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Paybacks

Part 3

An Emergency Story By

Alana
 

 

 

LINKS TO PARTS 1. 2. 3.

 

“…He is in jail.  I promised I would call you.”  Hank had trouble getting the words out he was so angry.

 

“Ok.  I’m gonna call Cisco or maybe Gil…”  She hung up, quickly dialing the number for Gil’s office.

 

“Assistant Chief’s Gilmore’s office,” the secretary said. 

 

Nina, its Lee Gage.  Is Gil available?  It’s really urgent.”


There was a pause and several clicks. 

 

 What can I do for you?” Gil asked. “Nina said it was urgent.”

 

“Find out why Johnny was arrested and how soon can we get him out.”

 

“Where did this happen?”

 

“I have no idea. Hank called me…I hung up from him and called you.  If this is because of the mess, Mike Morton started… And don’t you dare tell me to calm down.”

 

“I know better than that. You at home?” 

 

“Yes.” 


-


They had been on non-stop calls since they left the station.  They had no more walked into the kitchen after getting the food from Lee than the station was called out.


 As the two paramedics stopped, a man ran over to the squad.   “Our boss and his wife are still in the office.” 

 

 “Cap there is people in there.”  Roy said as he and John finished getting their gear on. 

 

  “Chet, give them some support…make it quick.   I want you to grab them and get out fast.”   The other engines that had been called began arriving.  Cap soon had them positioned, as he needed them. 

 

The inside of the building was dark and the smoke had an oily feel.   Burning rubber had given a fine coat of black soot to everything.   Going towards the back quickly as possible seemed to be taking a long time but they had no choice.  The ceiling had come down in several places and they had to make a zigzagged trek to avoid the small burning piles. 

 

The office was small and it did not take them long to find the couple huddled in a corner.  The man had taken off his uniform shirt, then wetting it from the water cooler, placed it over his wife’s mouth and nose.

 

Roy was nearest to the man and swiftly maneuvered him over his shoulders to carry him out.  As  Johnny   reached  the  wife  he  noticed she  was  pregnant  and   having  trouble  breathing.   He   took  his  mask  off  and  placed  it  on her  before  lifting  her.    He had   just reached the outside door when something behind him exploded.   The shock wave sent him stumbling. 

Chet saw him coming out; he quickly went over to help the swaying paramedic.   They moved farther from the building and laid the woman down.  Chet went back to help with the hoses.  Johnny took off his tank, kneeling over to begin his examination after putting his mask on her and adjusting the oxygen flow.   He took the vitals that were all good. 

The oxygen was doing its job she was stabilized.  The sensation of swaying made it hard to focus on the victim.   The ringing in his ears was drowning out all the other sounds as the lights made his stomach very queasy.   Knowing he was going to be sick all he could think to do was move away from the woman before he threw up.   Stumbling away from the parking lot to the small grassy side yard Johnny had no idea any one was watching him closely.

 

“”Excuse me, Officer.”  Troy Braxton said as he went up to one of the police officers assigned to crowd control.  He had been pleased and somewhat surprised to see this particular officer on the scene.   “I just saw one of the firemen going around the corner of the building.  It looked like he was drunk or high.”  Braxton knew Chambers had served a suspension for his treatment of a drunk. 

Since a drunk driver had killed his nephew, he had difficulty dealing with any one even suspected of being drunk. Johnny was leaning against a sign that advertised the business now on fire.  He was dizzy and it hurt to move.  He  was  trying  very  hard to  keep  his  stomach  under  control  but  knew it  was a losing  battle.  The ringing in his ears made it hard to hear and the pounding of his head made it hard to focus. 

 

Chambers saw the drunken firefighter.   Any drunk was bad news but someone the public depended on for his or her safety made him see red,   the bile rose to his throat.  “Hey you…Come here.”   He yelled at the drunk.   When he got no response, it just enraged him more.   Coming up behind Johnny, he grabbed him and spun him around.   “Don’t ignore me, you damn drunk.”

 

That was the last insult to Johnny is already churning stomach.   There was no way to stop from throwing up on the already angry man yelling at him.   As he emptied his stomach on Chamber’s shoes and pants’ leg Johnny struggled to remain conscious.  He saw the punch coming but could do nothing to prevent it.  The last thing he remembered was feeling a fist connecting with his nose. 

 

Chambers told his sergeant he needed to go clean up because someone in the crowd had thrown up on him. 

 

 Roy looked around for his partner concerned he did not see him.  The shop owner was conscious his vitals were good.   Roy had assured him that his wife was being well taken care of.   Roy stood up and looked around again searching for Johnny.    It was not like his partner to disappear while with a patient.  He checked over by the squad but did not see anyone.

 

  “Marco,   stay with this guy. He is ready to go; the ambulance should be heard any minute.  He went over to the woman who was laying there with a mask on looking dazed and confused. 

 

“Do you know where the paramedic who was helping you went?”  Roy asked the woman as he rechecked her vitals.

 

“No, he said he would be back.”  Roy finished the recheck on her and stayed with her until they got her in the ambulance.  Before getting in Roy talked to cap.  “Have you seen Johnny?”
“Not since Chet helped him bring the woman out.  You go on in with the ambulance…We’ll find him.”

 

Cap turned the corner of the building just in time to see an angry police officer jerk a limp Gage to his feet pushing him forward.   As Johnny stumbled, the police officer grabbed him by the shirt collar shaking him roughly before dragging the gasping paramedic towards the squad car.

 

“Stop that, he’s hurt.”  Cap yelled seeing Johnny has bloodied face.

 

“Not my fault the drunken idiot fell.”  Chambers snarled at Cap.  “You need to keep a better eye on your men, Captain.  This drunk could have hurt someone.”     Chambers half drugged, half-pushed Johnny as he made his way over to the patrol car.  Shoving him harder than needed he forced Johnny into the patrol car, slamming the door.

 

“This man isn’t drunk, he’s hurt.   He needs to see a doctor.”  Cap yelled standing in front of Chambers.

 

“Tell it to the judge. He’s going to jail for public drunkenness and resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.”   Chambers stopped and glared at Hank.   “Now, do you want to go with him?   I can write you up for obstructing an officer in the line of duty.”

 

“C…cc…app, don’t…C…al..lll…Leee”   Johnny slurred the words but Cap understood.  He watched as Chambers drove off.

 

Cap radioed headquarters  “LA  this is  Engine  51.”.

 

“Go ahead engine 51,” the calm voice of the dispatcher said.

 

“Advise  Chief  McConnikee,  Squad  51 is  out of  service,  one of our  paramedics  was arrested.   I am not sure what happen except an officer arrested John Gage for being drunk.   There is some indication that Gage was injured.”


Johnny sat in the back of the squad car.    His head was pounding,  his  nose hurt and he was having  trouble  breathing.   However, most of all he was worried about Lee.  What would she think?  Had Cap been able to get a hold of her?  He relaxed a little thinking of the note tucked in his wallet.  He had no doubt she would be trying to get him out of this mess as soon as she could.  He  knew she would  never believe he was  drunk nor would his  friends.  At that moment  that  was all that mattered to him.  He laid  his  head back against the seat and closed his  eyes.

 

Chambers shoved the drowsy paramedic to the desk.   The  rookie on the desk looked at the bloody face of the prisoner and at the ugly snarl on Chamber’s face, cringing inwardly at the force, Chambers  pushed the man  against the counter.   The  prisoner‘s  only  response  was a  low moan.  Chambers saw the way the young  police officer was  looking at the  bloodied face of the drunk.

 

“Too drunk to watch where he was going.  Walked into the corner of a building.   Damn drunk puked all over my shoes and  pants’ leg…Put  him in the tank and I’ll  do the  paper work after I get cleaned  up.”

 

“The  Sarge said no one gets put in here without the proper  paper  work.”

 

“You back talking me?  Doubting me?   I need to get this crap cleaned off before it dries any more than it already has.”

 

Ok,  just do not take too long.  The Sarge will be back soon.”

 

“Not a problem.”   Chambers strolled out of the area smiling.    He went into the locker room, cleaned his shoes and changed his pants.  Then whistling contently went back on patrol.   See how  this  drunk  likes  being  left alone  and  hurting…Just  like the  drunk that hit his nephew left him laying  in a  ditch to die.


 

Troy Braxton was on the phone to Mia Cross.  He  filled her in on what had  just  happen saying she would  have the  pictures soon.   Torres had snapped the pictures then left for the TV studio.   This added to the already circulating rumors should put a nice dent in Station 51’s reputation.

 

Roy DeSoto looked around the ER waiting room, over at the desk and down the hallway that lead to the restrooms.  This was crazy.  Johnny was never irresponsible when it came to patient care.   Something had happened to him.   He jumped when Dixie came behind him. 

 

“Any word on Johnny?”   They said almost at the exact time. Roy answered with a shake of his head,    “Damn it, Dixie, he wouldn’t just walk away.  None of this makes any sense.”   Thinking of how Lee was left stranded for hours, if John was hurt, it could be even worst.

 

Cap came into the room looking for Roy.  The grim look on Hank’s face told Roy the news was not good.   Roy looked at Dixie then went over to Hank.

 

“Did you find him?”  Roy said before Hank could say anything.  “Is he hurt?”  Roy questioned as they were walking out the door.

 

“Yes and I think so.   Some hard nosed police officer dragged him off to jail.  Literally dragged  him…He  said John was  falling down  drunk but I  think  the  guy  broke John’s  nose.   I called Lee.”

 


Johnny was sitting on the floor, his back pressed against the wall.  His head was splitting, his nose throbbing and blood  still trickling down his throat.  The blood’s irritating his throat, made breathing more painful.   He did not need a mirror to tell him his eyes were swollen and bruised.  The only two others in the cell seemed to be asleep.  He still didn’t understand what  happen, what he said or did to set  that police officer off.   He tried to get up  but the effort was too much for his tired and aching body.  He decided to close his eyes just for a minute to catch his breath. 

 

The two men who Johnny thought were asleep were watching him closely.  They waited till  they were sure he was sleep then went over to the  paramedic.    They saw he still had his watch on which was very unusual.  They were even more surprised to find his wallet.  They  didn’t bother  with the  credit cards but happily took the  hundred-dollar bill hidden behind a  picture and several tens and  twenties.  They slipped the wallet back in his pocket.  Neither one  seemed to think it  strange the sleeping man never  moved or reacted other than a painful  groan or moan, not that they cared.

-----------------------------


After getting off the phone with Chief Housser,   Roy Gilmore sat rubbing his forehead.   He had known Lee since she was about eight or nine years old.  He and Jeff had always had a good working relationship and  were good  friends.  He was the one who had asked Jeff to join in the joint operation  with the DEA that  lead to the shooting and wreck  leaving her in a wheelchair.   After several phone calls, he was no closer to finding  an answer to the Fire Chief’s questions.   Then he received a call from MacDonald.

 

Sgt. MacDonald had listened to Assistant Chief Gilmore then went down to the holding area.  Officer Jerry Woods  was on the desk while waiting to  return to patrol following a leg injury.
 
“What are you doing down here, Mac?  Slow day for you too?”  Woods asked, glad to have someone to talk to even for a few minutes.

 

“It was until I got a call from Gilmore.   Wilson Chambers, did  he bring someone in?”

 

“No.  Unless he was here while I was on dinner break.”   Jerry answered.  “If he had brought someone in I would have seen the paper work.”

 

“Who was on the desk while you were gone?”

 

“The new kid, Beason.  He was his first time on the desk buy himself.   Sgt. Meadows and I  both  made it  clear to him  no one  is sent  to the tank with out  proper  papers.  He was nervous when I got back.   I figured it was ’cause it was his first time working the desk alone.” Woods looked uneasy.  Chambers had a reputation for bullying the rookies.  His idea of making them tough and street smart.

"Call for a squad and ambulance.”  Mac ordered when they saw Gage slumped over in a corner of the cell. 

 

The  paramedics who answered the call were shocked to see a bloody,  pale John Gage lying on the floor struggling to breathe.  They got  6  liters O2  started.  As  one  did  the  initial  exam  the other set  up  the  biophone

 

Joe Early ,getting ready to leave for the day, stopped by the nurses’ desk to see if  there had been any  word  on Johnny.  

 

“Rampart this is squad 36, how do you read?”

 

“Loud and clear 36.  Go ahead.”  Dixie answered.

 

“Rampart we have a Code I.  He is unconscious, his pupils are unequal and sluggish. His nose appears  broken….We have him on 6 liters O2.  Be advised the Code I is John Gage.”  He gave the vitals and other information.

 

“Start an IV D5W and transport as soon as possible.”    Joe directed. “Dix   get treatment 3 ready.”

 

MacDonald made the call to Gilmore himself.  Listening to the sergeant’s report Gilmore then made the phone call, he had been dreading.

 

Lee answered the phone on the first ring.  “Where is he? Do I need to get a bail bondsman?”


 

The Alvarez family was at the football field.  Trey  and Mike  were playing  on the same junior league team this year , both  having a  good game.   Cisco muttered under his breath when he saw a squad car pull up.    Linda watched as Pete Malloy and Jim Reed started over to them. 

 

“I knew there was a good reason to bring two cars…” Linda said with a resigned sigh.  “There goes family pizza night.”

 

“Sorry, Babe.  Tell the boys I’m proud  of them and got to see most of the game.”   Cisco knew if they had tracked him down at his kids’ game, it was serious.  They walked away from Linda and Cammie.

 

“Gilmore wants you to go get Lee and take her to Rampart.    He figures you are the only one who can handle her right now.   She is threatening to sue the city, the police department and pressing criminal charges against Wilson Chambers.   Chambers  put  Johnny in  the  drunk  tank.  She  is pretty upset.  Its gonna get worst  when she sees him.”   Pete said shaking his head.  “Chambers broke Johnny’s nose…but that’s not the worst of it.”

 

Lee changed clothes and pulled her hair back into a ponytail then pinned it up.   That with the black turtleneck sweater gave her an older look.   Maybe, it was the anger and fear in her eyes that made her look older and harder.  Dialing the station number, she  wasn’t sure what  to  tell  them…

 

“LA County Fire Department, Station 51, Capt. Stanley speaking.”  Lee could hear the tension in his voice.

 

“Hank,  he’s  on  his  way to  Rampart .  I’ll call when I know anything  definite.   Gotta  go.”

 

Cap  turned  to the men  watching  him  as  they  listened  to his  side of the  conversation.   “John is on his way to Rampart…so is  she.”

 

“How bad?  Where was he?   Do they have the person who took him?  What took them so long to find him?  Questions were thrown at Hank all at once. 

