, He was practically still a child. Extremely good looking but still very young…What the heck was her Brother in law thinking? “You must be Roy’s new Partner,” She stated.
“Yes Ma’am,” He said shyly.
“This is Uncle Johnny,” Chris said.
“Uh…John Gage Ma’am,” He clarified.
“Well I’ve already let Roy know I’m here for Chris so I guess we’ll be on our way,” she said with a polite smile… “Come on Chris we’re gonna stop by your house and get your things okay?”
He nodded enthusiastically… “Bye Uncle Johnny,” He said giving the young man a hug.
“Bye Chris…ma’am… uh…see ya Dix,” he said as they followed Dixie out.
John stood in indecision for a moment...should he wait here or head upstairs? Maybe he should call a cab... that’d probably be the best thing. He’d just go upstairs for a moment and let Roy know he was leaving…he pressed the elevator button.
He stopped at the Nurses station, “Uh…excuse me? Can you tell me where uh…the DeSoto’s are?”
She glanced up at the nervous young man and then checked her sheets, “They’re in the Delivery room,” She informed him.
“Oh…” John stood there for a moment unsure of what to do... He finally went and sat down. He’d wait a few minutes longer and then head for home. He didn’t want to be in the way. After about twenty minutes Johnny finally went back to the Nurse... “Can you tell my friend I uh…called a cab? I don’t want him lookin for me.”
John headed for the elevator almost wishing he could stay but this was a time for family and Johnny didn’t qualify. The elevator doors snapped open... John started inside. The door behind him opened, “Johnny wait… don’t leave,” Roy called to him.
Johnny turned around… Roy was grinning at him broadly and waving him back. John stepped off the elevator and headed for his friend, “Well…?” John asked with a grin.
“It’s a girl...,” Roy said proudly, “Wanna see her?”
John’s grin faded, “I…uh…Joanne probably doesn’t want….I mean…really…,” Johnny stammered.
Roy smile grew broader at his friend’s stuttering, “She said it’s okay Junior…,” He said softly in understanding. His Partner was always uncomfortable around family situations.
John hesitated but curiosity got the best of him, besides he didn’t want to disappoint Roy, “Okay...,” He agreed following his Partner back inside. They entered a dimly lit room, Joanne lay in bed looking exhausted but beautiful… she held a tiny blanket wrapped bundle… John stopped in the doorway.
“Come in John...” She said, smiling softly at him.
John moved closer peering at the tiny newborn. He couldn’t get a clear look but hung back not wanting to get too close. Roy took the baby from Joanne and moved over to his Partner. He handed the infant to his startled friend, “Meet your niece Partner...this is Jennifer Lynne,” Roy said jokingly already knowing his Daughter would grow up calling this man Uncle just as Chris already did.
John was shocked at finding himself with the baby in his arms but recovered quickly taking her in a practiced hold. John stared at the tiny pink face… soft blue eyes regarded him steadily. “She’s beautiful,” He said softly.
Roy and Joanne grinned at each other... “Love at first sight,” He whispered to his wife...she giggled back. A nurse came in a moment later... “Time for this young lady to go to the nursery,” She said with a smile as she took the baby from John. Say goodbye to your ahhh…?” she looked at John expectantly.
“Uncle,” He said softly looking up at Roy.
Two weeks later Roy, John and Nurse Carol Williams had just returned from a run. A young man had been hit by a car while riding his bike. They had just stepped out of the treatment room when the Emergency room doors swung open. Two attendants brought the gurney in. The young Asian girl on it was whisked into room 2.
A short time later they were standing at the base station. Dixie came out of the treatment room. She spotted the two Paramedics, “John… Roy…the girl in that room lost her arm to a boat propeller. We need to find it fast. Emerson boatyard, how close is it”?
“What’s the difference, we’ll make it closer.” Roy replied as they ran for the squad.
They arrived at the boatyard in a matter of minutes. They spoke briefly to the Dock master. It only took them a moment to figure out in which direction the arm would have been flung. It took them only minutes to locate the amputated limb.
“Saline… Sterile sheets,” Roy yelled to his partner. John ran for the squad... They delivered the arm to Rampart six minutes later. The severed limb and the girl were whisked to surgery.
John and Roy glanced at each other, “Were we in time?” Johnny asked.
“I hope so junior…I hope so,” Roy repeated softly.
Several hours and 2 runs later John and Roy headed for the Hospital cafeteria for coffee. They were sitting at a table sipping their coffee when Brackett came in. He spotted them... hesitated and then headed in their direction… “Mind if I join you?” He asked.
John glanced away. Roy looked at his partner before answering, “Sure Doc...” He replied hoping Brackett was making an effort to make it right with Johnny.
Kel sat down and sipped his coffee. "So…how is she?” Roy asked.
“Well her arm may not function as well as it used to but at least it’ll be her own,” He told them. “You getting here as fast as you did made the difference.“
Johnny glanced up at Kel, “We’re handy to have around Doc…you outta give us a try,” Johnny said flippantly. He covered the untactful remark with a half grin.
Joe Early stepped out on the patio interrupting their conversation. “Gotta a real challenge in four,” He told Kel. Brackett shot a brief annoyed look in John’s direction as he got up and left.
Johnny looked at Roy… "Alright tell me that wasn’t necessary,” He said to Roy expecting a rebuke from his older Partner.
“For you or for him…?” Roy asked.
“Well now, sounds to me like you might be switching sides.” Johnny said.
“No but I’m beginning to choose up.”
They woke the next morning after a uneventful night. They were heading for the day room when the SCU tones sounded. “Station 51…possible drug overdose... 1551 Vernon…1-5-5-1 Vernon, cross street Anchor…time out 07:52. They all groaned…most of C shift hadn’t arrived yet…the call was still theirs.
“KMG-365…” Cap responded handing the slip to Roy. He passed it to his Partner and a moment later both rigs pulled out of the station. As usual they swung by Rampart long enough to get a nurse on board.
They arrived at the scene ten minutes later. They climbed from the squad staring at the roof of the home in stunned surprise. A young man stood at the edge...he staggered slightly as he looked down at the group of people below. They collectively sucked in their breath as they waited to see if he would fall or recover his balance.
He moved away from the edge shouting at them from above... “Go way...leave…m’ lone…,”He slurred.
“Cap, why don’t you see if you can keep him distracted? Johnny and I will go around the back and see if we can get up behind him,” Roy suggested.
“Okay... Kelly, Lopez… go with them,” Cap said turning to call up to the man... “Hey buddy, how about you come down so we can talk about this…?”He began.
Roy and John ran around to the back… Chet and Marco followed with a ladder. They could hear Cap yelling to the man from the front. They worked their way up the ladder…quietly easing over the edge. Roy waved Johnny toward the right as he moved to the left. Chet and Marco split up, each following one of the Paramedics.
They moved as quietly as possible…they could hear the man yelling back at Cap. They rose on their toes to peer over the peak. The man’s back was turned to them. They eased forward to come at him from either side. They were just a few feet from him when the man began to turn toward John and Marco…they froze.
The crazed man began to back away toward the edge. Roy knew he only had one chance…he took it, making a flying leap, wrapping his arms around the man as they tumbled to the roof. The others closed in... “Hold him Roy...,” Chet shouted as the man’s foot connected with the Irishman’s shins.
“I’m tryin to,” Roy grunted. The man suddenly lurched backwards breaking Roy’s hold and sending the Paramedic rolling toward the edge and the two story drop to the concrete below. Marco and Chet tackled the victim…finally pinning him to the shingles.
John saw Roy roll toward the edge of the roof. He ran toward his partner…diving frantically, his hand closed around Roy’s wrist as the older man slipped over the edge.
John felt like his arm was being ripped from the socket as he swung his legs around...his feet skidding on the shingles as he…dug his heels in desperately to stop the slide. One foot slid over the edge.
“Johnny…,”Roy gasped, “You’re gonna have to let go.”
“No…,”The younger man ground out, his left heel finally caught on the eave stopping his forward slide. His arm was numb… he could only pray his grip would hold out.
“You’re gonna fall,” Roy panted.
“Maybe…,” Johnny ground out, stubbornly holding on. Mike and Cap set a ladder in place. Roy’s swinging feet finally found the rungs. He felt hands grasp his shaking legs as Mike finally reached him and eased him down the ladder.
John rubbed his aching shoulder and turned back to the man still thrashing in Chet and Marco’s grasp. Mike joined them on the roof pulling up the Stokes with the equipment strapped inside.
Johnny contacted Rampart… every move of his arm sending stabbing pains through his shoulder. He grimaced but kept on.
“Rampart base this is squad 51.”
“Squad 51, this is Rampart, go ahead.”
“Rampart we have a 26 year old male…appears to be a drug overdose. He’s agitated and combative...we are unable to get vitals in this state. ”
“51 tell the nurse to administer 1 ampoule of Diazepam.“
“10-4 Rampart as soon as we get him down off the roof.”
The four firemen managed to get the man strapped into the Stokes despite his struggles and screams of outrage. They lowered him down using the ladder as a guide. Betty waited below with syringe in hand.
Roy having recovered from his near fatal fall was waiting with her. He glanced up in time to see the grimace of pain on his young partners face as he helped lower the victim down. He’d deal with that later.
Once down, Betty gave the struggling victim the injection. The man settled down within minutes.
Roy moved to Johnny’s side, “How bad’s that shoulder?” He asked.
John looked at him in surprise, “it’s okay… A little stiff is all,” Johnny replied.
“Huh uh…I’m not buyin it partner... I saw it in your face. We’ll get it checked out at Rampart.”
“But Roy…,” John began to protest.
Roy gave his partner a raised eyebrow. Seeing the no nonsense look, Johnny stopped in mid sentence...
“Okay,” he sighed giving in.
“Johnny?”Roy said reaching out to rest his hand on his friends arm, stopping him from moving away.
John stiffened… pulling back slightly, “Yeah?”
“You saved my life today…Thanks.”
John nodded, giving his partner a small smile, “my pleasure.”
Betty accompanied the victim in the ambulance and Roy suggested John go in with her… Roy followed them in.
“Let’s go junior,” Roy said handing John his shirt.
Roy drove them back to the station turning the squad over to C-shift, “C’mon partner, I’ll drive you home.”
“I can drive myself.”
Roy shook his head, “No driving…Doctors orders.”
John sighed but gave in. Roy pulled up in front of John’s apartment. The younger man hesitated… “You wanna come in for coffee?” He finally asked.
Roy sensed the hesitation but didn’t understand that this was something Johnny never did. He hadn’t invited Jim, or even Drew and Pam to his Apartment before. Usually it was only whatever current lady he was dating who was allowed to invade his privacy…for however long the relationship lasted, which usually wasn’t that long.
“Sure Partner,” Roy replied not realizing he was the first friend invited into John’s home.
John swung the door open to his apartment and gestured Roy to precede him inside. His shoulder was feeling stiff but not really painful.
Roy traveled down a narrow hall passing a small kitchen area… It was spotless and gleaming. He moved further down the hall to a good sized living room as Johnny flicked on the lights…this room, like the kitchen, was meticulous.
The furniture was a bit mismatched…typical of a young bachelor’s apartment but what wasn’t typical was the starkness of the room. There were several photos of scenery on the wall but no family photos…no hint of a past... no bric-a-brac decorated the tables.
The only hint of John’s ancestry was the beautifully colored, handmade Indian blanket that draped the back of the couch. Roy felt the loneliness that seemed to permeate the room.
John turned around to ask what Roy wanted to drink and caught the look of sadness in the blue eyes.
“What’s wrong?” He asked glancing around. He didn’t see anything that should have brought that look to his partners face.
Johnny frowned... “Well something seems to be botherin you,” He said turning away. “You want soda… Coffee…or what?
“Okay,” John set about making coffee.
“You’ve got some beautiful shot’s on the wall here,” Roy said moving into the room for a closer look.
“Thank you,” his friend said sounding pleased.
The older man heard the pride in his voice, “did you take these?” Roy asked in surprise.
“Wow Johnny, that’s a pretty nice talent you have there.”
The younger man grinned at him, “thank You.”
“Seriously…did you ever try to sell any of these?”
“Uh…no... I just do it for fun... I can’t take really good ones.”
“I need a telephoto lens for that and they’re not cheap,” he shrugged.
“That may be but…geez Johnny, I think you could make money from these even without one.”
John shrugged, “I don’t know…maybe..,.”he said hesitantly... feeling the first flicker of interest at the idea. Maybe Roy was right...it couldn’t hurt to ask around. He could use the extra money… Johnny’s eyes shifted to Roy as he examined every photo.
John’s Aunt Rosemary had bought him the camera for Christmas one year…she’d always tried to be good to him even though he’d rejected her affections. She’d tried to encourage him but he’d remained wary and distrustful for the first couple of years so she’d never had the opportunity to really get to know her nephew or to understand his passion for photography...to capture that once in a lifetime, never to be repeated moment.
His high school papers editor had taught him to use the camera and told him he had a good eye and the women he’d brought here thought they were pretty but hadn’t been all that interested and had generally only been interested in his bedroom.
But Roy always encouraged him about everything and no one had ever done that before at least not after his parents had died. The older man always seemed to have a knack for knowing what to say and when to say it. He teased him frequently but he was never cruel. He always had a good word for John’s abilities…at least about the serious issues. He had a way of easing John’s insecurities about himself.
Roy turned around and caught Johnny watching him, “You okay?”
Johnny grinned, “Yeah I’m fine… Just glad you like them.” John suddenly had an idea… “Any particular one you like?” He asked walking into the living room to join his friend.
Roy pointed to a sunset over the mountains, “That’s stunning...” It was one of John’s favorites as well. He took it off the wall and handed it to Roy.
“Take it,” he said with a half smile.
“Johnny I couldn’t do that.”
“It’s okay…I have the negative... I can make another one.”
Roy looked at the photo… “You sure…?”
“Yeah…really, I want you to have it.”
“Thank you Johnny,” Roy said seriously.
“Welcome…,” He said with a shrug, suddenly feeling a little shy. “C’mon, coffee should be about ready.” Roy followed him into the kitchen and sat at the table. John set the coffee cup down and sat opposite him.
“I wanted to thank you again Johnny for saving my life today."
John grinned, “That’s what friends are for... maybe someday you’ll return the favor.”
“Well I hope I never have too.”
“Me too,” he laughed.
“You know you could’ve been killed today. My weight mighta pulled you over the edge with me.”
Johnny shrugged, “I had to try… I didn’t want to face Joanne and the kids and tell them you weren’t comin home,” John said casually.
“I’m sure Joanne and the kids and my Mom thank you as well,” Roy laughed then turned thoughtful…, “Johnny?”
“Yeah…?" The younger man glanced up at Roy.
“You do such beautiful photos…why aren’t there any of your family?”
John glanced away uncomfortably, desperately wishing he had a photo of his parents.
Roy saw the look of sadness cross his partner's face and regretted asking the question... “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to pry, I was just curious."
John sat quietly for a long moment deep in thought… Roy was his partner and his friend…he was also breaking down the walls John had carefully erected around his life. He was forcing John to feel and he wasn’t sure he liked that at all.
He’d had Jim and his high school buddy Drew but they’d never questioned his past…they hadn’t tried to get below the surface… to go beyond what he let them see outwardly or had been willing to share. Roy was the first one to care enough to try…to push…to keep chipping away.
John looked back at Roy…he took a deep breath and made a decision to trust his partner with a part of him he never shared… “I don't have any...my parents are dead,” he said quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Roy replied softly.
Johnny shrugged, “it was a long time ago. My Dad died when I was eight and my Mom when I was eleven. “
“Then it really wasn’t all that long ago,” Roy said gently. He reached out and rested his hand on John’s arm expecting the younger man to pull away as he usually did. Johnny tensed slightly but he only glanced down at the hand resting there…Roy chewed his lower lip nervously, wondering how far too push… he finally continued.
“Any brothers or sisters…?” Roy asked softly.
John shook his head. “No…just me… After my parents died I was kinda passed around from relative to relative…they weren’t real happy about it and they made sure I knew It.”
“I’m sorry Johnny… that’s a pretty tough way to grow up.”
The younger man shrugged…“I’ve stayed pretty much to myself since then..." He said giving Roy a weak half smile.
The older man heard the loneliness in the tone and the hurt that was present as well and he wondered if Johnny stayed to himself because he wanted too or because his family had forced it on him.… “That was in Montana, right?”
Johnny nodded, “Yeah…on the Reservation where my Mom was raised… but I was born right here in California…in Sacramento where my Dad was working at the time…anyway,” he said with a shrug, “my Fathers Sister Rosemary finally took me in when I was fourteen. She brought me back here to California…To San Gabriel. I’m afraid I didn’t give her an easy time.”
“Where is she now?”
“Santa Barbara...she moved into her Parents’ house after they died.”
Roy suspected this was something Johnny didn’t talk about normally. He gently squeezed his friends arm as his young partner confirmed that thought.
“You’re the first person I’ve told that to,” He said quietly...verifying Roy’s suspicions.
Roy smiled at him, “That means a lot to me Partner and I won’t repeat it… what you tell me stays with me.”
“Thanks Roy, You know you’re probably the closest… friend I’ve ever had,” He said blushing in embarrassment at the admission. There it was once more… that sad, lonely tone in the voice. Roy withdrew his hand from his friends arm and picked up his coffee cup.
Roy had almost as much trouble as Johnny did in showing his feelings. Neither of his parents had been overly demonstrative and his Father had a really bad time expressing emotions. Roy couldn’t remember ever hearing him say I love you to anyone…either to him or his Mother and as an Army medic and as a Fireman Roy had learned to keep up the front of a tough exterior...to not get emotionally involved or let his feelings show. He was almost as emotionally challenged as his young Partner, but this was different, this wasn’t a victim or a stranger…this was a kid that needed him and tugged at his heart. He somehow couldn’t keep from caring and he didn’t know why.