 

“She didn’t say.   What I told you is all she said.”

 

“How did she sound?”  Roy asked, worried about her.

 

“Angry, bitter.” 


  
Lee did not say a word as she transferred into Cisco’s car.   They were almost to the hospital before she said anything.

 

“I’m going to push Johnny to press charges against whoever did this.  If he won’t I  will”

 

“That’s  between you and John.  Gil said you were going to sue everyone in sight.”   His tone matched here’s.   “Can’t say I agree but can’t say I blame you, either.”

 

“Did they tell you anything about why?  Why would this police officer do something like this to anyone?  Let alone a paramedic.”


“No just asked if I would come get you.   Sent Malloy and Reed to track me down  at  Trey and Mike’s  football game.”

 

Neither said another word until they pulled into her parking space.



Lee and  Cisco had  been  there  for  twenty  minutes before Joe came out  to  see  them.   Cisco had suggested they go up to her office but her terse No had silenced him. 

 

“Can I see him?”  Lee asked as she wheeled herself towards the approaching doctor.   “How is he?”

 

“You can see him in a few minutes.  He has a mild concussion and a broken nose.  There is some bad bruising on his back and  chest.  There is evidence that the explosion caused some of the injuries.  The  broken  nose  and  cracked  cheek  bone  were  from  a fist.    The pain meds are working and he is resting comfortably.” 

 

She raised her eyebrow knowing there was more from his expression.

 

“He is showing  signs of  aspirating--- blood from his broken  nose.”

 

“Does that mean he has pneumonia again?” She asked curtly.

 

“It means his lungs are showing some signs of irritation and we are hoping to keep it from going any farther.   He is on a vent to give his lungs some rest and support.   They are getting a room ready up in the pulmonary wing.”

 

“I  want him one of  the VIP rooms.  Kevin Richards illegally  used  WBSF  money to create these show places I think we should use  them.”

 

“Lee, I don’t know if there is one available.’”  Joe started.  They were usually booked in advance by the plastic surgeons or doctors involved in rehab cases involving well to do or famous clients also used them often.

 

“Dr. Early, do I need to make a call to Paddy?  This is  going to  get ugly fast  and  believe me  this is for your and the hospital’s protection as  much as for  Johnny’s.”   She took a deep breath.   “I  am tired of  people  making  our  life miserable and hurting  my family and friends.   If they want a war they have it.”   She wheeled away from the stunned doctor.  “I’ll be in my office, call me if he is in his room before I  get back  down here.”

 

“She is out for blood and she’ll have  it.”   Cisco told Joe as she wheeled away.   “She’s been pushed way past her limit.”

 

Roy came into the ER area and spotted Cisco.  He talked briefly with his temporary partner and went over to Cisco.

 

“How is he?”

 

“They are waiting to get a VIP room ready.  Doc Early wanted him to be down in the pulmonary wing.”   He looked to make sure Lee was not back down yet.  “That hellcat is out for blood.   She flat out told  Early it was going to get ugly.   Threatened to call the CEO if she didn’t get her way.”

 

Roy, shaking his head said, “His adopted granddaughter and a wee angel on earth is what he calls her.”

 

Lee came off the elevator.   She saw Roy and Cisco talking and knew they were talking about her.    She went over to them and gave them a long serious look.   “So, did Cisco fill you in on me being a total bitch?”

 

Roy hadn’t expected that at all.  He  couldn’t remember ever hearing her  use profanity except an occasional  damn or  hell  when  really  angry or  scared.  “He would never call you that.”

 

“He has done it before and I am sure he will do it again.  Who do you think I learned all the best cuss words from?  Him and grandda Michael.  Just  because I don’t use them  doesn’t mean I  haven’t  heard  them.  I grew up in the real world, remember?”  

 

A student nurse came over to tell them they could go into treatment room 3.

 

Lee let Cisco push her as Roy walked ahead of them.  He held the door open so she went in first.  Kel was talking to Joe but they stopped as she entered.

 

“Kel went over the skull X-rays at my request.  We aren’t ruling out the possibility of a hairline fracture.  We will be comparing these to some of the old pictures…”

 

“When will you be moving him into his room?”  Lee asked not responding to this latest news. 

 

“They should be coming down for him any time now.”

 

“I think you need to calm down.”  Kel said with a frown at her tone of  voice.  “

 

“Someone in this hospital has been giving out information about Johnny.  Someone in the waiting room told the press what Morton said.  There has been leaked  information, that  should  have  been  confidential  used on  phony  applications …Enough is enough.   It has to stop before someone dies.  It  was only by the  grace of God  Roy or  Johnny  weren’t  killed at the over pass or on the fake calls.  The guys at the station are caught in the crossfire.   Cisco and the  other  law enforcement  people are  doing their  best  …but  they  have a whole county to watch out  for.  

Johnhny didn’t have any one to  watch  out  for  him before..  Now he has family and friends who do watch  out  for him.   Anyone involved with this harassment is fair game.   Doctors, nurses, orderlies, techs, firemen, paramedics or law enforcement, the media or the fire department  HQ.  I am not as forgiving as Johnny is.   Criminal or civil charges will be filed if there is proof they were part of this mess.  They wrecked  my car,  stole  from me,  shot  up our  home,  left me stranded …and  have  hurt Johnny and Roy and  made life miserable  for the guys at the station…So  don’t  you  dare tell me to calm down.”

 

Without another word, she turned her chair around away from the stunned men.   She   went over to the bed.  She looked at the swollen black eyes and the bruises on his check.  Gently she touched his hand.  “Boyo, I’m here.”   They left her alone with him.  She whispered knowing he wasn’t able to hear her.  Maybe  because  she had  grown up around  law enforcement  officers it  made her  sick to her  stomach when  they betrayed the trust given  them by the  public.  Every good and caring officer suffered when something like this happen.  The good guys were taken for granted way too often while the bad ones got all the publicity.  All shared in the ill feelings.   She sat there watching him sleep, knowing it was drugged induced, since they didn’t want him fighting the vent. 

 

“How is he?”   Roy asked when he came back several hours later.

 

“They gave him something to make him sleep.   Dr. Vanace said two or three days in here if all goes well.    I need to find out who is doing this…I’ve been thinking some of this started after Mia Cross wrote the article about Craig Brice.  He was very critical when he was talking about me.  He  said some of  my  comments and opinions were off  base and  totally  wrong  in most  cases…He  quoted something I  supposedly said.  He implied it  was a stupid,  uninformed  and  totally  false statement  of  the  situation .   He was the one who was wrong.  It was a direct quote from a chief at HQ.   He got a verbal reprimand from HQ.    I want this to stop before someone else gets hurt really bad.  You  and Johnny have been targets  of some  dangerous and  nasty  pranks,  so  have  all the  guys at  the station.”


“Chambers, what reason did you have for arresting John Gage?”  Lt. Crockett asked.   He was rapidly losing what little patience he had with Chambers.   Gil had decided Cisco was too close to the Gages to do the interview.

 

“A civilian came over and told me there was a drunken fireman staggering away from the fire.  He had wandered away from his assigned post, too drunk to stand up, he was leaning against a sign.  He wouldn’t answer any of my questions.   He couldn’t put an understandable sentence together.  He was puking his guts out all over my shoes and pants legs and trying to pull away from me.”

 

“How did his nose get broken?”  Crockett changed the line of questioning. Chamber’s description fitted the behaviors Dr. Brackett said the head injury would produce.

 

“He staggered around the corner of the building ---fell face forward.”  Chamber’s attitude was one of righteous indignation.   He had done his job and was being treated like the criminal. 

 

“What about the way you acted when Gage’s captain tried to tell you he wasn’t drunk but injured?”  Crockett stood before the officer, his arms folded, glaring down at him.

 

“That guy was just covering his own sloppy work.   He should have known he had a drunk working for him.

 

“Why didn’t you follow department procedure when you brought him in?  The department policy is clear that no prisoner is sent to the holding tank without proper documentation.   You didn’t even leave his name with the desk officer.”

 

Standing on the other side of the glass Gilmore and Cisco watched and listened. Cisco shook his head totally disgusted with what he was hearing.

 

“Johnny told me the only time he ever got drunk it made him sicker than a dog and he swore to himself he’d never do it again.  Don’t  know how  much  Jeff  told  you  but  Johnny’s  uncles  were mean drunks.   John was their favorite target, drunk or sober.   One in particular beat him almost to death more than once.  He has more broken bones listed in his medical file than I do.”

 

“No wonder Lee is on a rampage.  She has already filed a formal complaint with the department.   And is talking civil law suite against Chambers and the department.”


 

The   television was on   but Lee really was not paying attention to it.  The 11:00 news promo came on.  “Reports  of an  L.A. County  paramedic  arrested  for  being   drunk  at a  fire  were not  confirmed  by  the  department  earlier  this  evening.  Pictures taken by a bystander were sent to this station today.   The  paramedic in  question  was recently  investigated  for  negligence  that  resulted  in  serious  injury  to a victim  of a  home fall,  leaving  him in  life  threatening  coma.” 

Lee sat there watching the series of pictures.   She had to watch even as she was having trouble breathing.   Someone was going to pay for this.

 

Roy and Rob Jones were at a call for a sick child.   A two year old was running a high temperature and having troubled breathing.   They had contacted Rampart, followed the doctor’s directions and were waiting on the ambulance.

 

“Have you used any new detergents or cleaning products?”  Roy asked as he noticed the rash on the child’s arms and legs.

 

“No…we are very careful about that…we only use products approved by Jody’s doctor.   They have a list they give out …We were at my mother’s home earlier…Her neighbor was spraying his   yard so we went inside when the smell got too bad.   He had a bath as soon as we got home and he seemed fine.  He had his snack and went to bed with no problem.”   The mother said as she watched her baby’s breathing ease.

“Well   once we gave him his favorite stuffed toy…He always sleeps with Waggles.”  The father added.

 

“I didn’t want him to have Waggles until he was washed.  I wasn’t sure if any of that spray had gotten on it when it was on the lawn chair.”   The mother said frowning at her husband.  “Couldn’t you smell that awful chemical smell?”    The young father shook his head no.
  
Roy heard the ambulance arrive.  “Why don’t you put the toy in a plastic bag, we’ll take it with us.  Might help the doctors find out what caused this?”

 

The father went up to the baby’s room to get the toy.   “I ‘m so glad you aren’t like that paramedic we saw on the news…I was almost afraid to call you after seeing that.”  The mother watched anxiously as they strapped the baby to the gurney.

 

“What paramedic was that?”  Roy asked with a sinking feeling.

 

“The one who was drunk and walked away from an injured woman.”

 

“He wasn’t drunk, he was seriously injured…He got hurt bringing the woman out of the building.”  Roy said softly.  “That’s my partner and best friend.  He is one of the best paramedics around.”

 

“Oh…but they said he had done this before, not paid attention to a victim…Now that guy is in a coma.”

 

“Nothing Johnny did caused the coma.”   Trying not to get overly defensive.   “Sometimes these reporters don’t check out all their facts….”

 

Before anything else was said, the father came back with the toy dog bagged up.   The mother rode in the front of the ambulance while her husband   followed in the car.   Rob followed in the squad.   Roy went up to the VIP floor.  

 

Roy  watched from  the  doorway  as  Lee  pulled herself  up  and  leaned  over to whisper something in Johnny’s  ear.   He waited until she had eased herself back into the chair before going into the room.

 

“How you doing?”  Roy asked as he went towards the bed.

 

“He has a concussion and a possible skull fracture, a broken nose and two bruised ribs.  He aspirated blood and mucus …”

 

“I didn’t ask how he was I asked about you.”  Roy placed a hand on her shoulder.

 

“How do you think I am? I’m  mad as  hell,  I  am scared and I  am  not  leaving here tonight.  That sums it up nicely.”


 

Lee was asleep in the recliner when the alarms started going off.  She watched silently as the doctors and nurses came in.   She knew the best thing she could do was to stay quiet and let them concentrate on their jobs.   In what seemed a lifetime but were only minutes the young doctor let out a long slow breath.  “His pressure is stabilized…”  The resident looked and sounded as frustrated as she felt.   She had the feeling the young resident hadn’t even noticed her sitting there.  “If he was someone important, I think I would call Dr.  Early… but he is just a fireman.”   He muttered something else Lee couldn’t hear.  “This is supposed to be the easy shift up here…”   Talking to the nurse who had came in with him.

 

“He is someone important…He is a human being.”  Lee said.  “You  get  trapped in a  burning  building  or  in a smashed up car ready to burst into  flames… you would  be very happy to see just a fireman, especially  this one and  his partner since they are highly skilled  rescue men and  paramedics.  But  even if he was a dishwasher in a dive, he is someone  important…like I  said  he is a  human  being...  a person,  not a  disease or syndrome or a diagnosis.   An  easy  shift  for  him  and his  crewmates is  when they get to finish at least one  meal without getting a call and no one on the crew gets hurts and no victims  die.  I have  Kel and Joe’s  home numbers if  you have any  qualms  about  calling  them,  since I  have none..”

 

“Visiting hours were over an eight.  You can’t be in here.” 

 

“If  you had  looked at the chart since  you got here you would see  there  will  be someone  here  with him at all  times….Of  course  again, I  have no  problem  calling  Kel or Joe or  even my  dear  friend Paddy O’Donnell…”   She  narrowed  her  eyes as  she  watched  the  expression  on  his  face.  “Think  what you  want,  its probably  nothing  that hadn’t  been  thought or  said  before.   The only thing that matters is that Johnny gets the best care possible.”



Troy Braxton and Mia Cross were having dinner.  Her promo for the story about the alleged drunken paramedic had aired, promising more details on the investigation of the alleged careless paramedic.   Mia was a little worried they were skating too near a slander charge.

 

“I don’t see any problem.  You said there was an investigation going on…you didn’t say who was being investigated or why.   The original accusation was made in a public place.   Alleged is such a useful word at times.  "So has anyone at the hospital given you any more updates on Liu?”  Troy sipped his whiskey sour as he waited for her response.   If  she  wasn’t his  cousin  he  would have considered  moving  their  meeting to his  place.   “Too bad he was such a screw up.   He did come in useful, at times.”

 

“He is in a coma they don’t expect him to ever wake up and if he does he will be severely brain damaged.   If nothing happens in the next week or two they will transfer him to a nursing home.  The nurse’s aid I talked to said no one had visited him since the first couple of days.   She  told me  Dr. Brackett and  Dr. Early had  both stopped coming in,  one of the staff doctors  had  taken  over the  case.  She did say that Dr. Morton had written a letter to the Gages concerning his unprofessional comments.”   Mia looked at her cousin and again wondered if this plan of his was worth the risk.   “So what about the other guy you hired?   He still around?”