“I know what you mean Johnny,” He finally said... “I think we’re pretty close too.”
“So what about you…?” John asked directing the conversation away from himself.
He hoped if he shared a little about his past Johnny might open up…“Well…I grew up in Norwalk. I joined the Army right outta high school I was about to be shipped out to Vietnam and Joanne and I were engaged and were planning on getting married as soon as I got out and I found this great little house in Carson, so I packed her up and moved her here. My Dad had just left my mom so she came along to stay with Jo. I joined the Fire department right after I got out of the Army. “
“Sorry about your Dad…”
“Yeah well…he still lives in California so I see him once in a while.”
“Where is he…?”
“What’s his name…?”
“Michael…Michael Roy DeSoto.”
“Ahh…so that’s where Roy came from?”
Johnny nodded in understanding. Roy finally finished his coffee and stood up... “Hey um…let’s not mention today’s near miss to Jo okay? I’m alright and it’d just worry her.”
John nodded, “You got it…Partner.”
“Thanks again Johnny.”
“And uh…thanks for tellin me about your Parents. I know that took a lot for you and I appreciate your trust.”
John nodded. Roy gave him a friendly slap on the back as he headed for the door, taking the photo with him... “See you in a couple of days... Hey…um…what are you gonna do on your days off?”
“If my shoulders up to it, I’ll probably head up to the mountains.”
“I like to but I really don’t have a lot of camping equipment…It’s not a priority ya know? But I’d love to go with you sometime…If it’s not intruding I mean."
“No…no that’d be great Roy...be glad to have you...and I’ve got plenty of equipment,” Johnny replied eagerly, obviously pleased by the suggestion.
“Next time then…”
John nodded and smiled at his friend. Roy threw him one in return…the ice was broken…Johnny was finally opening up and talking. He’d taken one more step toward trusting someone. Roy hoped he’d eventually drop his guard completely and let him in.
John returned to work the next shift and the prankster continued to plague him with jokes despite his obvious irritation at them.
Roy walked into the locker room to find John frantically searching for something in his locker. Mike and Marco watched him with a look of concern and Chet sat on the bench in front of his locker... A small smile played across his features.
Roy watched for a moment…the younger man was becoming extremely agitated now, “Johnny?” Roy questioned.
“What?” Johnny snapped.
Roy looked shocked at the angry retort, Johnny looked contrite… “Sorry,” He murmured.
“It’s okay, but what’s wrong?”
“I…I can’t find my pen,” he whispered in evident distress.
Roy grinned in relief that it was something so minor that had upset his Partner. Mike and Marco looked at each other in confusion… why would he be so uptight over a pen? They shrugged at each other and left the locker room.
Chet let out a contained snort of laughter and walked into the dorm.
Roy’s eyes narrowed suspiciously at the Irishman as he left the room, “John we’ll get you another pen,” Roy said softly.
“No…, no…I…I need that one,” He said adamantly.
Roy looked at him puzzled… “Johnny it’s just a pen,” he said gently.
“No…it’s…it’s…”He hesitated, “It was my Dad’s...,”he said in distress. “He used to carry it with him everywhere. He…musta dropped it the day he was…killed. He…uh…leaned over to kiss me goodbye that morning…it musta fallen outta his pocket…I… I’ve had it ever since,” John slammed his locker in obvious frustration… “I have to find that pen," he whispered in dismay.
“Go check the squad Partner,” Roy suggested... finally understanding his friends’ obsessive need to hold onto the familiar object.
“Yeah…,” He said brightening, “Yeah…maybe it fell outta my pocket while we were checking the squad out this morning."
“Maybe...,” Roy agreed softly. His eyes narrowed as he remembered Chet’s smirking grin. John headed for the Apparatus Bay while Roy headed for the Dorm.
“Kelly...?”He said quietly. The Curly haired Fireman glanced up from the bunk where he was lying, reading a book.
“Chet…give the pen back.”
“What…?” He began to protest… Roy held up his hand.
“Save it, I know you’ve got it. Look Chet… I ignore most of the pranks you pull on Johnny because I think he needs to interact with other people more... It’s good for him. I even find it funny on occasion when they’re not too bad, but the pen is special to him… It has sentimental value... He’s really upset. “
Chet looked slightly remorseful…he reached under his bunk and retrieved the pen. “Hey man I was gonna give it back…I mean I didn’t know he’d get that upset…I really didn’t know it meant that much to him Roy,” Kelly said.
Roy nodded as he took the pen from Chet, “what’s so special about it anyway?”
Roy hesitated, “It belonged to his Dad...,” Was all the information he gave him. He turned to go find his Partner just as Johnny entered through the apparatus bay.
The look of relief on his face when his eyes fell on the green pen in Roy’s hands was heart wrenching... Chet looked guiltily at Roy.
“Where’d you find it?” He asked, taking the pen and popping it into his pocket.
“Under a bunk,” Roy answered evasively… “C’mon Partner, let’s go get some coffee…,” He suggested, steering his friend away from Kelly before he could put it together. He threw a final warning glance at Chet…the look was clear…don’t touch it again.
Chet and the others suspected he knew more about Gage than he was willing to share and their curiosity was killing them. They had already taken note of Roy’s protective attitude toward his young Partner and found it touching even though they didn’t necessarily understand it, heck...to be honest…Roy didn’t understand it either. Chet could only guess from Roy’s explanation that Gage’s Father was probably not around anymore for whatever reason.
“Hey Roy…,” Cap called from his office doorway.
“I’ll be right in Johnny,” He said giving his partner a pat on the shoulder. He headed over to talk to Hammer.
“Yeah Cap…What’s up?” Dick watched until Johnny disappeared from sight.
“I was just curious…ahh…were you planning on doin something for Gages birthday Friday?”
“Yeah, I happened to notice it on his personnel sheet and I wrote it down on my calendar … You mean you didn’t know?”
“No... He didn’t say anything about it.”
“Oh…well…um... maybe he doesn’t like to celebrate it or something. “
“Or maybe no one else did,” Roy said softly.
“Oh…nothin Cap, just thinkin out loud. Look…maybe we could get him a cake and I’ll pick up something for him… kinda do it right for him,” he said with a grin.
Roy joined Johnny in the day room a few minutes later... a grin crossed his features… John looked at him curiously… “Something up…?”
Roy leaned over him and picked up the coffee his Partner had poured for him. He rested his hand on his friends shoulder expecting his usual withdrawal but John didn’t pull away, just glanced up at him frowning in confusion.
The SCU toned them out a moment later…“Squad 51…Vehicle accident with injuries…”
An hour later Roy and John were at the base station with Dixie... “So guys you got big plans for your Friday night off?” She asked.
“I’ve got a date with Delores,” Johnny said with a grin.
“Where are you taking her?” Dixie asked.
“I don’t know yet… we haven’t made any final plans,” he said with a shrug.
“Maybe a nice birthday dinner…?” Roy asked.
Johnny’s head snapped around to look at his Partner...“How’d you know…?” He began.
Roy grinned at him, “I have my sources.”
“Well…how old are you gonna be Johnny?” Dixie asked curiously.
John glanced uncomfortably at Roy… “Twenty Two,” He murmured. “But I don’t want anyone to know.” he said looking at them worriedly.
“Well we can’t just let it pass unnoticed,” She argued.
It had passed unnoticed his entire life but he didn’t want to mention that. His family on the Reservation generally recognized specific Milestones…not birthdays. John’s twelfth birthday should have been his Rite of passage…a time of reflection… to decide on his direction in life. His fourteenth should have been his naming ceremony when an Indian name that would reflect that decision would have been offered and accepted…and he would have then been considered a man… John had received neither. “But Dix…,” He protested.
“Tell you what…Why don’t you and Delores come to my place… Roy, you and Joanne can come as well if she’s up to it and maybe some of your crew and whatever other friends you’d like to invite.”
Johnny shifted in embarrassment, “I…no…I…really…we…I…never celebrate…,”He stammered trailing off.
“I promise no gifts or fuss, just dinner… You like spaghetti?” She asked.
Johnny nodded uncertainly… "I guess so…yeah,” He said hesitantly, finally giving in.
“Good… How about you Roy…?” She asked.
He grinned, “I’m in… Joanne would kill for a night out and Eileen would love to get her hands on Jen and Chris for a night. I’ll check with the crew.”
“Well...okay, but maybe you could keep the fact that it’s my birthday to yourself? "
“What fun would that be?” She argued… “How about some of your other friends…? Family…?” She urged, hoping that this would be an opportunity to find out a little more about this young man but Johnny looked down at the floor refusing to meet Dixie’s eyes, “Um…no…there’s really…ah…no one else.”
“Alright then,” She said reading his discomfort… “It’s just your friends here then.”
John and Roy had just left when Joe Early came by the base station, “Hey Dix.”
“I’m on my way up to see Helen, want to come along?”
“Sure...” They headed off together.
Forty five minutes later Dixie had Kel paged to the girl’s room... Brackett glanced at Dixieas he approached the girls bed.
“How’s it going?” He asked.
“Let’s show him Helen,” Dixie said with a smile as she touched the girls hand with a probe. The electrical impulse caused the girls finger to lift.
“Well whatta you know...” Kel said with a smile, “Joe Early still knows his way around a nervous system... How long…?”
“Joe found it a half hour ago… I called her parents...they’re on their way over now. “
“Has the nurse told you about a therapy program?” Kel asked the girl.
“Yes sir,” She replied softly.
“One of these days, if you work hard…very hard, you may just forget which arm you hurt.”
“Yes sir, thank you Doctor.”
“You already did that… Get some rest,” He instructed. Dixie switched the scope off.
They left the room together. When they got to the base station, Dixie turned to face Brackett. “I don’t want to underestimate what you did Kel, but it is a miracle isn’t it?”
“God always has a choice. I think this time some good emergency teamwork helped him make up his mind.”
“Also reminded me why you’re here instead of a lot more comfortable places you could be.”
“Your face when she moved her finger,” She said softly.
He glanced down sheepish, “Sentimental sawbones huh?”
“It was lovely.”
“Well I always was a sucker for happy endings," he said softly.
“Have to do some bookwork,” she said turning away and giving Kel time to regain his dignity.
She suddenly had an idea. It might be chance to get Kel and John together in the same room...mend some fences. It could also be an opportunity to win the Doctor over to their side.
“Kel,” She said turning back to the Doctor. “I just decided to have a little wine and spaghetti get together tomorrow night. Will you come?”
“What’s the occasion?”
“Somebody’s birthday, but he doesn’t want me to tell anybody.”
“Why? Is he too young or too old?” He asked with a grin.
“It’s Johnny Gage…but he doesn’t want any fuss or presents.”
Kel’s smile faded to one of annoyance…he felt a twinge of jealousy at Dixie’s fondness for the young man. “Are you sure he wants me there?”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Am I being silly?”
“I want you there.”
Their conversation was interrupted briefly as a woman came down the hall carrying her toilet seat. Her husband had painted it while she was at work and she’d become glued to it when she’d sat on the tacky surface when she’d returned. She glanced at them as she went by raising it as if in salute, obviously happy to be free of the embarrassing attachment.
Kel looked back at Dixie, “You’ll be there?” She pressed.
“Promise you won’t do any painting...,” Kel quipped as he walked away. Dixie smiled as she watched him go.
Joe Early was keeping the guests amused. He was playing a lively tune at the piano as Dixie approached Johnny and his date…the pretty blonde named Delores. Dixie was carrying a tray of Hors d’oeuvres. Her pink dress made her a stand out in the crowd.
She held out the tray to Johnny, “You first since it’s your Birthday." John took one, popping it into his mouth. John might be shy and reserved about some things, but food wasn’t one of them. Come to think of it…women weren’t either.
“Delores…I don’t know if you’re interested in the way to his heart but you just saw the old road,” Dixie teased as John licked his fingers and nodded enthusiastically.
“Don’t tell me…,” the pretty blonde responded, “I come with a can opener…” She grinned up at the handsome young man next to her with promise in her eyes.
Dixie moved on to Chief Sorenson and Mike Wolski... “Ready for a second Chief…?”
“Oh…I’m fine thanks,” He replied with a smile. Dixie turned toward Wolski...he looked at her.
“Dix, can we hear the phone alright? I’m expecting a call from Sacramento.”
“Are you asking a bachelor lady if she can hear her own phone?” She joked... “In a hurricane…believe me,” She assured him as she moved on. There was a knock at the door...she headed for it.
Joanne and Roy stood just a few feet away, “Joanne, would you?”She asked as she started to hand over the tray.
Roy stepped in, “Here let me…I need the exercise.” He moved off into the crowd as Dix headed for the door... Kel stood there a bit apprehensive but covered it with a grin.
“The plague just arrived,” He quipped as he leaned down to kiss her cheek.
Joe Early glanced over his shoulder, seeing Kel he turned and broke into a little jingle... “Here comes old Doctor Brackett…No matter your ill he can hack it…he’ll peer in your ear and look up you’re…” He hesitated, “Nose…no matter your ill he can hack it.” He finished as Brackett and Dixie laughed appreciatively.
“Hey you know for a Doctor he plays pretty…bad…,” Kel joked moving into the room with Dixie. They approached Joanne DeSoto.
“Kel, I don’t believe you’ve met Roy’s wife...,”she said directing his attention to a pretty auburn haired woman…“Joanne DeSoto, Doctor Brackett.”
“How do you do,” Kel said extending his hand.
Joanne looked him over with barely contained look of disapproval as she shook his hand. She’d heard a lot about him from both Roy and Johnny and his stubborn opposition to the program. It was one of the few things that seemed to raise some sign of emotion from the younger man.
Dixie moved away, “Have to count empty glasses...,” She said as went to play Hostess.
“Roy tells me you’re the Magician of Rampart General…,” Jo said politely turning her attention back to Kel.
“From your expression when Dixie introduced us, I’d say he’s told you more than that.”
She smiled guiltily... “Well I don’t see any horns and tail so he must have exaggerated.” She grew pensive... "But seriously Doctor I’m pretty proud of my guy and what he wants to do... I don’t really understand why the two of you aren’t on the same side.”
“We are…in what we’d like to accomplish, It’s just a question of method...,” he said with a smile.
She nodded her head, but didn’t really understand.
Across the room, Dixie approached Wolski. “Mike…It’s your Sacramento call,” She told him as she passed by.
“Oh thanks Dix,” he said as he turned and headed for the phone.
She joined Kel and Joanne with his drink at the same moment Roy returned…“Hi Doc,” He greeted sliding his arm around his wife’s waist… “I see you’ve met my fan club.”
“Oh that she is...,” He agreed taking the drink from Dixie. “Thanks,” He said raising the glass in a toast... “Happy Birthday John Gage wherever you are.”
Across the room John turned away from Delores... He threw a look of annoyance toward Brackett before turning back to his date.
“Look for a lovely named Delores and Johnny won’t be far away,” Dixie teased.
“Oh yeah,” Roy agreed.
Joe Early joined them…resting one hand each on Dixie and Joanne’s shoulder... "Hello good Doctor Brackett,” He greeted.
“Doctor Joe…What’s the king of the money bunch for lunch doin here? How is it you’re not tending to that private practice business of yours?"
“Well the pay and the hours are better than the sacrifice business I promise you. And where would you be if I didn’t so generously donate my time and talent to that medical madhouse of yours,” Joe said to a laughing Kel.“Dr. Early...” He explained to Joanne, “One of my former Interns... Took a wrong turn somewhere and became successful,” he joked.
“I had you for a bad example didn’t I…?”
“Well now…are you the entertainment director tonight?”
“If you mean what am I doing here… I’m kind of the expert for the other side.”
“What other side?” Kel asked suspiciously.
“The other side of your side I guess,” Joe replied. Dix bit her lip nervously... "Hey wait a minute; this is friendly enemy time isn’t it?”
“It should be,” Dixie said looking at Kel.
Mike Wolski’s voice interrupted his reply... “Hey everybody listen…” He shouted. “Hold it down a minute will ya?” He said holding up his hands in a stop there gesture. Everyone turned to look at Wolski… It grew quiet. “I just heard from Sacramento, the Committee’s decided to hold open hearings on assembly bill PM11307... If they like what they hear they’ll send it to floor for a vote.
Johnny and Delores came up behind Roy and Joanne. Smiles broke out on all the faces as applause rippled out around the room… All except Kel Brackett…
“Okay, okay…” Wolksi said trying to calm them down a bit, “It’s not a win but at least we got a shot and now we gotta get the muscle to push the bill onto the assembly floor.”
“We’ll get it...,” Johnny said enthusiastically. A broad smile broke across his features... Roy had never seen him smile that openly.
“That we will,” Wolski agreed... “With a little bit of luck and a lot of help.” Applause broke out again.
John turned Roy to face him shaking his hand broadly... "I didn’t believe it,” He said excitedly... “You did but I didn’t.”
“I’m smarter than you,” He teased… “Anyway like the man said we just won a round, not the fight."
Johnny glanced toward Brackett and seeing the annoyed look he couldn’t resist taking a shot... “What’s the matter Doc…disappointed?” He said with a flippant grin.
Brackett looked up sharply as Dixie gave the young man an irritated look.
“Johnny…,” She snapped sounding like his Mom used to. Even Roy gave him an annoyed look for his insensitive comment.
John looked at her…the grin faded, “Alright maybe my party manners are lousy…,” He said slightly contrite, “but it’s a fair question…as long as you’re here Doc it’s a fair question,” He said again.
“I think I’ve given you my fair answer a number of times…congratulations and goodnight,” He said maintaining a polite but cold façade. Obviously he and John Gage were never going to get along.