 

“He went to visit relatives…needed some time away to clear his head.  It   was just by chance I was able to get those pictures today.  We were close by when the call went out over the radio.  Today was a lucky day, not only were we near by but Chambers was the perfect patsy.  He jumped at the chance to beat on a drunk.   My buddy at the station said most of the other cops hadn’t expected him back to work after his breakdown.   Guess Chambers added some interesting complications to Gage’s injuries.   Lee Gage is screaming for blood.  Let  her see how it feels to have  someone you  care about  be unjustly  accused  of  not  doing their duty and having everything you think is important torn away by  rumors and  lies.”  He took another drink.  “There is no way to make her feel the financial lost but everyone says she is more concerned about her husband’s reputation than her bank account.    Let’s see what else we can find to make John Gage and Station 51 look bad in the eyes of the public.”


Lee woke up when she heard voices outside the door.  Knowing  she  couldn’t  move if she  wanted to she listened but  couldn’t  make  out what  was  being said.  She was surprised to see Chet come into the room with a carry out bag from O’Sheas’.   “The  guys thought  you might  be  hungry  so I  asked  the guy  who owns  O’Sheas’  what you  like  to eat for breakfast.  He sent you a breakfast shake and some pecan rolls.   Said to call if you needed anything for yourself or your Boyo.”   He pulled the small end table closer to the recliner.  “The others will be over later.  I have to take my mom to visit her friend so I said I’d come by this morning first thing.”

 

“You’re a good man Chet Kelly and a good friend to John Roderick and me.”  She smiled at the surprised look on his face.  “I guess with all that was going on Johnny didn’t tell you. Or maybe he was waiting for me to tell you.  Sit down if you have some time.   I’ll share my breakfast with you along with a story and a dream.”  Once Chet was settled, she told him about her dream and a little more about Bobby and the things, he had done to her.

 

“You thought I acted like that jerk?   Man, I never meant to be mean to you.  I was really out of  line at the  station  so I  guess I  can understand why  you  would  think  that.  The things I said were pretty thoughtless. I really am glad John found someone who loves him so much.  Maybe some day Suzi and I will be at that point.”

 

“With Suzi or someone else, I hope you find that point.”  

 

“I’m glad we got to talk just sorry it was this way…”  Chet got up and cleared up some of the breakfast clutter. 

 

“There have been other times we talked and I thought it was ok between us…This time I know it is.”

 

Chet  helped her  into her wheelchair and  said  he  would  stay  until  she  returned  from  her  errands.   She wanted to run up to her office to talk with Nell after going to the restroom.


Lee was dozing in the recliner when she felt a hand on her shoulder.  She   jumped.   “Do not be afraid, Cherie, it is only us.”   John Paul said in his soft Cajun voice.  “We are here for you.”

 

“I forgot you were coming today…I am so sorry.”

 

“Not a worry.  When we got no answer at your home, we called your office.   A very pleasant and worried young lady told us you were here.”  Maggie said before bending down and kissing Lee on the forehead.   “Child, you look exhausted.”   John Paul had brought two chairs over closer to the bed.  “No one could stay with you?”  

 

“I didn’t want any one else here, I am fine.  For once, no one argued with me about staying the night.   Not sure if that was a good sign or not.   She reached over and stroked Johnny’s too still hand.   “They upped his meds after the second time the alarms went off.   They couldn’t find a reason for his blood pressure to start climbing then drop too low.  I told the doctor I thought he was having nightmares…so he increased the meds.  Roy and Cap were here earlier and Marco and Mike will be here later.  Roy is spending the night here…I sent them all home to get some sleep.   Chet  came the first  thing  this morning  and  brought me  a milk  shake and  some pecan  rolls.   The  shake  was made with  yogurt and  fresh  fruits…so  don’t  fuss  at me  Miss  Maggie.”   She was trying to stay strong but knew it was a losing battle.  “Why would they want to hurt him like this?  He is such a good person…He cares so much about helping others.”

 

“There is evil in this world that fights the hardest against one such as your Johnny…But we will fight for him…Now tell us all about the troubles.”

 

As they listened to her story they saw the hurt and anger she felt towards those who were hurting her friends and family.  “He has worked so hard to prove them wrong…I won’t let anyone take all he has worked for away from him.”  

 

Before Lee could say, more Joe Early and Dr. Vanace came into the room.   Lee introduced the doctors. 

 

“Mr. Broussard, why don’t you take Lee up to her office for something to eat while we examine John and do some tests?  Lee, I promise I will call you the minute we are done. I will stay here until you get back so we can talk.”

 

The Broussard’s were impressed with the way Lee had her office set up.   Nell was inputting information to a program Lee had written. 

 

“I write programs when Johnny is working, gives me something to do in the evenings.   Keeps me out of trouble when I’m busy.”  She had gone over to the fridge “Anything I can fix for you?”  She got a sandwich and soda.

 

“No…  You said your Johnny had worked hard to prove them wrong.  Who were talking about Cherie?”   Maggie asked.

 

“His mother’s family and the majority of his father’s family.   The bigots   who he had deal with.  When we were fighting over the grants in honor of his parents…I was so mad I almost slapped his face.  His aunts were always slapping him and telling him he was worthless.  He grabbed my wrist and held it midair.  Never said a word about it until later when he saw the bruise on my wrist.  He was so upset he hurt me.  He looked at my wrist, told me he should have let me hit him…rather than doing that to me.”  She didn’t add there were tears in his eyes as he said it.

 

“What did you tell him?”  John Paul questioned her.

 

“That it was better to have a bruise that would fade from my wrist than a bruise in my heart that would have never faded if I hit him.   When I thought I was going to die alone in that cab, I had conversation with him in my head.  I told him I wasn’t afraid to die but was afraid of leaving him.    He has been so hurt by people leaving him.  The doctors should be done by now.”  They went down stairs.

 

“We were just getting ready to call you.  His lungs sound better so we are going to start weaning him off the sedatives.  The skull series they took last night doesn’t show any bleeding.  There hasn’t been as much decrease in the swelling as we would have liked to see by now.  The break in his nose doesn’t seem to be causing any problem, swelling there is down; the sinus cavity shows no additional problems.”

 

“Doctor, can we have a police photographer come in to document the injuries?  Mrs. Gage will be investigating her options regarding criminal and civil charges against those responsible for this incident.”   She looked at Lee “I am not sure if at this point in time we will be including Dr. Morton.  In my opinion he needs a refresher course in medical ethics.”  Seeing Joe’s raised eyebrow.  “Our son, the surgeon, deals quickly and firmly with anyone on his staffs who does not respect others in the office or the patients…   At the least, Dr.  Morton is guilty of poor judgment.   And, that Cherie is my professional opinion which would cost you a $225 an hour in my office.”

 

“I will see that Dr. Morton gets your message.  Lee, I think you were right, the alarms were probably the result of his dreaming.   Who is staying here tonight?”

 

“Roy.  Joe, did you all let me stay last night because you were afraid …That he was going to ….”  She couldn’t say it but it had been lurking at the back of her mind.  If she said it, it might be true.

 

“No, we let you stay because you needed to be here.   If we had any concerns about him dying, we would have told you.  Kathy and the DeSoto’s, Cisco would have been in here with you.  If  we had sent  you home  you would haven’t  gotten any rest and what you were imagining  would have been worst  for you  then you here in that recliner.  Honey, we care about you too.   Johnny and you are more than just people we work with.”   He left.  John Paul and Maggie stayed awhile longer then Lee gave those keys to the house.


Roy slept longer than he had planned.  Jo was at a meeting, the kids in school.   Making his way down to the kitchen Roy considered calling the hospital. There was something in the back of his mind…something he needed to remember…Something or someone.   The coffee maker was  ready  for him to  switch  on  and there  was a note form Jo telling him  there  was  stew  in  the fridge he could heat up or that there was plenty of  sandwich fixings.   He decided coffee was fine for now along with a brownie or two.  Since it was a nice day, he went out to sit on the deck to think.   He had just about finished his coffee when Jo came home.    He had called the hospital before going outside.

 

“So did you get everything you wanted done?”  Roy asked when Jo came out to sit with him. The meeting didn’t go well?”   He could see in her face she was upset about something.

 

“Yes and no.  The official part was good and we have the plans ready for the Christmas bazaar.  It should be good…we will have a booth that sells raffle tickets and we will rent space out to crafters and venders.  One of the  ladies asked if we would be getting donations from my friend like we did  last  year…the  basket she  donated was one of the  biggest money makers.   I told them no I wasn’t going to ask her to help with anything.”

 

“Why not?  Lee had fun making up that basket.  You said the mystery envelope auction was fun.   Wasn’t that her idea too?”


“Yes and she is the one who got us a lot of the good stuff that was in the envelopes as well as coming up with some of the funnier Zonks.

 

“So the problem is?”  Roy had a feeling he knew what she was going to say.

 

“Narrow minded gossipy old …hens.”  Jo said giving some thought to the last word.  “Several people asked me if I knew the drunken paramedic.  When I tried to explain it was all a mistake it was like they thought I was lying to protect him.  I won’t ask her to deal with that.”

 

“I don’t think she could. The mood she is in now.   She is writing everyone off who she doesn’t feel is supporting John.  She called Ben Oliver up and told him to shut down all advertising accounts with the TV and radio station that Mia Cross works for.   She has enough votes to force the issue if the board would try to fight it.  Kel said some people at Rampart are afraid she’s going to pull the money she gives to the hospital…Think she might make an exception for what go directly to the children’s ward.”

 

“Did Maggie and John Paul get in ok?”  Jo questioned. 

 

“Yeah.  They stayed with her about 2 hours then went out to the house.  Cap is gonna go visit about 6.  I’ll go about 8.  Cap’s taking her home.” 

 

“I’m glad she won’t be out there by herself.   When you called the hospital did they tell you anything?”

 

“That  they  were  decreasing the  meds  so  he  may wake  up  within the next few hours,  that his  lungs were sounding  better and he had maintained an  acceptable  blood  pressure  after  two incidents when it  elevated for no apparent  reason then  dropped  dangerously low..”    Lee and  Johnny  had made the decision  to leave  Roy  on  Johnny’s  paperwork  as next of  kin,  adding her name after they were married.

 

“Maybe once he is awake she will be able to handle this better.   She has gotten so ….”  She was stumped for a word.

 

“Nasty mean?   This has gone on too long.   There is something I am missing…Someone or something that will fit this all together.   I want you to tape the news tonight…I need to watch the footage at the last fire not Cross’ report but the footage they were taking of the fire its self.”



Johnny could hear voices and he could feel people touching him.  But he didn’t hear either of the voices he was listening for nor did he feel the touch he wanted most of all.  Maybe they did believe the things that the police had said in the car.   It was too hard to fight the sleep.  Just a little more sleep, then he would wake up.   He would sleep but he wouldn’t go away.  He promised Lee and Roy he wouldn’t go away.  That would make her sad, so he would fight it.
 
“Boyo, can’t you try to wake up?  Please for me?  Remember our secret?   I need you.”   He shifted slightly and she saw his eye lashes flutter.   “Boyo,  Cap  and  Mike are here to  visit  with you…Chet  and  Marco  were  here earlier…Roy  will  be here  soon…We all  need  you  to wake up.”    He  could  feel the light circles  she was  tracing on his hand  but  he was so  tired…and  there  wasn’t  any  pain  here. Once he woke up there would be pain.  But Lee sounded scared …She needed him.
 
“Help me stand up.”  Lee ordered the two men standing by the bed.     “If you don’t, I’ll do it on my own.  It would be so much easier with some help.”   She said as the men hesitated.  Cap helped her stand as Mike steadied the chair.   “Thank you.”   She leaned down and kissed Johnny on the forehead.  “I love you Boyo.  So much, you  can’t  let  anyone  or  anything  keep us from  getting our happy ever after ending…we are so close,”  she  whispered in his  ear.  “So close to everything we have ever wanted.”  She kissed him again.  Leaning against the railing and holding on to it with one hand, she brushed the matted hair back from his forehead.  She had been standing there almost 10 minutes talking to him, whispering in his ear.
 
“I think you need to sit down.   It’s not going to help him if you fall.”  Mike said as he saw her arch slightly.   “You need to take care of you so you can take care of him.” 

 

The alarm beeping startled every one.  Johnny’s eyes were opened.

 

“Shush Boyo.”  Lee took a tight hold of his hand.  “You’re safe…We’re right here.   Let the vent breath for you.”   Lee’s voice and touch calmed him and the nurse soon had the machine reset.  “I missed seeing those eyes…you’re gonna be fine.  Dr. Vanace just wanted to give your lungs some help, so they could rest.” He raised his other hand to the vent.

 

“Joe is on his way up.  I know he’ll take it out as soon as he can.   Cap and Mike are here…I need to go for a few minutes.  You behave for them.”

 

He blinked his eyes once, their standard signal for yes.  It made her sad they had gotten to the place where they had a system for communicating when he was on a vent.  “Love you, you don’t forget, ok?”

 

Lee really did need to go to the restroom but she also needed a place to go cry without an audience.   She especially didn’t want Johnny to see her crying.   She took care of everything she needed to do and went back down to the room.  Mike had left but Cap was waiting for her.
 
“He stayed awake as long as he could.  Dr. Early was in and said if everything stayed the same or improved he would take the vent out in the morning.”

 

“Sorry if it took so long for me to get back.  Is Emily waiting dinner on you?”

 

“Emily and the girls are having a mother daughter evening.  My son in law had to go out of town so they had this planned.  Besides, Em figures you need some support right now.”

 

“All of you on A shift and at the station, you have been so understanding and supportive.  This needs to be over.”

 

John Paul and Maggie were in the kitchen cooking when Cap brought her home.  “You, Cherie, need to go take a long hot shower.  Get into a comfy gown.  We will talk over dinner.  

 

Lee started towards the bedroom.   “Hank please stay.”    Maggie handed Hank the wooden spoon she was holding and followed Lee.

 

“Maggie loves Lee as much as she loves our children.   After the first time I met Lee I understood my Maggie’s feelings.   Later when Merce  went  to  school  and  was  having  so much trouble  with the math  classes  we  asked Lee to help her…It  was a turning point  in  our son’s  life…as well as Merce’s …she is now our  daughter also.…no one is  going to hurt  her or her  Johnny  if  we can  help it.”  John Paul stated simply.