Johnny looked at Roy... He shrugged at his friend in an ‘oh well’ look and turned back to Delores.
Dixie followed Kel into the hall... “Kel…,” she called after him. The dark haired Doctor turned to face her... “I don’t want you to go,” she said.
He came back toward her as Dixie turned to close the apartment door behind her.
“Well when do you want me to go? After a pep talk from the assemblyman…?”
“So John Gage stepped out of line... Stop being so sensitive….”
“I am sensitive about it Dix. You all know what you want, I’m the one who has the doubts and it’s eating me up... You’re right I am sensitive."
“Can’t we forget that for a while and enjoy the party?”
“It’s not a party, it’s a meeting. Admit it Dix… You invited me here hoping I could be persuaded to join the cause.”
“That’s not the only reason but it’s a good one…yes. What am I supposed to do? Keep my hair neat and dust the furniture? Is that your idea of a woman?”
“My mistake…,” Kel said… “I guess we really don’t understand each other at all,” Kel growled. “Good night Dix...” He turned and left.
John Glanced at Dixie as she re-entered her apartment, she shot him an irritated look and shook her head but continued on into the room to mingle with her guests.
John could sense Roy’s irritation as well even though he hadn’t said anything. He chewed his lip nervously for a moment... “Roy?” He began…
“Forget it Johnny, enjoy your party… We’ll do damage control later,” he assured his friend with a smile.
John grinned, “Thanks...” He turned back to Delores who gave him a wink. This was his best Birthday ever…the Paramedic program was finally on the move. It would make it to the floor in a matter of days and he was celebrating the first real birthday party he’d ever had.
His parents had always remembered his birthday but his Dad had only made it home on the actual day once and the traditional white man’s celebration just wasn’t something his Mom thought to observe. He remembered the one with sadness. It was the year he'd first decided to become a fireman. His father had taken him to a fire station and then bought him a toy fire truck. It had been a treasured possesion until his granfather and his uncle had burned it after his parents had died.
Then after they’d died her family had simply refused to acknowledge it as something to be remembered and John had been faced with the humiliation of having no Right of Passage ceremony on his twelfth birthday and no Naming ceremony on his fourteenth. It was generally something he chose to forget so that he didn't need to feel the burnng shame of having no name among his people nor worry that what he had would be taken from him.
By the time his Aunt Rosemary had taken him in, he’d simply never thought of it or expected it. He’d been so unsure of where he stood and had been so afraid of being an unwanted burden to yet another relative and being dumped yet again that he’d resisted most of her attempts to reach him for a long time.
She’d seen how uncomfortable he was around others, including herself and not pushed him into parties even though she’d wanted to give him everything he’d been previously denied. She’d been unable to break through his insecurities and his fears…at least not completely. But now things were changing. He glanced around the room at the group of people who’d come to celebrate with him. Dixie, Joe Early, Mike Wolski, several other nurses and Paramedics he’d gotten to know.
The crew had been unable to attend…they’d all had other plans they couldn’t break, Roy told him with a subtle smile. Johnny had shrugged…he wasn’t that friendly with them yet anyway.
His eyes found Roy and Joanne... It suddenly occurred to him that his existence had begun to change for the better from the day Roy DeSoto had entered his life. He still sometimes felt that Roy thought of him as a kid and Johnny wasn’t sure how he felt about that yet either… He wasn’t sure whether to be amused or offended but he could deal with that later. Yes… it was definitely a good birthday.
The party began to break up a couple of hours later and John approached his hostess... “Dix I wanted to thank you for the party... It was really nice,” he said throwing her a crooked grin.
Dixie smiled at the shy young man… She reached up and kissed his cheek, laughing softly as he blushed in embarrassment. “It was my pleasure Johnny and happy birthday.”
Roy shook his hand and Joanne added to his discomposure as she kissed his other cheek.
“See you tomorrow Partner… Happy Birthday,” Roy said with a grin at his young friend’s obvious discomfort.
Johnny lay in his bed rubbing tired eyes. He and Delores had continued the party after their return to his apartment. He glanced at the pretty blonde who lay sleeping beside him…a thin sheen of sweat still covered both of their bodies from their last round of celebrating…
The bill going to the house floor was exciting but it was also a bit frightening. Oh sure he’d gone through the training… He’d even completed it at the top of his class but if this passed these would be real people, real lives held in his hands… It was a huge responsibility...what if he screwed up?
The only good thing was that he knew Roy would be there. He was still stunned that the older man had picked him as his Partner. He’d had his choice of trainees. John still didn’t understand why he’d chosen him but he did know that he and Roy had seemed to be connected somehow.
He already knew how Brackett felt about that Partnership. He’d love to bust it up; hell so would Roy’s wife. Johnny was torn…he hated the idea of losing this Partner but what had happened to Jim weighed on his heart and mind everyday and he was afraid. Roy already had a toehold…did he dare let Roy all the way past those protective walls he’d built around himself?
This party tonight had floored him. Dixie and the others doing this for him meant a lot, but he knew Roy, was mostly responsible…He treated John as if they’d been friends forever and that frightened him…what if something happened…? Could he bear to lose Roy as he’d lost so many others…? The one person he’d become closer to than anyone else…He was so confused as the thoughts circled round and round in his head… John sighed as he drifted off to sleep.
A dark haired eleven year old boy ran up the steps of his Aunts home…his heart was pounding frantically. He’d gone to ranch to work as usual this morning but his cousin by marriage...Three Rivers had come at a run just before lunch time and told him to go home… His family was waiting for him.
Fear tore through him… His Mom had been sick for several months now and was getting weaker by the day. He hoped she hadn’t had another setback.
He burst through the door then stopped in his tracks…A cold dread settling over his heart. His Aunts Lacee and Mase sat with his Grandmother…all three were weeping. His Uncle Joseph stood with a glass of whiskey in his hand, not that that was unusual for him.
His Cousins Ben, Thomas, Chloe, Amy and Sarah were sitting silently on the floor. His Uncle George was on the couch. His leering eyes raked over the boy as he stood there, causing the child to shudder in fear as he always did when George looked at him like that.
He was terrified by him. His Mom had always taken great pains to keep him away from the man or at the very least never let him be alone with him.
Finally he looked to his Grandfather who stood in the doorway to the girl’s room where his Mother Kate slept… His Grandfather’s eyes were reddened as if he’d been fighting back tears as well. He waved the boy to him. “John nenáasêstse,” (Come here)…, he said.
John swallowed hard…tears filled his eyes as he moved toward his Grandfather. The old man stepped aside... “Ésáapéva’éhane…” (It’s not good), he said giving John a gentle push into the bedroom.
John breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the gentle rise and fall of his Mothers chest… He ran to her side.
“Náhko’e,” (Mom)…, he whispered.
Her eyes barely cracked open… She weakly raised her hand… John took it… She felt cold. His fearful gaze traveled over her withered body and back to her face... “Náhko’e,” He whispered again, his voice cracking. Tears slipped from his eyes, streaking his cheeks.
“Na’óvohe ...” (My baby), She whispered… “Néméhotâtse” (I love you).
“Néméhotâtse,” He whispered back.
“You have been a wonderful son… I’m so very proud of you, just as your Father was,” She gasped out barely audible…She drew in a sharp breath, her face twisted in pain.
“Mom…,” He cried out, burying his face against her.
Her hand weakly brushed through his silky dark hair...“Vé’hoomêstse nae’ha,” (Look at me my son), Johnny raised his head…tears rolled from his brown eyes. “I’m tired… I have missed your Father for a long time now. I want to go to be with him, Mé’êševotseve Na’óvohe. “(I will miss you, my baby)… Her eyes closed.
Her fingers stroked his cheek one final time lingering for a long moment… “Roderick,” She whispered with a smile as her hand dropped away.
“Mo…m...” John wailed in despair, “Hová’âháne (no)…”
John’s head tossed restlessly… Sweat beaded his brow... He bolted upright, “Hová’âháne…” He screamed. His eyes snapped open… Delores stared at him wide eyed and frightened by the terrified wail.
Someone thumped the wall from the next apartment, “Pipe down over there...,” yelled a muffled voice through the wall.
John sat shaking, Sweat trickled down his face…he gasped in air trying to regain control of his breathing.
“Geez John,” The blonde snapped sitting up… “You damn near scared me to death.”
“I…I’m s…sorry…,” He stuttered, holding his head in his shaking hands.
“Yeah…? Well I didn’t know sleeping with you would be such an adventure in stark terror… I’m goin home,” She said reaching for the dress she’d worn to the party that night… “Thanks for a good time,” She said snidely wiggling the dress down into place.
Johnny was still too shaken to appreciate the performance. She grabbed her purse and stalked out, slamming the door behind her. John wiped his brow with an unsteady hand…he drew his knees up resting his face against them…he rocked slowly. This particular nightmare always ended here, but so did his memories.
He’d gone away. That’s what his Grandmother had told him. That he’d been…somewhere else… Lost in his own mind when they’d held his Mother’s funeral….He remembered nothing until four days after her death when he’d awakened in the corner of his Aunt Lacee’s living room…arms wrapped around his own body… much like he was now.