Johnny woke up in a panic.  He was alone in a dark room.  He could not move or call for help.   He wasn’t sure where he was... had his uncle caught him?  Lee…was Lee safe?  He struggled to call her.   But there wasn’t enough air.  He  had to get out, had to find  her, help  her…  what if   his  uncle  had put her somewhere without enough air…”  The coolness and blackness took over and he began drifting into nothingness.

 

“Junior, its ok, you’re ok.”  Roy’s calm voice made it through the haze of fear and panic.  The light but comforting pressure on his shoulder and the strokes of Roy’s fingers on his forehead helped to calm Johnny’s fear. 


“There was a wreck and it caused a power outage in this part of the city.  Your room isn’t set up for emergency power …not enough to run the vent…Doc thinks they can probably take the vent out now that you are awake.”  He smiled.  “Talked to Miss Maggie just a few minutes ago, she called to check on you.  Lee will be here soon.  Miss Maggie isn’t letting her come until she eats …so   by the time she gets here you’ll be off this thing.  There should be some light in here soon…John Paul said your lovely lady was missing you and for you to get home where you belong.”   The overhead lights came on and a nurse came in to reset the vent.  The light seemed to calm John as much as Roy’s presence.   Roy had just finished cleaning Johnny up a little when Joe and a nurse Roy didn’t know came in.  

 

“Roy, I’m glad you’re here.  Think that will help our friend here to relax.  John, you know the drill.   The more relaxed you are the easier this will be…”

 

Johnny blinked once and Joe looked to Roy, “I take it that means yes?”

 

“Correct…”  Roy moved to where Johnny could keep him in view. 

 

Lee dressed with extra care.  She  did her  make  up   perfectly  and  hoped  that  no one  would  notice how puffy  it was around her eyes.  She braided her hair like Johnny liked, picked one of his favorite blouses to wear.  She couldn’t help but smile as she put on the denim skirt he had bought her.  It went perfect with the knee-high boots he had gotten her when they went to Lame Deer.    She loved the boots so much it hadn’t even bothered her when Chet had teased them both, asking if they had been playing cowgirl and Indian.   She stopped her daydreaming and went out to the kitchen.  John Paul was at the stove.

 

“You sit down and eat.  Maggie talked to your friend Roy; everything is going good for Johnny this morning.   They are going to take him off the vent first thing when Dr. Joe gets in.   I am fixing breakfast.  Maggie is dressed and on the phone…soon as we eat we will go. “

 

“I can drive on over and you two can come when you are ready.’’  She said as Maggie came into the room.

 

“Cherie, do I look like I just got off the turnip truck?  You will eat a good breakfast then John Paul will take us all.  Your Johnny is doing just fine. e wWill be even better when he sees you happy and well fed.  Not all that make up hides those tired eyes.  You know that man of your’s can read your eyes…”

 

“I haven’t won an argument with her in 40 years…and been married to her 35 of them.”  John Paul said as he put a plate before Lee. Then one before Maggie.  “She still has the sweetest kisses and the sharpest tongue.”


Troy Braxton and Mia Cross were having breakfast at a small diner near the TV station.  Troy was getting a little aggravated at his cousin’s attitude.   They waited until the server moved away before continuing the discussion. 

 

“We can’t keep this up much longer.  My boss got a lot of grief from the station owner.  It seems the owner is a good friend of Ben Oliver’s.  Oliver is threatening to pull his advertising from the station after he saw the story that alleged John Gage was a drunk.   Did you see the retraction they aired and published in the papers?  I am going to lose my job if this doesn’t stop.”  


“Are you going to let them win?  They ruined Uncle Steve’s career.  Your dad was forced to retire and that destroyed him.”


Mia didn’t say anything as she thought about what Troy was saying.  Was it Lee Gage’s fault Brice had misquoted her and gotten a verbal reprimand?  Or was it her fault for not checking the information given her more carefully?  Had Lee really manipulated the information from San Diego to make Steve Reynolds look like a bigot, a lazy captain who kept his job because of the good ole boy mentality?   A lot of unpleasant memories and thoughts were pulling her in away from Troy’s perspective of the situation.

 

“Are you even listening to me?”  Troy demanded with a nasty tone.  “It is time we finished this…but we will do it my way.  I  just need  to find  a way  that will hurt  them  the  most…take  everything  away  from  them…just  like they did our  family.”



Lee and the Broussard’s were at the hospital by 9:00.   At  first  Lee wasn’t  happy they hadn’t  been there at  8 but  now she was glad.   Johnny was awake and sitting up with just a nasal cannula.   He smiled at her, his dark eyes sparkling with relief she was there.   The nightmares were wrong.  They had not turned her against him.   Roy nodded seeing his reaction to her coming into the room.

 

“You didn’t leave me…You still love me?”  He questioned her with some trepidation.   Part of him knew the dreams were false but still that last bit of fear lingered.  He needed to hear her say it.

 

“Boyo, I love you.”  She wheeled herself over to his bed.  “With every breath forever and a day.”  She looked deep into his eyes.  “You don’t ever forget that or doubt it again, hear me?”

 

“I was just checking…The dreams were pretty real…All the old demons were dancing in my head.   But they didn’t get in my heart…You take up all the room in there…you and our family.  I didn’t go away.” 

 

Pulling herself up she leaned over and kissed him.  His free hand   cupped around her neck pulling her closer.  As she pulled away from him, she leaned over and whispered in his ear.   The smile on his face grew even bigger. 

 

“Cherie, just what did you promise him?”  Maggie came over to the other side of the bed.  “It is good to see you awake and smiling.”

 

“It is good to see you…sorry it’s because of my being trouble.”

 

“You are not trouble…you are being victimized.  We will be putting a stop to it.”  John Paul said.  “Now that we know you are doing well, Miss Maggie and I have some work to do…  Lee did you sign the papers we gave you last night”

 

“Yes they are in the envelope on the back seat of your  car.”  She  had  transferred over into the recliner that had  been  moved  closer to the  bed.  Maggie gave Johnny a kiss on the forehead.     Roy  walked them  to their  car  then  went on  home.

 

“Your lunch and dinner will be sent in by O’Sheas’, they are waiting for me to call and let them know what we want.”

 

“You look tired…did you get any sleep at all?”  His throat was raspy and he hated to admit how tired he was.  But she knew.

 

“Yes.  Now you lay back, get some sleep while I read the reports Nell is going to bring down.   I’ll call Mick and order lunch so when you wake up it’ll be here.”

 

“You’re staying?” He looked like a frighten little boy just for a minute. 

 

“Of course.  Boyo,  they  made me  leave…I  was  here  until  they made me  go  home.  I stayed all night …and all day….”   She was trying her best not to cry.  I wanted to stay until you woke up but they made me go.”

 

“Glad they did…not good for your back.’’   His eyes closed and soon he was sleeping peacefully.



The next morning Lee and the Broussards were at the hospital by 8:30.   They were waiting for Joe or Kel.  Lee wasn’t at all happy to see Mike Morton coming into the room.   Maggie and John Paul stood up protectively.  Johnny started to say something but Lee was going to have her say first.

 

“What are you doing here?  You aren’t Johnny’s doctor.”  Lee challenged him.  

 

“No, but regardless of what you think, I am John’s friend.  My actions were not professional that day in the treatment room or the waiting room.  If my actions added to the problems you were having I am sorry.”

 

“Nice speech.  Who helped you write it?  Joe or Dixie? Not Kel’s style.”  Lee said with a shrug.  “Forgive me if I find your apology too little to late, Dr. Morton. Your speech has been noted by me and my lawyers.”

 

“Baby girl, that’s enough.   It isn’t the problem in the ER you’re upset about.  You’re using that day to hold onto old anger.  No lawyers here just friends.  “No law suits or malpractice suits.”   Johnny said before going into a coughing fit

 

“Now, are you happy?  Your malpractice insurance won’t be going up.”  Lee said as John Paul gave Johnny a glass of water.  “I won’t go against my husband’s wishes.  This time.”

 

Just as Morton was leaving, Kel and Joe were coming in.  The two doctors could feel the tension in the room.  Mike nodded in greeting as he left.

 

“Is there a problem I need to know about?”  Kelly Brackett asked looking at Lee.   “Peace and quiet is important when recovering from a concussion.  The more rest you get the better it will be for you.”

 

“Can we go to Hawaii?”  Lee asked.  “He could rest there and be away from all this.”

 

“No, I am not running away.  No more chief Running Scared.”  The soft raspy voice was firm but gentle.  “Baby girl, let it go.  Let the hate and anger go…if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me.”   Johnny leaned back on his pillows.  “I want to go home with you.”


“Ok…what ever you say…”  Lee was tired and in pain and just wanted this nightmare over.   “The issue with Dr. Morton will no longer be an issue…   Wilson Chambers is another case……but Maggie is handling that.  I just want to b home with you, too.   I will keep it quiet and peaceful.”
 
“That’s my girl…smart and beautiful.   Doc, I can go home?”

 

“Yes.  Take it easy and let your body heal.  No lifting for awhile and a lot of rest.  I want to see you for a check up in a week.”   Joe said watching the expression on Lee’s face.   “Any trouble with excessive headaches, blurry vision, and upset stomach…get him back in here.  You’ll let Lee be the judge if you need a squad, understood.  You will be honest with her about how you feel. Right?”   They all knew he would agree to pretty much anything to go home.   Johnny nodded yes.   “Ok, I am going to get a set of vitals then a nurse will be in t help you dress.”

 

“We are going to my office but we'll be back in about 10 minutes…”

 

“Give him 15.”  Joe said giving her a wink.    A quick kiss and they went to her office.   In the elevator, Maggie watched the emotions play over Lee’s face.  She noticed the ridged way she was sitting.

 

“Do we need to take you back to the ER and have a doctor check you out?”   Seeing the look of pain on her face.

 

“NO.  I just twisted wrong and it’s a little tight…   He is right…I do need to let go of the anger and distrust…It only makes it harder for him.”

 

“And you.   I saw that look on your face.  I wanted to ask but not in front of your Johnny…Who is Chief Running Scared?”  Maggie said gently putting a hand on Lee’s shoulder.  She could feel the knotted muscles and the slight tremor.

 

“Johnny was abused not only in his so called home but by a group of bullies in town.  His only safe place was the fire station.  There was a gang of bullies that called him  Chief  Running  Scared.   They would  yell things at him or worse.  If  he could  not out run  them they would hurt  him.  If he was late, getting home from school  his family  would  hurt  him.  We went  back to Lame Deer and it started  over…They tried to hurt  him…us…but this time he wasn’t alone.  He stood up to them.  He  protected  me from his aunts and with some help from  Cisco and  Roy  stood  up to the others.  He  wasn’t the  friendless,  lonely boy any  more.  He had  friends  …good  friends and  family to help  him.  Cisco  kicked some  major  butt.”

 

“Johnny had lot of love and encouragement from you Cherie.”  Maggie added.  “Never forget the power of love.”

 

Once Johnny was home and settled in the recliner, Lee changed into sweat pants and one of Johnny’s tee shirts.  She stayed in the bedroom alone for a few minutes.  She was still trying to sort out her feelings when Maggie knocked on the door.  “Come in.”

 

 “Your Boyo is worried about you, he asked me to come see if you needed anything.”  Maggie said as she came into the room.

 

“Tell him I’ll be out in a minute.”  She asked as she brushed her hair into a pony tail.  “I just needed some me time.  He understands.  Is it time for his meds?”


 

After lunch, Maggie and John Paul went over to the Carson police station.   Maggie went up to the desk. 

 

“Would you please inform Assistant Chief Gilmore that Judge and Mrs. John Paul Broussard are here?”

 

Yes ma’am…They have a conference room setup.  I’ll have an officer show you the way.”

 

Two minutes latter the concerned friends were hashing over the problems that the Gages had faced since Lee’s tires had been shot out.

 

“So what  do you know about these incidents…besides that it is most  likely  down by the same  two men under someone else’s orders.?”  John Paul asked.

 

“Gui Liu was one of the muggers and the taxi driver who kidnapped Lee.   The kidnapping was not for ransom but to scare the hell out of Johnny and everyone else who cares about her.   If they hadn’t figured out the clue, it could have been a lot more serious for her.   The incidents with the station personnel was never life threatening but harassment.  Tires cut, the station trashed,  electric lines  cut…Someone poured  sugar into Hank Stanley’s  gas tank,  others had  gas  taken  from  their  cars and  trucks,  or  wires  disconnected.”  Gil told them.  “They called a firefighter, his   mom and brother telling each that one of the others was seriously ill or injured.”

 

“Don’t forget the problems at the skill challenge…the fake paramedics threatening her and beating up on Johnny.   Some one tried to break into the  office to get the registration and  judging notes books…trying to start  rumors Lee was doing the tabulations for the judges…Lee said  she would  get this feeling she was being watched at different times…”  Cisco continued.  “She was more concerned with the safety of the station and my mijo than her own safety.   Of course, Johnny worries about everyone else.”

 

“Do we have an id on Liu’s partner?”  John Paul had been sitting back listening since this technically was his wife’s case.   “Is there any connection between Liu and this officer of your’s…Wilson Chambers?”

 

“None that can be found.”  Cisco   said.  “Wilson Chambers is    bully and a reformed drunk who needs to be retired for the good of the community.   He lost a nephew to a hit and run driver about 8 months ago and has had serious behavior problems since.   Several of the people we have talked to have said Liu hung out with Nick Torres, a small time hood.” 

 

“Get pictures of him so we can have Lee look at them.  If she can id him ask for a warrant.   We are going to be working closely with Ken Malansky since I need to get back to Sacramento.   Maggie will be the lead attorney on any lawsuits.”  

 

“So Lee’s still considering a civil suit against Chambers?”  Gil said frowning.   “That can get nasty.”

 

“Chief, if that hellcat makes up her mind you aren’t gonna change it.  You’ve known her almost as long as I have.   I gave her a gun a few months ago… She shot out the tires of a truck then sat there laughing at the driver when he pi…ahum…wet himself.”  Cisco laughed.  “He was lucky she chose to shoot the tires not him.   She did a good job putting a bunch of rich bigots in their place.  From what I heard she ignored them giving her a hard time but tore them into shreds when they attacked him.”

 

“That doesn’t surprise me in the least.”   Gil said laughing.



It was two days before Thanksgiving.    Lee was looking forward to the first holiday dinner in the new house.   The phone rang and Lee answered.  “Hello.”

 

“Is John Gage available?”  A voice Lee did not recognize.

 

“No, may I take a message?”   She assumed it was a sales call.

 

“Tell him he needs to stop harassing Wilson Chambers.  Chamber’s got friends you don’t want to cross.”