John wiped at his eyes as if brushing away the last vestiges of his nightmare before finally lying back down. God, how he’d missed her… His life had turned more haywire than ever before. John had lapses in his memory… Large gaps where he remembered pieces of events or sometimes nothing at all…and actually, those were the best…the memories he did have... he wished he could forget.
His Aunt Lacee had been hateful and cold and she never let him forget he was an unwanted burden on her and her family. She reminded him daily of what he owed her. Everything was John’s fault. She attacked him for any and every offense... Her hand flying toward his face in the blink of an eye until John flinched at every rapid movement…he shrank at every look or touch… his heart sank into his stomach at the sound of his name on her lips.
His Uncle Joseph was worse and twice as bad when he was drunk which was most of the time. John had stayed with them for eight months. His Grandfather had finally figured it out after Joseph had been kicked off the council and had taken his rage out on John.
The local fire Captain had saved from being killed by the man and had warned his grandfather that he'd have the boy removed from his 'care' if he didn't do something about it.
The old man had been afraid they'd take his grandson. He'd finally understood the fear in his eyes and the evasiveness John displayed whenever a new injury was questioned. He understood the terror he couldn't hide when they moved toward him and had seen his hands rise defensively to protect his face as he cringed away in fear.
They’d packed his sparse belongings and took him to live with his Aunt Mase and her Husband George Walking Wolf. John shuddered in fear at the thought of his Uncle George.
He got up and headed into the living room knowing he’d never sleep again tonight. John flipped on the TV and settled down on his couch to watch the late show. He arrived at the Station the next morning bleary eyed and exhausted but ready to work.
John was changing when Roy arrived… “Good Morning Junior,” He said cheerfully.
“Mornin,” Johnny murmured.
Roy looked at him, “You okay?”
“Yeah, just tired…”
“Busy night…?” Roy grinned.
John half smiled, “Nah…that’s over.”
Roy’s grin faded, “I’m sorry Johnny… I mean…everything seemed fine last night.”
John shrugged, “It was…it happened later...I…ah…kinda…scared her a bit.” Roy looked at him questioningly... “It wasn’t anything serious,” He explained.
“Well what was it then?”
“Just a…a…bad dream,” He murmured.
“You remember what it was.”
John looked away…“No…I…It was nothing,” He said evasively.
Roy sensed John wasn’t telling him the whole story. He raised an eyebrow... “Johnny, if you want to talk about it?”
“Talk about what? There’s nothin to talk about…,” He protested defensively. “It was just a dream…Really...,” He said seeing the skeptical look on his Partners face. He glanced away unable to meet the older man’s eyes. Roy let it drop…for now. They headed out for roll call.
They spent the morning cleaning the Station. John and Roy had mopped the apparatus bay. Johnny had rinsed the bucket and went to put it away when he suddenly realized how quiet it was. Even Roy had disappeared. He frowned slightly and headed for the day room curiously.
John walked in to the kitchen. The loud yell of “SURPRISE...,” caused him to start violently. Thankfully the only one who appeared to notice was Roy. The older man frowned in concern but Johnny seemed to recover quickly. He drew a deep breath and continued into the room… A small crooked smile crossed his features.
The guys were standing around the table grinning from ear to ear... “Happy birthday Johnny,” Captain Hammer said extending his hand, John shook it.
“Thanks,” He said shyly… looking embarrassed.
The others gathered around him. John tensed as they lightly slapped him on the back or shoulder, but managed to get through it without too much difficulty. He didn’t know what to say… this was another first. None of the other crews had done this for him, not that he expected them too... Only Jim had celebrated his nineteenth Birthday with him and even that had only been going out for a drink.
He looked up at Roy knowing his friend was most likely behind this. He smiled at the older man… Roy grinned back at him.
“Well c’mon Gage blow out the candles.”
“The candles…?”Chet said pointing at the cake. Twenty two candles glowed brightly.
John looked confused for a minute, and then remembered the custom his father and his Aunt had told him about…he was personally unfamiliar with it.
Roy caught the look. He shook his head slightly at his young friend’s naiveté over such a common custom. He was saddened that Johnny had grown up so rejected by his own family that he didn’t know how to celebrate his own birthday… so insecure that he didn’t even seem to understand that he should want to. Roy hoped to change that.
John chewed his lip a bit nervously but went over to the table. He glanced at the guys around him.
“Well go ahead and blow them out before there’s nothin left of them,” Mike suggested.
John leaned over to blow out the candles.
“Aren’t you gonna make a wish?” Marco asked.
John froze, “A what?”
“A wish…you know…,” Marco said again. John looked at Roy with a lost expression.
Johnny was such a contradiction…He was incredibly bright, remembering everything that he saw, read or heard...mature and responsible on the job and yet he could be so naïve about the most common things. “It’s a custom Junior to make a wish before blowing out the candles.”
“Oh…well…um…I wish…,” He hesitated, not sure what to say.
“Well don’t say it out loud Johnny,” Mike said.
“Why not…?” He asked in confusion.
“It won’t come true if you say it out loud,” Marco explained.
“Oh…,” John said softly, “Well…,” He thought quickly, making a silent wish. He grinned at Roy and the others then blew out the candles. If nothing else he was certainly getting an education in customs.
“It’s about time,” Chet complained… “I thought the cake was gonna melt before you got around to blowin out those candles Gage…" John blushed in embarrassment. “How could you not know…?”
“Drop it Kelly…,” Roy said coming to Johnny’s defense. “Let’s have some cake...” John threw his friend a grateful smile. Roy went to the counter and returned a moment later with two brightly wrapped packages. He handed one to John.
“It’s called a birthday present ya dummy,” Chet said snidely wiping frosting from his mouth.
“Aw shut up Chet... I know it’s a present,” The younger man snapped.
“Kelly, let’s give the birthday boy a break here huh?” Captain Hammer said finally picking up on Johns’ complete lack of understanding for these simple customs… He chalked it up to John’s being half Indian which was half right.
John turned back to his Partner. He took the gift from Roy carefully, looking almost nervous. “Go ahead and open it…” Johnny carefully pulled the paper away and his mouth dropped open in shock... Inside was a telephoto lens for his camera. “I’m not sure if this will fit your camera Junior, but the salesman assured me you could trade it in for the right one if it doesn’t.”
John raised his eyes to Roy’s... “I don’t believe this...I… I don’t know what to say,” He said softly.
“Thank you is good for starters,” Roy said with a laugh.
“It’s from all of us.”
John turned stunned eyes on his crew mates, “I…I...um…this is great…um…thanks…ahh…thank you, all of you.”
It was the most any of them had heard the young Paramedic speak at one time since they’d begun working together. They grinned at him, hopeful that he was beginning to come around…to feel like he was one of them. He smiled back. Roy hoped he’d learn that he wasn’t alone anymore. This was a good step.
He handed him the other package… “This one’s from me.”
John pulled the paper away and opened the box. Inside was a watch. It had a wide brown, hand tooled leather band with a definite Native American flair. “This is beautiful Roy…,” he said softly, “Thank You.”
“You’re welcome and happy birthday..."
“Yes…,” he breathed out quietly, “Yes it is.” He raised dark eyes to meet Roy’s… "No one’s ever done anything like this for me before…ever… I’ve never… I mean…they didn’t celebrate…,” He stammered.
“Get used to it Partner…we’re your friends.” John nodded hesitantly.
Two hours later the squad rolled on an MVA. A car had gone over a cliff on one of the steep canyon roads. John and Roy had already picked up Dixie and were racing along the curving roads trying to locate the accident site.
Dixie spotted the damaged guardrail first, “Broken railing...,” she said pointing.
Roy began to slow the squad to a stop nearby as John picked up the Radio... “Squad 51 at scene, He reported. The two Paramedics climbed out and ran to the edge to assess the situation quickly, then headed for the squad to get their gear.
John grabbed to fire extinguisher and trauma box... Dixie took the Drug box. Johnny halted at the edge waiting for Dixie to get situated. She rested her hand on his shoulder for support and let him lead her down.
Roy picked up a mic... “LA Squad 5, we have a vehicle over the cliff with at least one injury... What’s the ETA on the ambulance?”
“Squad 51, the ambulance and Engine and Patrol 186 are responding... ETA unknown…”
John and Dixie reached the first victim. She began to assess his condition. “Breathing…” She told John as she moved to run her hands over the victim’s legs. “Both legs broken...” She noticed a woman unconscious in the overturned car, “Check vital signs...,” She directed Johnny.
“Weak pulse…,” he said to her as she moved toward the car.
Dixie grabbed the door handle of the car letting go quickly and backing up as the car rocked precariously dislodging chunks of dirt and rock that plummeted down the cliff side.
John looked up from his victim in concern as Dixie once again reached for the car which continued to slowly teeter on the edge. He ran to join her as Dixie climbed in… John lay down and scooted in beside her.
Dix was checking the woman’s eyes... She turned back to him, “Fractured radius and ulna,” She told him… “Probable concussion…”
John was very concerned about the increased rocking of the car. Dixie really shouldn’t be in it. Her job was to assess a patient’s condition, not actively participate in a rescue. That was his job. “Let’s get her outta here quick...,” He suggested turning to get into a better position.
“Yeah...,” Dixie agreed. She swung herself around until she was half out of the shattered rear window.
Roy came down the hill carrying the splint box and Biophone. Seeing his Partner and Dixie in the dangerously rocking vehicle, he set them down and ran to help. He slid in beside John. “Climb outta there, it’s gonna go over,” He told Dixie.
“You heard him Dix…now we’ll get her out of here…,” John directed reinforcing Roy’s order, fear for the safety of the older woman in his voice.
“It’s half done,” She argued. “Get on the link to base…,” She told John. “The man is coming around, he’s gonna be in a lot of pain."
“Wha...?” Johnny started to protest then realized he just be wasting precious time arguing with the stubborn woman. He gave up and began to help Roy pull the woman out… The car rocked harder and fire broke out on the cars undercarriage.
Roy and John finally pulled the woman free. The car gave one hard jerk… The window frame clipping the nurse on the back of the head, knocking her out. The two Paramedics laid the victim on the ground a safe distance from the edge and turned to see the car in flames and beginning to slide over the edge. They suddenly realized their friend was still half inside.
“Dixie...,” Roy yelled as they ran back to the car. Grabbing hold of the frame and digging their heels in, desperately trying to hold the ton of steel from slipping over the edge, taking Dixie with it. Weight and momentum finally won. The car twisted from their grip, plummeting over the cliff…Fully engulfed in flames by the time it reached the bottom.
Roy and John stood in stunned shock. Johnny’s first thought was that he’d lost yet another friend and then realized Dixie hadn’t gone with the car. The Nurse lay bleeding and unconscious on the edge. John reached back and brushed Roy’s arm drawing his attention to where Dix was lying then they ran to her side… John reached for her wrist to get a pulse.
“Car musta pivoted right around her,” Roy speculated.
“Slow and weak,” Johnny announced standing up.
“Do what you can for the other two… Get me a BP cuff,” He called after John as he ran toward their equipment. He opened the drug box and grabbed the cuff out running back to Roy. John returned to the splint box and began to work on the man, setting the splints in place.
Roy took Dixie’s blood pressure… “What shape are you in?” He called to his Partner as he pulled the cuff free.
“Both in acute pain... What about Dixie?”
“Fast I.V. and some atropine,” Roy replied kneeling next to his friend.
“Pump it up...,” He directed the older man indicating the inflatable splints.
“Give me a minute,” He said setting up the Biophone.
“What’re you doin?” Johnny asked.
“What for…? So they can tell us we can’t treat em?”
“No…so they know we’re going to. Rampart, rescue 51… Rampart… rescue 5-1. C’mon…c’mon…” He muttered impatiently.
“Go ahead 51,” Came Brackett’s voice.
“Doesn’t he ever take a day off?” Johnny growled in disgust.
“Vehicle over the cliff…three patients… one male, two female… Male victim approximately forty five,” He handed the phone to John.
“Compound fractures…both legs…acute pain. First female approximately forty…fractured radius and ulna…right arm... Probable concussion… Acute pain... Vital signs; Both stable, both need immediate IV’s along with Talwin…30 mgs." He handed the phone back to Roy.
“Third Patient…Female... Approximately thirty… Unconscious, probable concussion… Deep shock… Vital signs…60/40,… rate 30, respiration 8 – 10. Eyes unequal… Needs fast IV and 1 mg atropine...”
“Tell the nurse treatment confirmed...,” Brackett told them, John and Roy exchanged a quick glance.
“I wish we could do that Doc...,” Roy replied, “Dixie’s the third Victim.”
Kel stood in shock for a moment. DeSoto’s voice came over the speaker…, “Whatta ya say Doc?”
Brackett pressed the speaker button, “I’ll have a back up Nurse out there on the double.”
“We’re forty five minutes from base,” Roy reasoned.
“Do what you can... Immobilize those fractures… Don’t treat em,” Kel ordered.
John looked away in disgust... He’d already known what Brackett would say. “These people are in pain and Dixie can’t wait,” Roy argued.
“Don’t treat them. A nurse is on the way… That’s an order.”
John reached over and plucked the phone from his disappointed Partner’s hand. He wasn’t about to lose another friend to this Doctor’s stubbornness… “To hell with the orders,” He snarled angrily at Brackett. He switched the Biophone off... Kel stared worriedly at the now silent link.
The ambulance arrived. The Engine and the Patrol car not far behind… The men loaded the three victims gently and quickly. Roy and Johnny exchanged glances… They knew they’d be in trouble but what else could they have done. They headed for Rampart and whatever repercussions awaited them there.
They were met by Tom Jackson, Joe Early and Kelly Brackett. Each one following a gurney into a treatment room… Kel shot an angry look at them but knew now wasn’t the time… Dixie needed him.
An older nurse named Carol approached them. She’d responded with them on several of their previous runs. “Hi guys,” She greeted them. They nodded at her… “Dr. Brackett asked me to tell you to wait in his office…He wants to see you.”
They glanced at each other, and then gave the woman a nod. They knew the ax was about to fall.
An hour later Kel walked into Dixie’s room, an X-ray film held in his hand. The pretty blonde Nurse had regained consciousness and lay on the bed with a pounding headache. She looked up as he entered the room… “Hi,” He greeted.
“Don’t ask…tell...,” Was all she said in reply?
“How would you like to see a picture of your cranium?”
“I don’t know… Would I?”
‘You would...,” He replied, sitting on her bedside table. “By some miracle there are no cracks, no major contusions… The atropine did its job too. So if you don’t mind we’ll save this expensive bedside consultation for someone who needs it.”
“I’d trade it for a handful of aspirin... I have a miserable headache. “
“Well you didn’t expect to get off scot free for playing the perils of Pauline did you?”
“How are the other two?”
“Okay…,” Kel admitted reluctantly. “The man’s doing fine. He just cleared the cast room. But the woman had a fragmented radius and ulna. Good thing she was sedated and immobilized.”
“And who did all these proper medical procedures?” She asked in concern.
“You did... No one there except you had the authority to treat those people…”
“I see... Thanks Kel,” She said in relief knowing he could ruin both of the two young Paramedics and the entire program if he chose too.
‘I’ll send the aspirin in...,” He said standing up. He dropped the X-Ray film on her stomach. “Oh, here...” He said lightly, “You might want to order a dozen 8 X 10’s...”
“Kel…,” She called after him.
He stopped and turned to face her… “You’re special,” She murmured.
“No I’m not...But I’m glad you think so,” He replied with a smile.
She closed her eyes.
Roy and Johnny stood waiting in Kel’s office. They’d been down in emergency for a while checking on their victims. They’d returned to Brackett’s office a short time ago. They’d been alternately sitting and pacing for the last twenty minutes.
Now they were both standing, casting occasional worried glances at each other. They knew they were in for it but were unsure just how bad ‘IT’ would get. John was staring dejectedly at the desk, his hands jammed deep into his pockets. Roy fiddled nervously with the handy talkie. They both looked up as Kel Brackett came in.
“We were told you wanted to see us…,” Roy said to the angry Doctor.
Kel closed the door behind him. “Let me tell you a story gentleman…about an automobile accident… About three victims, two females and one male,” He said as he walked past them.
Roy moved closer to Johnny, whether to give moral support or to get it was uncertain, but it was clear they stood as a team.
Kel continued... “and two firemen with three months of medical training under their belts.” John glanced uncertainly at Roy… “With the best of intentions, but two unauthorized men treated those people out there.”
“We did the only thing that we could,” Roy replied stubbornly.
“Sure you did...,” Kel agreed…”and what would you have done if further complications had set in?” He asked turning to pace the room… and then whirled back to face them... “Diagnosed them on your own? Flipped a coin?” He asked angrily.
“Those people are alright…we just saw them,” John argued softly. In his head he knew Kel was right but he still believed they’d had no choice.
“Yes I know…,” Kel agreed, “I’m trying to tell you what could have happened. The two of you, The Fire Department and the County would have been sued to the hilt. You’d have earned the most destructive publicity possible for your precious program.”
“But it didn’t happen that way,” Roy reminded him.
“No but you were willing to roll the dice and lose the whole ball game. And to prove it…you shut down the link,” He said looking at Johnny. Kel believed the younger man to be responsible... Proving that he was impulsive and irresponsible... He had no idea that it was Roy who had instigated the mutiny.
The young Paramedic looked up angrily, “Your fantasy might really have happened if we’d done nothing...” Johnny said defensively.
“You could have sat with them…on them if necessary, until help came…authorized medical help,” Kel snapped back.
“We couldn’t be sure there was time to wait...,” Johnny said, frustrated that Brackett didn’t get it.