 

“You can tell Mr. Chambers and his friend that the law suit is not going to be stopped.”   She hung up the phone and decided not to mention it or the others like it to Johnny.

 

Troy Braxton looked at the phone gloating.  He’d have his revenge by the end of the week…  The false trail he had setup was in place and winding its way nicely to its conclusion.  

 

Roy and Jo had gone down to the police station after they dropped the kids off at school.   Cisco had called and wanted them to come look at some footage from the day Johnny had got hurt.  Two of the television stations had supplied film from the fire within hours of the request.  The third had given the police and Ken Malansky a hard time…citing their freedom of speech rights and yelling police harassment; they had stalled finally releasing the film.  Cisco figured Maggie Broussard had finally talked to the station owner.   Jo was going down to the station with Roy so afterwards they could do some early Christmas shopping.

 

“I wanted Johnny and Lee here to watch this but they aren’t answering their phone,”  Cisco complained.  “I had a clerk call her several times but no response.  They have not came into to see the mug shots either.” 

 

“Johnny may have taken her off on a day trip to the mountains.  She’s   pretty stressed.   She finally had to tell Johnny about the phone calls after he answered one.”   Roy explained about the phone calls from Chamber’s friends.

 

“Nobody thought I might need to know about that?”  Glaring at Roy, Cisco went over to the phone.  He dialed the number but got no answer.

 

“They didn’t want to tell you since it was from police who support   Chambers.   They're trying to get her to stop the lawsuit.  The fact that  Johnny’s  watch that my kids  gave him  for  Christmas last year and  $100 was stolen  from  him  hasn’t  done  much to  change  her  mind.  John would like the watch back, doesn’t care so much about the money.”  Roy shook his head.  “Strange what two years can do, isn’t it?  There  was a time  not so  long ago,  Johnny  wouldn’t have had an  extra $100  let alone  not be worried about  losing it.”

 

They sat down to watch the footage.  Roy again got the feeling he should know something about someone or something he was seeing.   It was nagging at him like a dull tooth ache. 

 

“See that man in the green jacket?    Talking to the guy in the black sweatshirt with the motorcycle on it?   That looks a lot like that guy who was trying to flirt with Lee.   He was trying to make it sound like he and Lee had been on a recent date.  Lee called him a creep.”

 

Suddenly like a cartoon lightening bolt Roy knew what he had been trying to remember.

 

“The guy in the sweatshirt…He’s one of those fake paramedics that hit Johnny the day of challenge.   I think I saw him that day and some other times...”

 

“Keep trying to get a hold of those two while I get some photos for you to look at.”   He stopped on the way out the door.  “You don’t happen to have a name to go with creep face?”

 

“Sorry didn’t pay a lot of attention…but Lee can tell you.”   Jo answered.


“Yeah if we can ever get a hold of her.”


Johnny was up before the alarm.  Lee had been restless all night long.  He had an idea how to help her relax.  Quietly he got up and went out to the kitchen.  When he finished in the kitchen, he went out to the Rover and drove quietly away.

 

Lee woke up and just laid there trying to relax her back and hip.  She wondered why Johnny hadn’t woke her up when he got up.  Their early mornings had settled into a nice routine.  On days he was home, they would talk while he helped her with her exercises, making plans if needed.  She had just began to do the first of the exercises when he came bouncing into the room.   When he was excited about something John Gage didn’t just walk into a room.  There was a joyful bounce to his movements.  Some said he was hyper but Lee didn’t agree. 

There was an anticipation of something good happening with adventures to be shared and enjoyed.  She saw a thankfulness that he could move about freely, he never forgot the times he had worked so hard to move without drawing attention to him or when his movement had been limited by illness or injury.   What others saw as his being hyper or unfocused she saw as his spirit’s celebration of feeling the freedom of movement.  Now, even with her mobility limited she could feel that joy again.  It was radiating from him letting her spirit soar with his.   She had thought she would never feel that freedom again.

 

“Good morning, Baby girl.  Let’s get these exercises over so we can get started on the day I have planned.  I laid out what I want you to wear, ok?” 

 

“Ok, but do I get a hint of what we are doing?”  Laughing as he gave her, a fake frown and shook his head no.

 

“You’re tight this morning…why didn’t you ask for a pain pill last night?”  He massaged the back of her leg as she held it up off the bed.  “Ok, other leg.”  She did the leg lift as he massaged her leg.  “Turn on your stomach.”

 

“I am going to be so spoiled.”  She giggled.  “Well, even more spoiled.  Sure, you don’t want to retire?

 

“Nope, maybe in twenty years…Ok, ready?  This is gonna hurt…”  He straddled her and began the deep muscle massage on her shoulders, working his way down her back.  He cringed at her painful yelps but knew it was going to help in the long run. She relaxed as he moved down her back.  “You go to sleep on me?”

 

“Yes, no, maybe so,” she said with a giggle.  “That was one of Stacy’s favorite songs when she was in preschool.”   She laid there quietly until Johnny smacked her bottom.   “Ouch.”  But laughing as she said it.

 

“All done.  Wait here.”

 

“As if I had an option.”   She turned over pulling herself to sitting.  “John Roderick, why are you doing this?”

 

“Doing what?”   He came back into the room with a warm wash cloth and towel.  She washed then handed them back to him.

 

“All this…What are you up to?”  She pulled her foot back when he tickled it on the bottom.   Testing to see if I have lost more feeling?”

 

“No tickling it because I wanted to.   Don’t be so suspicious.  Today I am officially in charge of everything.”  He helped her get dressed, including putting on heavy socks and warm boots.   He lifted her into the chair then pushed her outside after she finished getting ready.

 

“Where are we going?”  Lee asked surprised as they went over to the Rover.

 

“You’ll see.”  He drove to the small grove that was at the back of their land.  A brook ran though it and into the state park land behind them.    There was a small fire pit he had built even before they started on the house.   Lee was surprised to see one of the wide wooden lounge chairs from the apartment sitting there as well as a small table and a cooler.


“When did you do all this?”  She was surprised. 

 

I woke up about 5:30.  Decided we needed a day just for us…Now you just sit there and relax while I fix a great camp breakfast.”  Before he helped her into the wooden lounger, he spread out an open sleeping bag to give her some warmth and padding. 

 

“Why do pancakes and sausages taste better out here?”  She took another bite and a sip of orange juice.   “Now what is that?”  He had taken a large sketch pad out of the Rover after they finished eating.

 

“This is what I want to do out here…Me, not WBS or Hector and Eddie…me and maybe some friends.   Part of our home I built for us.”

 

Together they planned what the picnic area would be like.  The lounger was wide enough for both of them to sit in.  Lee was leaning her head on his shoulder, his arm around her protectively.   It was a perfect morning.    She let out a sigh before she asked the question she had been pondering for several days.   “Do you think we are doing the right thing?  What if all the adoptions agencies are right?  That I can’t be effective hands on parent?  Especially to a newborn or toddler?   You seem unsure lately…Are you are having second thoughts?   I know you’d be a great dad…”

 

“You’re  right  I have had  second  thoughts and  thirds and  fourth…each  time I see you getting  hurt by the rejections and  their  comments.  If there are problems we can hire someone to help.”

 

“A child deserves a mother who can take care of them.”  Lee said softly.  “Not to be taken care of by a nanny.”   The words from one of the rejection letters etched in her mind.  A nanny should not provide emotional stability.  That is the parent’s   job and obligation.

 

“Ok, let me ask you a question.  Is that how you felt about Maria?  She was just a nanny?”

 

“Of course not…But that was different…I guess the real truth is I’m scared.”

 

“Baby girl.  Whatever happens we’ll face it together…the adoption…the law suit…life…as long as we are together it’s gonna be ok.”  He kissed her long and deeply.   They stayed there talking and planning for over an hour.

 

They decided to go to a large farmer’s market that was about an hour’s drive from them to get the fresh vegetables she wanted for Thanksgiving dinner.  Besides, it was nice just being the two of them and not worrying about anything.   . 

 

“So does this mean I have KP duty?” Johnny asked as he carried the first load of produce inside.

 

“Only if you want to help.  Especially with peeling the potatoes and apples.”

 

“You go to be in the kitchen with me?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Then KP it is.”  He kissed her  and  started  putting  things away  before she  began   making  pies and  doing  other  prep  work.


“Don’t you two ever stay home or answer your messages?” Cisco growled when Lee answered the phone.    “I need you to come look at mug shots.   JoAnne De Soto said you could identify a guy in the footage from the fire.   Some guy you called a creep for flirting with you.”

 

“I will come in the day after Thanksgiving.   The only call I got from your office said you had the footage from the two television stations.  I don’t remember any message to call you or anything about mug shots.”

 

“Ok, early on Friday.  You and my mijo staying out of trouble?”  He asked.  He could hear how relaxed and happy she was.  It wasn’t   something he had heard in her voice for awhile.

 

“He’s helping me cook.  We went to the farmers market and got some stuff.   I drove since it was a little farther than I thought he needed to drive.  He’s bored but pretends he isn’t.   Wish you all were coming to dinner but give Linda’s family our love.”

 

“I  will and you  be careful…Wilson Chambers  doesn’t have  that much  support but enough that it  could  get  rough if  they  wanted to  get mean.  Don’t you think you should have let me known you were getting threatening phone calls?”

 

“No, then Johnny would have known and I didn’t want him to worry.”   I could do that well enough for both of us.  Love ya take care and stay safe.  Bye.” 

 

“Love you too and take your own advice.”



Lee and Johnny were up by 7 on Thanksgiving morning.  Dinner was at 2.  They had done most of the prep work on Wednesday, even setting the table.  Lee had a basket in the center of the table they had gotten in Lame Deer.  She had put  small  gourds and  some of the apples and  dried  flowers they had  gotten  at the Farmer’s  Market  in  it.  

 

“It looks like something from one of the magazines you see at the checkout lane at Keelson’s.”   Johnny said as he took a photo of it.  He had been snapping pictures all morning.
 
“Why am I feeling like I have forgotten something?”  Lee fussed going over the list she had made.  “Turkey and ham in the oven, dishes ready to go into the oven...stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, side  dishes in the fridge  …corn and  lima  beans,  cranberry  salad,  olives and pickles,  deviled  eggs…pumpkin,  apple and mincemeat pies  ready…The  whipped  cream…I  forgot it.   Guess we will have to use cool whip…there should be some in the freezer.   Ice tea is made…coffee is ready to switch on…”

 

“Will you just sit down and relax.  This place looks perfect.  These are our family and friends.  No one s going to find fault with anything.  And if they do they can keep it to themselves.”  He went over and kissed her.  “Thank you for all you do.  Now get out of that chair and relax.”

 

“I hope I’m not too early.”  She handed him a bottle of wine.  “I wanted some time to visit and see the house before the others came.” 

 

“Of course not.  Lee just went into change clothes.”  Rosemary was surprised that Johnny gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.   They had moved into the living room.  (The designer had called it a great room, Johnny thought of it as the living room.)    He put the wine on the counter between the dining area and the kitchen.   “Why don’t I show you the porch while Lee is finishing up?” 

 

“This   place is amazing…”  Rosemary said as they went back inside.  “You two have wonderful taste.” 

 

“Lee do I just agree with what she wants.”  Johnny said with a huge smile. 

 

“Don’t believe a word of that bull.”  Lee said as she came down the hallway.  “He had wonderful ideas.  I think we both worked on making this our home that reflects both our taste…   He has some wonderful ideas on what we are going to do with some of the other land.   So glad you came and took our advice on dressing casual.”

 

“John was never very fond of dressing up.”   Rosemary said.   “Or wine   as I remember.”   She was looking a little uneasy.   “My son on the other hand on occasion drinks too much.   Especially when he doesn’t get his way.”   

Lee and Johnny gave her the tour of the rest of the house.  She loved Lee’s sunroom.  They told her of the plans for the pool/guest house and the other garage and storage building.   Once they were settled back in the front room they talked of Rosemary’s trip to Europe and the business she had taken over when her husband had died.   Lee excused herself and went out to the kitchen to baste the turkey and check on her schedule for getting the other dishes into the oven or on the stove. 

 

“The house is everything I would have expected it to be except…” Rosemary said softly not sure, if it was the right thing to say.

 

“Except what?”  Johnny asked in a no nonsense voice.  Before she could answer, Lee called him to come help her.  Rosemary had the feeling she had almost ruined the day.

 

By 2:15, everyone was there.   Lee with the help of her 2 best friends was setting all the food out.  She had Johnny carve the turkey in the kitchen after he showed it off and took pictures. They had finished the main meal.  Everyone had complimented Lee on her cooking and how beautiful the table had looked.  

 

“I think the ladies deserve a rest so while the guys clear the table and put the leftovers away…”

 

“Not that there is a whole lot left…man I don’t think I’ll eat for a week.”  Sam said.  “Ashke is even moving a little slow.”   Ashke was Sam’s K-9 partner.   The others agreed except Johnny.

 

Grinning widely he turned to Lee.   “Guess that means those pies you spent all day yesterday making is all mine if everyone else is too full.”

 

“You can have the apple and the pumpkin, the mincemeat is   mine.”  Lee answered with a laugh.   “I even added a little of Jeff’s good brandy to the mix.  Seriously, before we have pie and coffee….Johnny has something special planned.  That is why we said wear something casual and brings a jacket…In 10 minutes we’re going on a hayride then have pie out in the grove.”

 

“Here I was set to sit back, loosen my belt and o.d.  On football.”  Roy commented.

 

While Roy, Jim and Sam under Lee’s watchful  eye, and with  some help  from  Kathy and Jo put the food away and  cleared the  table,  Johnny  and the  kids went  outside.   Rosemary watched, smiling.  She was seeing a whole new side of John.   Johnny pulled up on a tractor, pulling a wagon loaded with bales of hay, as well as some spread the floor, covered by blankets.  One bale was covered with a blanket and had a cushion placed in front of it.  There was a cooler and picnic baskets loaded on the wagon also.  (The tractor and wagon belonged to Hector.)

 

“Everyone get on and sit still.  Girls, sorry you have to sit on the blanket on the wagon floor.  Boys, if you want to sit on a hay bale hold tight.  That goes for the adults too.”  He had gotten off the tractor and was standing next to the wagon.  Johnny went over to Lee.  He lifted her easily handing her over to Roy who was leaning down to take her.  As soon as everyone was seated, Johnny got back on the tractor and started off across the yard.  It was a bumpy but fun ride exploring their property.  They ended up at the grove.   There was a picnic table and some chairs near the fire ring as well as Lee’s wooden lounger.  Johnny fixed the sleeping bag then had Roy hand her down to him.