“Right…and do you think a Doctor like me is sure about everything he does? The only sure Doctor is a fool. We do our best without getting sentimental about a patient.” Roy and John exchanged a look as Brackett continued… “That’s what a Doctor is and that’s what the two of you are not.”
“We never pretended to be,” Roy said softly… “And maybe you don’t like what we did Doctor…but it was our best.”
Kel stood…silently fuming at their stubbornness and unwilling to admit he might be wrong as well. Gage must be rubbing off on DeSoto. He never thought Roy would follow John’s lead and act so irresponsibly. He’d hoped it would be Roy who rubbed off on Gage.
Roy broke his reverie…“Is that all?”
“Yes that’s all,” He snapped back. Johnny and Roy turned to leave. The thought crossed Kel’s mind that Dixie might well be dead if not for the impulsive actions of these two men… He relented just a bit... “You did fine,” He barked at the two retreating Paramedics.
John shot Roy a ‘what was that all about’ look...Then they left the room.
Joe Early came in. He looked at the silent, fuming younger Doctor. “Welcome to the wood shed… Where’s your razor strap Dad?” Kel shot him a dirty look. “That woman with the busted fibula...? She’s coming out of shock now. She might have stayed there if it hadn’t been for those two ninety day Kildare’s,” he said to his stubborn younger friend.
“I looked over Ferguson’s shoulder in the cast room. The immobilization of that guy with the broken legs…Pete could have phoned it in. No distal blood problems…piece of cake.”
“And then there was Dixie. I don’t know Kel…Vasovagal syncope. Dixie might be in sliding drawer in the cold room if those two hose jockeys hadn’t known what they were doing out there. Call it there internship… I thought I knew it all when they handed me a diploma. They made the same mistake about that name plate we pinned on them.”
He turned to leave, hoping he’d gotten through. He turned back for one parting shot… “One thing’s for sure isn’t it…,” Kel glanced at him questioningly... “The program really works.” The older man left.
Kel’s eyes fell on the letter from Mike Wolski. He picked it up and looked at it. Joe’s words ran through his head once more… He was right. If Roy and John had followed his instructions all three of those people might have died.
While he still wasn’t sure about the practice of roadside medicine, he had to admit, it could save lives…a lot of them. This bill would hit the floor three days from now. Kel picked up the phone and began to dial.
John and Roy returned to the Station. Johnny was deep in thought. Roy glanced at his Partner... “You okay?”
“What are you thinking about?”
John shrugged lightly, “What Brackett said…and that he mighta been right.”
“You think we should have just left them to die?”
“No but…maybe I should have left the link open. I…maybe I was irresponsible, impulsive...,” He said using Brackett’s descriptive phrases.
Roy didn’t want John going there… He was too damn insecure. Too easily influenced by what other people said about him…too quick to believe the bad about himself. “We Partner…I was there too remember? You can’t take all of the blame."
“I’m the one who cut the link.”
“I’m the senior Partner... I could have re-established it and I was the one who told you I intended to treat those people.”
Johnny glanced up at him…believing in his heart that Roy wouldn’t have done it if he hadn’t been there to spur him on. He’d heard the hesitation in his voice, “I could have ruined you today.”
“Johnny …stop it,” Roy said reaching out to put his hand on his friend’s shoulder fully expecting him to pull back as usual but hoping that if he kept trying John would eventually trust him enough to allow the familiar contact.
John stiffened, but didn’t pull away. Roy breathed a sigh of relief... he was coming around. “Give me some credit for thinking on my own would ya? You didn’t do anything to jeopardize my career. It was my choice to continue…mine. You just backed me up…just like you always do.”
Johnny grinned at him...glad his Partner…his friend… felt that way and that he wasn’t angry with him. “Thanks.”
“You just ...always seem to know what to say,” He murmured, blushing at this personal admission.
“Glad to hear it Junior…,” Roy said giving John a half hearted slap on the shoulder, “Let’s get some coffee.”
They headed for the day room. Mike stood at the stove cooking. Chet and Marco looked up from the table where they were playing cards, “Ah, the hero’s have returned.”
Johnny stopped in his tracks… “Hero’s…?” He asked.
“Yeah…Rescuers of the fallen, the gallant White Knights saving the damsel or in this case Nurse in distress.”
“Ahh shut up Chet…," Johnny growled as he continued to the coffee pot. He looked at Roy in irritation.
“Hero’s…,” He snorted, “The way Brackett treated us… it was more like the court jesters.”
Roy grinned, “Just ignore him Junior.”
“Ignore him? It’s like having a pebble in your shoe... A constant irritation…”
“So shake it out and ignore him.”
“Easy for you to say, he doesn’t pick on you.”
“Yes I know and that’s because I don’t let him get to me and you do. Don’t take things so personally pal.”
“Okay…okay I’ll ignore him.”
They had several quiet hours. Chet continued to try and bait the younger man but John followed his Partners advice. He gritted his teeth and ignored him. Johnny seemed pleased that it appeared to be working. They turned in for the night.
Two days later on September 4th, Kelly Brackett was on a flight to Sacramento to meet Mike Wolski. Mike had been thrilled by Kel’s change of heart. They met in the lobby of the statehouse and walked together across the hall.
“We’re asking the state to spend a lot of money for training and equipment. Not for everybody, just for those people who eventually will need emergency treatment. It’s very noble but it doesn’t translate into a lot of votes.”
“Even though it could be anybody on the receiving end of that treatment…?”
“This is just one problem. The legislature has a bushel of problems all waiting in line.“
“I couldn’t have been the only Doctor you had in mind?”
“We got a gang of Doctors. Good men and good Doctors but they don’t have your reputation in the field. You’re a heavy weight."
“If you say so…”
“Man if you don’t know what emergency medicine needs, who does? Dr. Brackett…the committee knows your reputation too. If you don’t come out for us…your silence will tell them something too.”
Kel considered the man’s words for a moment. He looked up at Wolski… “Take me to your committee,” He said finally. Wolski smiled in relief and led him down the hall.
They entered a large dimly lit chamber. Mike directed Kel to a seat and then went to talk to the Chairman. After a moment he turned and rejoined Kel.
The Chairman brought the bill before them. “Dr. Kelly Brackett…Rampart Emergency Hospital, Los Angeles is with us today. I understand that he has some opinions concerning the Bill now before us…Dr. Brackett,” He said with a nod.
Kel exchanged a worried glance with Wolski then stood up and approached the podium. He buttoned his coat and cleared his throat nervously.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman,” he acknowledged…then began his argument.
“Gentlemen, you are all in danger...,” He stated. Several of the men immediately looked concerned… He had their attention.
“If an earthquake or a bomb hit this room right now, I might be the only Doctor available to all of you.” Several of the men glanced at each other. “Oh sure, independently owned ambulances with attendants would be here in a few minutes and rescue units from the fire department. But all they could do is carry you off to where another Doctor is waiting.”
“I wonder if you could all wait that long? Now what about first aid? Oh sure these men are permitted to render some elementary first aid, like your mother did when some kid bloodied your nose or your wife when she pulled a sliver out of your finger…,” He had their undivided attention.
“Have any of you seen a Freeway accident lately? I mean close up where you can’t tell the bodies from the steel, or have any of you had a heart attack recently? Seventy percent of all cardiac cases never live long enough to reach a Hospital.”
“How do you think your Mother or your wife or the good guy next door would make out under those conditions. Well those are the conditions we’re talking about.”
“Now I’ve given you the impression that I’m in favor of Fire Department personnel with a crash course in Emergency medicine taking human lives into their own hands... I am not.”
Wolski looked concerned by that statement but Kel continued on. “I’d like to see a specialist handling every bloody nose so we’d know if it was the result of a good right cross or a tumor. I’d like to see a cardiologist on the scene anytime someone drops in the street with a killing pain in his chest. “
“But you can’t ask someone not to die while you’re trying to find out what’s wrong with him…,” Wolski was nodding in agreement as Kel continued, “And they do die Gentlemen. On the way from where it happens to my hospital. They die by the hundreds every year. Not from mortal wounds but from neglected wounds. Not from incompetence or indifference but from time… from lack of time.”
“I’m in favor of more Doctors, more Hospitals and better equipment, and I’m also in favor of this Bill until these other things come along…because it will save lives… Maybe a dozen lives, maybe a thousand, maybe just one…and who knows which one."
Kel looked at them intently. He could tell they were truly thinking about it. He knew he’d reached at least a few. "Thank you Gentlemen for your time...” He turned and went to rejoin Wolski. He looked at Mike... “Well that’s it,” He said resigned to now having to wait for an answer.
Mike looked at him obviously impressed… “Dr. Brackett…you must be one hell of a Doctor.”
The Chairman spoke to them, “Gentlemen…the committee will recess for ten minutes, then call for a vote.”
Kel went to wait in the lobby while Mike stayed in the Chamber to wait for the results. Brackett cast anxious looks toward the door as he paced. He set down his briefcase and glanced at his watch.
END CHAPTER 2 Posted to Site 09/14/09
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Productions. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
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