 

“Ok, there is everything you need to make coffee in the small box.  And there is milk in the cooler for hot chocolate, apple cider and some cool whip. I’ll start the fire.”   He soon had it blazing nicely.

 

“Uncle Johnny, you remembered!”  The squeals of delight from the two little girls filled the air when they saw the tire swing Johnny had put up.   The boys were surprised to see a target for throwing a football and soccer net also set up near another tree.  There was a box with balls in it by the net.   The boys, Roy, Jim and Sam went over to the target and were soon taking turns throwing the football.

 

“That was a lovely gesture for the children.”  Rosemary said as Johnny was being pulled away by two very excited young ladies.”
 
“Stacy and Jenny wanted a tire swing like they saw on a TV show.  Uncle Johnny promised them one.”   Lee answered.  “He would do anything for those kids.” 

 

“Uncle  Johnny  and  Aunt  Lee both  do  anything  they  can for the kids  and all their  friends.”  Jo said.   “I think we need to go rescue your husband.”  Johnny had the girls on the tire and was pushing them.  She and Kathy left Rosemary and Lee sitting by the fire ring watching the activities.  Ashke had laid down next to Lee, who was petting her.

 

“He is so happy…I don’t think I could ever have imagined him like this.  Laughing and so at ease with everyone and everything around him.   Today at dinner, the way you all spoke so freely from your hearts made me miss that with my children.”  She looked sad and Lee felt a pang of sorrow for her.   “Are you planning on having a family any time soon?”

 

“We have a family.”  Lee said trying to keep her voice pleasant.  However, Rosemary knew she had hit a nerve and dropped the subject.  “John Roderick don’t you dare!”   The boys and the men had paired off and were kicking the soccer ball.   Johnny and the girls had joined them.
“Please Boyo, be careful.”   Soon she was relaxed, shouting encouragement to all.   Everyone on the field was taking care not to run into Johnny.    After about a half hour Johnny left the game and came over to Lee and the others.

 

“Don’t know about anyone else but I could use some pie…”  He said after giving her a kiss.  

 

“Well, then why don’t you make coffee and see if the kids want hot chocolate or apple cider?   Maybe if you ask them nice enough Kathy and Jo will dish up the pie. I ‘m gonna sit here like a bump on a log… that swing sure looked like it was fun.”   She said with a sigh.

 

“You want to swing?  Why didn’t you say so?  Come on.  Trust me?”

 

“Always Boyo.”    Before anyone else realized what he was doing, he had her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

 

“Someone hold that swing steady, will ya?”  He called as he started over to the tire.  With Jim, Roy and Sam holding it steady he seated Lee.  Now   hold tight.”  The others backed away and left them to play.  Jo fixed the coffee and called the others over to get pie and a drink.

 

“Will they be ok over there?”  Rosemary asked watching as the swing went   in a circle.   “Shouldn’t someone be over there in case he needs help?  That is too dangerous for her… should she be doing that?”

 

“They are fine.  He would never have let her on it if he had any doubts a bout her safety.   Told me he tested the knots by standing on it swinging   yesterday.   He figured by using the two ropes he could make it safe for her.   He’ll call for help when she is ready to get off.”   Roy told the worried woman.  

 

“Uncle Johnny said not to worry about what Aunt Lee can’t do but be happy for what she can do.  What she can do best is love us.”  Jen said.

 

“That makes everyone happy, especially your Uncle Johnny.”  Rosemary told the little girl.   She was gaining a completely new appreciation of the life her nephew had made for himself.   


“You ever did this before, Mijo?”  Cisco asked as he laid out a group of pictures for Lee to look at.   Then he laid out a group on the other end for Johnny to look at.   It was early Friday morning.

 

“No.  Is there any danger to Lee if they find out she came in here?  They seem to know an awful lot of our business.”   Cisco considered the question.

 

“They are already a danger to her and you.  Getting names to go with the suspects will make it safe for you two.”  Cisco reassured his friend.

 

It didn’t take long for Lee to identify Nick Torres as the other man in the park, and the fake paramedic from a still of the fire coverage. 

 

“That’s Troy Braxton with him.   I met him at the reception the night before the skill challenge.  Introduced himself as former arson investigator …I forget if it was with a police or fire …now he worked for several big   insurance companies.  Think he knew Jeff from his reputation and was surprised to find out he was my uncle.   Very sure of himself, greasy and pushy.  I saw him at the  challenge…He said someone…I  think the  name  was  Raymond .. Or…Reynolds…yeah Reynolds….had friends too.”
 
“John do you remember ever seeing either of these two men?  Near the station, around the apartment or house or at the skill challenge?” Cisco asked as Johnny studied the pictures.

 

“I think he was one of the fake paramedics…”


Troy Braxton was furious.  He  now  knew that Nick Torres had been identified by both John and  Lee Gage as being  connected with  shooting  her tires, as  one of the fake  paramedics  and  suspected  of  giving  the pictures to the press.  He was a known associate of Liu who stranded Lee.  Mia was getting cold feet and not pushing the rumors and snide comments about the inefficiency of Station 51 and it’s a shift crew in her news reports. 

The threats supposedly made by Chambers and his friends had been ignored.  The  only bright  spot was  at least  Liu  wasn’t  going to  cause any  more  problems.  He had been transferred to a nursing home where he was for all practical purposes a dead man.   Just like John Gage was going to be after he watched him take his revenge on his stuck up wife.   To make matters, worst Torres was late.   He had been told to be at the bar at 5.  It was now 6 and he still hadn’t shown up.   Braxton took a swig of the whiskey he had ordered instead of his usual mixed drink.   He put the glass down as Torres walked up to the table.

 

“You’re late.”   Braxton snapped at the unkempt Torres.

 

“Just a taste of your own medicine.”  Torres said as he signals the waitress.   “Cee Cee said the doctors at the home said Liu only has a few days.  The drugs ruined his kidneys.  They’re shutting down and so is his liver.”

 

“A savings to the tax payers since he is in a charity ward.   Too bad Mrs. Gage didn’t foot his bill like she did for that fancy room her husband had.   Just another example of the rich screwing the poor.”  Braxton remarked as he signaled for another drink.

 

“You’re drunk.” Torres was surprised he had never seen Braxton like this.

 

“No   just honest.    I’m tired of messing with them.  Meet me out at their place in two days.  We’re going to end this once and for all.  The Gages are going to show the world their perfect marriage isn’t so perfect.  He cheated on her and she found out.  In a fit of rage, he beats her to death.In despair he kills himself.  Or he is threatening to leave her so she kills  him.”

 

“Look, I  never signed on for  murder.”  Torres  said  backing  up.

 

“Fine,  then just  leave.  I can handle this by  myself.”

 

Johnny was back at  work.  Lee knew he was  glad to be  going  back and  tried not to be too afraid for him.  She was trying to fix a huge mistake  made in another office.   As she reentered all the information she realized she had missed working even as much as she had enjoyed the holiday.(Once Johnny  was  feeling better she had enjoyed the time with him, of  course.)   Maybe this was a wake up call.  Maybe they needed to let the idea of adopting go.  She called the other office and talked with the girl who  worked there then called Tom Clark.   After she talked with Tom,  she got the discs she had  just programmed ready to mail.   One set went to the Bay area  office, the other to Sacramento.   Nell had  finished what she needed to do and left for the day.  She took out the folder with WBSF applications and realized she was way behind on requests that needed to be done so people could do their Christmas projects.   Dialing the phone, she called Jo.

 

“Hello.”  Jo answered sounding out of breath.

 

“Hi, sounds like I caught you at a busy time.”  Lee said.  “Sorry.”

 

“No actually you caught me at the perfect time.  I finished cleaning the front room and haven’t started in the kitchen yet.  I promised Jen we would start getting out the Christmas decorations this week.  Not the big stuff…yet.”

 

“Any chance you can meet me for a working lunch at O’Sheas’?”

 

“Why don’t you come over here for lunch?  That way we can work as long as we want without worrying about the kids…  It’s Pat’s week to drive.”

 

“Ok, as long as you let me bring lunch.  What sounds good?”  They decided on Chinese.   Jo called the order in knowing it would get there about the same time Lee did.   Lee gathered her stuff and went down to the ER.   Dixie and Joe were at the nurses’ desk. 

 

“Leaving early?  Must be nice to have banker’s hours.” Joe teased.

 

“That’s what happens when you’re the boss.  Actually, I am all caught up for a change.  Nell does the every day stuff I usually just trouble shoot any more.  I’m going over to Jo’s.

 

“Roy is in with a patient in 3...The squad should be here any minute if you want to wait.”  Dixie said with a grin.  “I hear there is going to be big doings at your place Sunday.”

 

“You probably know more about it than I do.  I  know Mick is doing the  food  and I am not to do anything  except sit and  look pretty and  tell  John  Roderick he is amazing.   Which he is, of course.  I’m glad you three are going to be able to come.”

 

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.   Johnny said…”  She stopped.  “That   this is going to be the best party ever.”   She didn’t want to spoil any of the surprises Johnny was planning

 

“He won’t tell me a thing except we are going to get the tree Friday evening.  …”

 

“Hey, two of my favorite people…”  Johnny bent down and kissed Lee.  At one point in  time he wouldn't  have  done  that  but  now he  didn’t  care  what anyone thought.   “Roy still in with the patient?   Dix, here is a list of what we need.   It’s been a busy morning…nothing major, thank goodness.   Even the guy we brought in isn’t hurt too bad.  He has a dislocated shoulder.  He fell off a ladder putting Santa and Rudolph   on his garage roof.”  Thinking of the fall from the roof brought a frown to Johnny’s face.   “Where you off to Baby girl?  Home or shopping?’

 

“Neither…Jo and I are having lunch then working on grants.  I should be on my way.   Any special requests for breakfast?” 

 

“Blueberry pancakes and sausage?”    Another kiss and she was gone.  As soon as Johnny was sure she was out of hearing, he turned to the others,   “I wasn’t sure if she knew, it was on the news this morning.  Liu died from kidney failure.”



Nick Torres was not sure what to do.  He  wasn’t  looking  forward to  jail  time  but  he  wasn’t  going to  let  Troy  Braxton  get him involved in a  murder.  It was a no brainer.   He walked into the police station.   The desk sergeant looked up at him.  “Can I help you?”

 

“Yeah I need to talk to Cisco Alvarez, about Lee and Johnny Gage.”

 

Cisco sat there staring at Torres.  Torres squirmed and looked away   before finally starting to talk.  “Braxton had a beef with the Gages so he paid us to mess with all the A shift there at 51.  Look, the thing with her getting her hand broke, that was an accident.  We just wanted the rings.  Braxton said anything we took from her was ours…on top of the money he paid us.”

 

“That girl would have fought you tooth and nail for those rings.   Why did Braxton want you to wreck her car?”

 

“To scare her.  When Liu left her out by that retaining pond, it was just suppose to be a few hours then call some one.  He got drunk and forgot to call when he was supposing to.   He  was so ate up  with the drugs and  scared  of  you and the Mexican  dude…If  we had  known  the girl was connected to you we would  have never messed with her.   Then that crazy Mexican godfather started asking questions.   Made it real uncomfortable for us.   Liu went up to San Francisco for awhile but then came back when he ran out of money.”

 

“Did Braxton tell why he was harassing them?”

 

“That reporter…Mia Cross?  Her dad was a fireman, a captain down in San Diego.   From what I heard, he was a drunk and a bigot.   Just kept his job because his in-laws had money and influence.   His paramedics got hurt because they didn’t get the back up they needed.  His was a good ole boy station.  The brass sent two outsiders in that never fit in.”   Torres stopped for a long slow drink of water.  “The  brass  were doing a good  job of  covering it up  until  the state started asking  questions  when someone went to the papers  about a cover up. The newspaper picked up on it…asking if it was a hate crime.   Then the state had Lee Gage get involved.  The  captain was  given the  option of  retiring…He  killed himself … driving drunk…Braxton  blames  Station  51 and  Lee  Gage’s  reports. 

 

“OK, why all of the sudden are you coming in here?”  Cisco growled.

 

“Because   Braxton is  crazy…I don’t  want  nothing’ to do with any  murder…you wouldn’t  think  twice about  killing  someone if  you thought  they hurt her.   You’d chalk it up to resisting arrest or self defense.”

 

“Murder?”  Cisco stood up and moved towards the frighten man.    “You’re telling me he is planning on having her killed?” 

 

“No, he’s gonna do it himself.  Said he was tired of screw ups like me and Liu.”  Cisco walked to the door.   He stopped and turned around.

 

“You’re right if you had hurt her I’d kill you… to keep my dad from doing it.   You got any idea where I can find this Braxton or when he is gonna try?”

 

“He was talking about making it look like the guy beat her to death…or maybe like he asked her for a divorce and she killed him.   Said this had been going on too long.”

 

He looked at the two way mirror.  “Dan, get Mia Cross in here now.  Then call over to Rampart, tell Lee to stay with her friends until someone she knows comes for her.  I don’t want her in that office by herself.”

 

Johnny had traded days with one of the guys from 45.  He needed the day off since his wife was having dental surgery and they had a small child.  It suited Johnny fine as it gave him an extra day for getting everything ready for the party.

 

“Hey, you up for a road trip?”  Johnny asked as Lee was finishing folding laundry.   He had just gotten off the phone.

 

“Always…where are we going?”

 

“Remember that craft place up by the lake house?   Roy wanted to know if we would go up there and get that table and Baker’s rack that Jo liked so much.  She has looked at some others but never saw any she liked as well.”

 

“Sounds like a great way to spend the day.  We might see some other things we could get for Christmas gifts.   Could we stop by the Sweethart Shop so I can give them an order?   I’m sending boxes to New York and D.C.  Next week hopefully.”

 

“We can do whatever you want.  You about ready to go?”  He didn’t want to her to know a crew from WBS would be coming soon to set up part of her birthday surprise.  (They both should have been at work by now.)


Neither one paid any attention to the white delivery truck sitting near the end of their lane.  Troy Braxton had been their since a little after 7.  His plan had to been to drop off some letters supposedly written to Johnny from an ex girl friend.  Threatening to expose the fact John had a son he never supported.   I had irritated Braxton that neither had went to work but  maybe…just  maybe this would be even better   He followed them as they drove past where they turned to go to work or the DeSoto’s home.  Braxton smiled as they got farther away from the city.  The older delivery van wouldn’t attract much attention even in the sparse traffic as this road was the only one to access several of the small towns and farms out this way.  

 

They talked about Christmas plans and New Year’s Eve and anything that popped into their heads.  They drove to the craft place.  Lee knew exactly what Jo had picked out but then decided to wait to see if they could find it closer and cheaper to home.   They got that and several black iron pieces for their house and some to give for Christmas.   By the time they were finished the back of the Rover was fairly full.

 

“Want to stop at that little place we ate at a few times this summer?   They might have trout today.”

 

“Didn’t they say that apple pie was their specialty during the fall?   From their own apples?  I think they make cider too, it would be good to get a couple gallons…”

 

They pulled into the restaurant and Lee noticed they would be closing in 5 minutes.  “Johnny, go in and ask if we can get some thing to go and some cider.  I’ll wait out here.”



Cisco was frustrated and worried.  Jo hadn’t heard from them and there had been no answer when he called the Station.   He called dispatch to have them broadcast the Rover’s license plate number and asked that it be shared with all agencies in the county.   He called the station again and got no answer.  He called the fire dispatcher’s number. 

 

“This is Lt. Alvarez.  I need to get a message to Roy DeSoto at Station 51.  It is urgent he call my office as soon as possible.  Ten minutes later Cisco received a call from Roy.
 
“Are Johnny and Lee ok?   Dispatch said I needed to call you ASAP.” He had just gotten to Rampart.

 

“Any idea where they might be?”

 

“He was going to take Lee up to Muller’s Ironwork and Gift shop…out by the house they rented this summer.   Up by Lake Granger…”

 

“Great, we’ll have cars looking for them.  If you hear from them have them call me right away.  We have to find them before Braxton does.”


- Johnny came out of the restaurant with two sacks and a pie box.  He   handed the one sack to Lee and put the others in the back. 

 

“They said they would stay open for us to come in but I got it to go.   We can stop at the little roadside park by the lake.   Their country ham and biscuits, coleslaw, chips.  They added a few extra biscuits for later.  Said to split them and butter them and grill them not to microwave them.  Got slices of mincemeat, apple walnut and cherry…some for now and later.”

 

“So you couldn’t make up your mind.”   She giggled at the face he made. 


They had just gotten settled at the table when they heard a car door slam.

 

 They  didn’t  think  anything  of it  until  Troy  Braxton  said  with a  snarl,  “What a lovely  little  domestic  scene.   It almost seems a shame to taint this spot with a murder suicide.”  Johnny stood up and moved closer to Lee when he saw the gun.  “Now, I just have to decide how this is going to play out.   You, the devoted crippled wife never suspected your darlin’ Boyo of being two timing louse.  The hours you have spent by his  bedside  as he  battled  illness and  injuries  repaid  by  him  fathering a  child who he then ignores.   After putting you through the pain of all the rejections from the adoption agencies. The desperate mother contacts him for money; you find out and threaten to divorce him.  Let me guess you were too much in love and too idealistic to get a prenup so he is going to get a million dollars in the settlement.   You fight and she accidentally hits her head, you panic and leave her body out here.  You go home, filled with remorse, you kill yourself.   But it would be easier if you just did it here.   Easier for me at least.”   Talking as if it were a scene in a movie or play or a story he was writing.

 

“Why are you doing this?  Lee never did anything to hurt you.   Look, if you have a problem with me…don’t take it out in her.”

 

“Mia Cross Reynolds is my cousin.  Her father was Steve Reynolds.  You destroyed his career.”

 

“The captain in San Diego?   The one who left his paramedics without    support.”   Lee said.  “He was given the option to retire.”

 

“Those paramedics screwed up and they blamed him. They shouldn’t have blamed him. Uncle Steve told them what to do and they refused.  It would have been fine, but some busybody called the newspaper complaining…The state needed a scapegoat…They took away his reason for living…You and your family destroyed mine.   Mia likes that geek--- Craig Brice…Then because of you, he dumped her.   Even after she tried to fix his mistakes.” 

 

Braxton was rambling as he waved a gun in their faces.  Johnny kept between Braxton and Lee the best he could.  Lee flashed back to when George South had stalked her and Johnny.  However, this time Jeff and Cisco were not going to rush in and save them.  

 

“If it’s me you’re mad at leave Johnny alone…He didn’t do anything to you or your cousin.”

 

“He annoys me just being…We kept hearing about how the A shift paramedics  at 51 were  the  best…How well  they  did everything…Brice   would get all  bent out of  shape and make Mia feel like  dirt…He would  spend more time talking about his work and you and DeSoto than her.  Her dad always made her feel that way; he was disappointed in her because she was not a son.    That is why he took me in after your uncle sent my father to prison.   Not that  that  was any  great loss…in fact it  was almost  like Spencer  did  me a favor  by  getting him  out of my  life…”  As he, rambled, Braxton moved closer to the couple.   “But  you  destroyed  him…He  lost  everything  when he  lost  his station…nothing mattered to him  any more…not even his  family.   I  think  the  police  knew it  was a suicide  but they  sad   he  fell  asleep at the  wheel…”   He stopped and looked at the two…Maybe you should die in a car crash…Drunk again Gage?  Won’t be able to lie your way out this time.  Not that it matters…your precious reputation will be mud.”  Without warning and with unexpected speed, Braxton back handed Lee.  “You beat her, then in remorse drove your car into the lake.   Yeah I like that.”     He grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and jerked it towards him.  Lee bit her lip to keep from crying out. Johnny moved towards her not really sure what he could do, but having no other option.  Maybe if he could distract Braxton…  He jerked the wheelchair hard, causing it to tip over.  She screamed, the pain was like a lightening bolt across her back and down her hip.   He pointed the gun at Johnny.  “You have two choices…pick her up and put her in your car…or watch her die a long slow death as she bleeds out.    Or maybe I’ll make her watch you suffocate …a few well placed blows to the stomach and ribs…”


Cisco was driving while Dan Kessler watched for any sign of the Rover.   They had left the police station minutes after talking with Roy.  Once they entered onto the two lane highway, they slowed down.  There was no way for the Rover to pass them heading home without being seen.

 

“How long would they spend at the gift shop?”  Dan asked.   He had met Lee and Johnny before but didn’t know them very well.

 

“Depends on her mood.  If she is Christmas shopping, she can spend hours in a store.  Unless she’s on a mission then it’s in and out.   I took her and my mom shopping once and they spent 3 hours in a book store looking for the perfect cookbook for a bridal shower.” He shuddered at the thought of calling his folks if anything happen to her and Johnny.  

They turned off the main road and headed towards Muller’s.   Johnny’s going to go along with whatever she wants.  He might mention he’s hungry after an hour or two.”  After being in Lame Deer Cisco had wondered if Johnny always being hungry wasn’t as much emotional as a physical feeling of hunger.   “I know there is a place up here near the lake that had pies he really liked when they came up here in the summer.”  Like all of their friends and family Cisco, Linda and the kids had spent time at the lake house.   He checked his watch.  “I think we should check there first.  It’s a little before Mullers and off on the left…”  He drove a few more miles then made a left turn.  The small restaurant looked deserted but Cisco saw a car parked at the side.  He went up and pounded on the door.  The owner ignored the pounding but when he heard the word police, he opened up. 

 

“You don’t look like any policeman from around here,” The owner said.  “But you do look familiar.”

 

“I came in a couple of times this summer with my friends, John and Lee…You might remember them?  Lee is in a wheelchair.”

 

“Yeah, nice folks.   They were here about a half hour ago…Offered to  stay  open so they could eat here…but  he said they’d go down to the  park.  The Mrs. and  me  closed early  so we  could  do some  extra cleaning  and  decorating…The local lodge has their Christmas  party here  next  week.  Kind of a tradition around here…Have that party then close for the winter.  The ski lodge has us bake pies for them when they are open…They especially like…”

 

“Hate to be rude but we need to find our friends, its kind of an emergency…”  Cisco interrupted.  “Thanks for your help.”    As he  got into the  car, “Call and  have any  unit in the  vicinity  meet  us at the  park  at Lake  Granger  down  from  Hogan’s Café.… Call it into both the Highway Patrol and the County Sherriff.”   He pulled out of the parking lot spraying gravel as his tires spun.


Johnny picked her up from the ground knowing he was only making the pain worst.  However, he had no choice…not sure how, but he had to protect her.   She opened her eyes.  “Always Boyo.”  She closed them against the pain and fear.   So afraid for him, not herself, she said a silent prayer. 

 

“Put her in the seat …bels her in… then get in…any funny moves and I’ll shoot.” The pacing and talking to him had stopped and now he was cold and demanding.  Johnny had no doubt they were going to die.


Getting in behind the driver’s seat Braxton barked orders.  “Drive forward…about 5 miles per hour; steer straight for the lake…” 

 

Johnny did as he was told.  He had to think of a way to save Lee…if he could not, he did not care if he survived.   Maybe, just maybe, he could talk him out of killing her.

 

“You know killing her isn’t really going to accomplish what you want.  You said she took your family away from you.  You have to live with that loss …Why kill her?  Killing her would be an easy out for her.”

 

“Or what if I killed her and let you live with the guilt?” Braxton countered.

 

“Wouldn’t do any good…I’d just go away…deep into my own world where nothing hurts because I don’t feel anything.”  Johnny knew Braxton had gotten copies of his medical records…so he knew about the Asperger’s.  Even  as he  said it , Johnny couldn’t  believe he  was actually using  it  as  a bargaining chip for  Lee’s life.  Any thing to stall, to give him time to think of some way to help her.  “ Just think, that  wouldn’t  only  make  her  live with the  loss,  but my  best friend  and his  family  and  even  the guys at the  Station  would  miss me.”  He  gave a weak attempt at his  crooked  grin,  “ Except  for you,  most  people  find me a  pretty  likable  guy.”

 

Braxton sat there for a few seconds thinking over what had been said.  “Nice try…but I think I’ll stick to my original plan.   Now drive like I told you.”

 

As Johnny put the Rover in gear   and without Lee’s wheelchair to help stabilize it the load in the back shifted.  Johnny looked at Lee and made up his mind. 

 

“Move it and remember no tricks.”  Braxton said the gun pointed at Lee.  Johnny put the Rover in gear and stepped on the gas then the brake quickly. The jerking caused  Braxton to be thrown  around the back  seat  and the  load  again  shifted  but  not  enough  to do  any  good.   “Now that wasn’t very smart, this gun could have gone off…”  Braxton put the gun closer to Johnny’s head.  “Now  just  do as I  say  and I  might  let  her  go…the  more I think about it the more I like the idea of letting her live,  knowing  you  have  the choice,  your life or hers. “   Braxton was playing with John he had no intentions of either of them living.  Johnny drove slowly towards the lake.  “The kind thing would be to kill you both, not make one live without the other.   Everyone says you are such the perfect devoted couple.” 

 

Lee could hear them talking but she kept her eyes closed, praying for a miracle.  She  knew if she  said  anything it  would  just  make it  worse  for  Johnny.    She  could feel the car  going  down  hill…She  heard the soft  ‘whom’  as  Braxton  shoved  Johnny  forward so  his head  hit the steering  wheel.    Braxton got out just before the car reached the edge of the lake. 

 

 Cisco pulled into the park is parking area.    They saw the birds picking at the uneaten food on the table, the over turned wheelchair and the tire marks in the grassy incline leading down to the lake. 
 
“Let them know where we are and we need a squad.”  Praying as he ran they also did not need a medical examiner’s wagon.  As he neared the water, he saw the top of the Rover, the back end a little higher out of the water.  

 

Johnny felt the cold as he slowly became more aware of his predicament.  He had to get Lee out of the cold.  Struggling he managed to get his door open and swam around to her side of the car.  He couldn’t get it open and he knew he had to surface and get some air if he was going to have any chance of saving her.   A quick gulp and down he went again.  Pulling with strength he didn’t know he had, he got the door open.   The seat belt was twisted and he couldn’t get it undone at first.  Fighting the rising panic, he finally freed her.
 
Braxton moved back among the trees to watch the car sink.  He was happy with the way it had played out.  He had left his truck a short way from the park on a seldom used service road.  He still wanted to plant the letters somewhere they would be found…It wasn’t enough to kill them he needed to tarnish their memory, like they had done to Steve Reynolds.  He heard the sirens as he moved from the trees.  Looking out to the road, he saw 2 California Highway Patrol cars and a squad coming down the road, lights and sirens breaking the quiet.  Slipping back in the trees he had no choice but to wait for them to leave.   He didn’t stop to consider how they had gotten there so fast.  He cursed the luck the couple seemed to have for getting out of his grasp.  Hopefully this time the help would be too little to late. 



Johnny managed to  pull  Lee  from  the  car  and  began  swimming  towards  the  surface.  He  was almost  there  when he  felt  her  being  pulled  from  his  grasp.    He tried to tighten his grasp but then realized it   was someone helping.  He let go.  It was ok someone was helping her.

 

Cisco   surfaced and handed the limp body to the waiting paramedics.  He  took  in  several  deep  breaths then looked back expecting  to see  Johnny’s  head  popping  up out of the  water.   With a muttered expletive, he dove back under to look for his friend.  He quickly found him and brought him to the surface.    They were immediately helped out of the water by the Highway patrol officers. Officer Cindy Cahill gave him a blanket before they headed over to where the unconscious couple was lying.  Patrolman Barry (Bear) Baricza was setting up the biophone.  

 

“You need to let them check you out,” Cindy said as Cisco started to move off towards the trees.

 

“Nawh, I’m  ok…there is someone or something moving over in those  trees…Saw a flash of light…See if they  need any  help  with  Little One  or my mijo..”   Looking out at the cars Cisco moved towards the parking lot and the picnic table.  Anyone watching him would have no idea he was looking and listening for sounds or movement in the trees.  Dan was   over by the car talking to a sheriff’s deputy and   just barely acknowledged Cisco’s movement.  But he had seen the look on his partner’s face and was ready to act if needed.    Cisco went to his car and popped open the trunk.  Leaning in he opened the tire well and took out a small revolver.  Putting on a windbreaker, he looked around as if casually trying to decide what to do next. 

 

Braxton had lost interest in the cold wet police lieutenant. His concentration was centered on the paramedics and the two still figures on the ground.   The CHP officer was calling Rampart. 

 

“Please identify yourself…”  Dixie did not recognize the voice coming   over the biophone.

 

“CHP  officer  Baricza…both  paramedics are needed in direct care…They have two  victims…Its  John  and Lee  Gage…stand  by  for  vital  signs…”

 

“What type of injuries are we dealing with?”  Dixie asked as she motioned Kel to the call station.

 

“The Rover went into Granger Lake.  They are ready with vitals…”  He relayed the information given him.   He knew it wasn’t proper radio protocol but at this point, he wasn’t worried about it.

 

“Ask what their body temps are, especially her’s…watch for any sign she is going into muscle spasms…” 

 

Baricza relayed the message to the paramedics and then their answer.  Lee’s temperature was lower than John’s, both below normal.

 

“Get them in here as soon as possible, monitor their heart rates closely.  Place her on a backboard with a C-collar…”    

 

Kel looked at Dixie, his eyes betraying his thoughts.  “Do you want to call over to 51 or would you rather I do it?   We’re going to need Roy to sign papers.   He is listed as next of kin for them both.”

 

“I’ll call.   Kel, they’re alive and they are both fighters…”

 

“L.A.  County fire Station 51.  Captain Stanley speaking.”

 

“Hank, I need to speak to Roy, its urgent.”  Dixie said.

 

“Of course.”  She heard him calling to Roy, who quickly picked up.

 

“Is there a problem, Dix?”  He asked thinking it was something to do with one of the day’s run.

 

“There’s been an accident…we need you to come over to sign medical releases for Johnny and Lee.”  The silence on the other end of the line was deafening.    “They’re on their way in.’’

 

‘Bad?”  He had trouble getting the word out.

 

“Yeah, bad.  …We need you over here as quick as you can.”

 

Cap had been watching Roy’s face and seen the color drain from it.  He saw how Roy’s hands were shaking.

 

“Are JoAnne and the kids ok?”  Cap questioned. 

 

“I need to get to Rampart…Johnny and Lee are on their way there…They need me to sign papers.  Dixie said it was bad.   Nothing else, just that it was bad.”   He ran his hand through his hair.  “If it does that bad…can you call and see if there is anyone who can finish the shift?  I’ll call you soon as I know anything.”

 

“Do you want me to call Jo?”  Hank put a hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “You be careful…you’ll have to stay available until I can get the squad stood down.”   Hank knew Roy was the complete professional and would not ask to be stood down unless he felt he could not do the job with total confidence in his focus and ability. 

-
Cisco started walking back towards the ambulance then made a slight turn, slipping in among the trees.  He was almost as good as Johnny at being quiet in the woods.   It didn’t take him long to spot Braxton moving towards the service road that circled the lake.  After following him for a quarter of a mile, Cisco called to him.

 

“Braxton.”  Cisco moved from out behind the trees.  “You’re under arrest for attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery.”  He gave him his Miranda rights.

 

“I suppose you have proof of these charges?”   He was sure that they had been underwater too long to survive.

 

“Nick Torres gave us a list of jobs you hired him and Liu to do.” 


Cisco’s eyes were hard and full of contempt for the arrogant man standing before him. 

 

“You’d trust the word of a common crook?  Somehow I think a good defense lawyer could poke enough holes in your case to sink a boat.”  Braxton smiled at his own little private joke.

 

“I don’t think there is a lawyer around who is good enough to save your ass when Lee tells the jury about being stranded out at the pumping station. He walked over towards Braxton. “Or having her hand broke when your thugs tried to steal her engagement and wedding rings after they shot her tires…If she hadn’t been a good driver they could have killed her.  That is my little sister and it would almost be worth my badge to beat the life out of you…Except she’d tell me you aren’t worth the trouble I’d get into.”

 

Braxton was enraged by the look of contempt Cisco gave him.  In his mind, nothing he had done was wrong.  He was avenging the insult done to his family.  Upholding the family honor against a bunch of nobodies wasn’t a crime, it was a duty.   “You think you could beat me?   I have studied with the best ….”

 

“Prove how good you are at something besides running your mouth and terrorizing girls in wheelchairs.   I think you are a coward and a bully with nothing to back up that mouth …”  

 

Braxton charged Cisco who readily side stepped and laughed at the enraged man.  Granted, Braxton had some good basic skills and moves, but nothing that stood up to Cisco’s level.  Cisco sparred with him just to get rid of some of the pent up anger.  .Braxton connected very with few of the punches and kicks he threw but all of Cisco’s were on target.  After a punch to   Braxton’s nose that resulted in a crunching sound and a gush of blood     Cisco had had enough.  He wanted to get to Rampart to check on Lee and Johnny’s condition.   If Braxton had been even half as good   as he had bragged it would have been a fair fight.  With a jump and two spins, Cisco planted his cowboy boots in the middle of Braxton’s chest.   You could hear the air rushing out of his lungs as he crumpled to the ground.  Grabbing him roughly by the collar, he dragged him back to the parking lot.  Dan and Baricza were there waiting for him.

 

“Bear, take him in and book him on attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery…I’m gonna go to Rampart.”  He stopped and looked at the grim faced CHP officer.  “It’s still attempted murder, right?”   His heart was stuck in his throat as he said that.  

 

“Yeah, but that could all change real easily… Lee wasn’t doing real well.  They had to shock her, twice before they left here.   Johnny was holding his own.” 

 

Roy went up to the nurses’ desk.  Carol was at the base station and nodded to him.  He waited for her to come out.  She handed him the papers he needed to sign.

 

“Dr.  Morton is in with Johnny, Dr .Brackett and Dr. Early are with Lee.  They only got here about 2 minutes ago.” 

 

He wanted to ask her more questions but knew she couldn’t give out the information he wanted unless the doctors Okayed it.  He had been there about 15 minutes when Cisco came in. Roy’s partner for the day had gone down to the cafeteria.

 

“How are they?” Cisco said before Roy could say anything.

 

“I haven’t heard anything.  All I know is they said I needed to be here to sign papers ASAP.”

 

“They almost drowned.”  Cisco  shook  his  head,  “She  learned to  swim  before she  could  walk…Jeff said her dad was a champion  swimmer in  high school….God, I have to call  him and  my  folks…and  Matt.”   Roy had never seen the tall police officer look so beat.  “When  I  handed her to  the  paramedics…she  was blue  around the  mouth…Johnny  got her  out of the  car,  he was  bringing  her to the surface.   I took her to the shore then went back for him.”

 

“You did what you had to do.  He made us both promise if there was ever a choice we’d take care of her first.” Roy reminded him.  While they were talking, Baricza was coming in with a handcuffed Braxton.

 

“What is he doing here?”

 

“He was claiming you broke his nose and that he thinks he has some broken ribs.”

 

“Poetic justice.”  Cisco said and walked away.    Roy followed afraid what he would do if stayed near Braxton. 

 

“Did you break his nose?”   Roy asked as they stood between   the treatment room doors. 

“Yes, but he threw the first punch.  Just wasn’t as good as he thought.”   A slight  smile   showed for a minute  as  Cisco  remembered the  crunch and whosss  sound  as  Braxton  went  down.
The nurse and Bear went into the treatment room while Braxton glared at the two men.  “That man is a legend in his own mind.”

 

Kelly Brackett finished his exam and   frowned as he rechecked her   blood pressure.  “I think we need to call Sarah Westmore and get her opinion.   I don’t want to put them through this if there is any way…”

 

“Kel, it isn’t going to matter…she knew she would never have a child.  They both did.”

 

“So  we  get the x-rays,  have  Sarah   check  our  findings  then have  Roy  sign the  consent to surgery forms.  Damn it, can’t these two ever do anything the easy way?”

 

“Doesn’t seem like it.   You want me to talk to Roy while you call Dr. Westmore?”

 

“No, I’ll talk to Roy.  Cisco or Roy’ll have to call Jeff if they haven’t already done so.”  Malcolm came in and the doctors left after giving him their instructions.

 

Kel wasn’t surprised to find the two hanging out   right outside the door.


“Roy we are calling for Dr. Westmore to come down and examine her.  I want her opinion but I think the best course of action is a partial hysterectomy.   There is every indication  she has  one or  more  tears  in  that  area  that is  causing  excessive  bleeding.  Probably from  torn  scar  tissue and the fact her  tissue is  extremely  thin  from  previous  procedures.  We’ll need you to sign the consent form.”

 

“Anything you think is best…”

 

“Is that why they had to shock her out at the lake?”  Cisco asked.  This was the first Roy had heard of that.  He ran his hand through his hair and let out a sigh.

 

“I’m gonna go call Jeff and Jo.  Any word on Johnny?”

 

“He was unconscious but stable.  They could hear the rales in his lungs but he was breathing on his own.   Mike is with him.”

 

“Tell him to be sure and check John’s ears.  Lee is scared to death about   him getting another ear infection.”   Cisco said then blanched at the words he used.

 

“We will…soon as Malcolm gets done with her I’ll have him get Johnny’s x-rays.  Her condition is serious but if we can get the bleeding stopped, it will improve quickly.  At least now we don’t have to worry about her blood being too thin.”

 

Mike Morton looked up as Kel came into the treatment room.  He had just finished looking in Johnny’s ears, “I‘m going to put him on   antibiotic.  The one ear is looking a little red.   The rales in his lungs are a concern also.  He opened his eyes briefly but has not responded to voice commands.  The pupils are equal and reactive.  His body temperature is 98.2.  That’s a degree higher than when he got here.”

 

Kathy and Jo were waiting for some word on Lee.  Dr. Westmore had agreed that the surgery was the best option.  Roy had stayed until they had been called out.    Cisco had left a message for Jeff and had talked to his mother.  Emily Stanley came into the waiting room.

 

“Any word yet?”  She asked as she sat down.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t get here earlier.”

 

“They took her into surgery about an hour ago.   It shouldn’t be very much longer.”  Kathy said.   “Jo, why don’t you go up and check on Johnny.  Em and I will be fine here.”

 

“Thanks.”  She had wanted to go up but hadn’t wanted to leave Kathy waiting alone.

 

She entered the room quietly not sure, if anyone else would be in there.  She went over to the bed and gently touched the still hand.    “Sweetheart” 

 

The dark lashes against the pale skin moved for just an instance.   “Johnny, can you open your eyes for me?  More movement.  “If that’s too hard, can you squeeze my hand?”   She was sure she felt a slight pressure.  “That’s  good…You  need to  rest…Roy  will  be here  as  soon as he  can…Cap  was  trying to  find a replacement  for  him.   The girls send their love to you both…Kathy and Em are here.  We know Lee wouldn’t want you alone so we are gonna do our best…You just need to rest and get better.  She is going to need your support…more than ever.”
She squeezed his hand and was sure she felt the slight pressure returned.  “Johnny, open your eyes, please….So I can tell her   you are awake.   When she wakes up   you know the first thing   she is going to ask is about you.  I need something good to tell her before she hears   the other…”  She  stopped  not  sure if  she  should  be  telling  Johnny  this.  

 

The voice was soft and strained.  “Hu…t bad?”

 

“I’ll call the nurse for pain meds.”

 

“No…o…Ll ee”   The dark, pain filled eyes held her’s.

 

“She is in surgery…but the doctors are saying she will be fine.   You need to rest and be there supporting her.”   She stayed until she knew he was asleep.  She brushed his shaggy bangs back from his forehead and kissed him softly.  “From Lee.”

 

She went back down to the waiting room.  Kathy and Em were still waiting.   Dr. Westmore and Dr.  Brackett came out with Dr.  Shipper, the surgeon.   Kel and Shipper looked exhausted but not alarmed.  “We would have been doing this in a few months.  The circumstances would have been better but it was going to be necessary.” Dr. Shipper said. “We will be sending tissue samples for biopsies.    She should be in her room in about 40 minutes.  She does have other problems…but Dr. Brackett can fill you in on them. 

 

“Kel, Johnny was awake for a few minutes.  How much do we tell him and how soon.  He was already asking about her.”

 

“That is a good question.  Hopefully he will sleep a few hours and we will have more concrete information for him.  Right now she is stable…We are keeping a close eye on her heart rate and blood pressure.  We will be doing another EEG in a few hours.  We  are  keeping a  close eye for any sign of  pneumonia  like  Johnny,  she  took in a  significant  amount of  water.”

 

Cisco went into to see Roy Gilmore.  He had just gotten off the phone   with Kelly Brackett.  

 

“She’s out of surgery and in recovery.  Johnny has been awake but is sleeping now with a mild sedative.  We won’t be able to question him until tomorrow.  Braxton is in his cell complaining and protesting.”

 

“So   did you break his nose?”

 

“Yeah but not his ribs, they’re just bruised.  Of course he’s complaining that it was an intern who saw him and not Dr. Brackett or Early.  The man is an egomaniac…It is all about how important he and his family is.” 

 

“”So have you questioned Ms. Cross yet?”  Gil asked.

 

“On my way there now.  Dan sent a car to her apartment but she wasn’t there.  The patrol unit   picked her up at the television studio.    She had the station manager call the station’s lawyer.   You’re gonna love this…the station lawyer is one Richard Hutton, son-in-law to Milton Blackaby.”  

 

“That’s all I need…any idea when Jeff will be in?”  Gil was not looking forward to this reunion with his old friend.

 

“No, all his office would say was he was out of the country and they would contact him as soon as possible.   Matt is in the middle of a major trial.   My folks were calling to get the first flight available.  Dad  said  if there  wasn’t one available  he  was  going to  call  Jess  and  see if they  could  get a ride on one of  his  planes.”

 

Cisco entered the interrogation room.   Mia Cross was sitting at the table writing.  Rich Hutton was thumbing thru a legal journal looking bored.

 

“Ms. Cross, do you know why you are down here?”  Cisco said as he sat down across from her. 

 

“I can  only  assume  it has  something to  do   with  you  thinking I had  something to  do  with what  you  call the harassment  of  John  Gage and his  wife.”

 

“Actually, it is to see if we have enough evidence to charge you with the attempted murder of Mr. and Mrs.  Gage.  According to Nick Torres you knew everything your cousin Troy Braxton did.”

 

“I don’t know any Nick Torres.”  She answered calmly. 

 

“Then  Mr. Torres  didn’t  give you the  pictures  you  showed of  a  supposedly  drunken  John Gage   on  your  news cast?”

 

“Can you prove that Mr. Gage was not drunk?”     Rich Hutten asked with a sneer. 

 

“Actually, yes we can.  The medical  records  from  Rampart  where he  was treated  following his  false  arrest  showed  no  alcohol.  Before you ask,  if  he had  been as drunk as  was  alleged,  there  would still have  been alcohol  in  his  system.”

 

“The pictures were dropped off at the studio in an envelope   with nothing   except my name on it.   I  am  not  sure if  we  still  have  that  envelope  as  your  department  took  the  pictures.”

 

“No need.”

 

“I don’t see where that has any bearing on the ridiculous charge of   attempted murder.”  Hutton shot back at Cisco.

 

“Well now,” Cisco said letting his Texas drawl be more apparent.  “Seems like there is this law about   being an accessory to murder that just might be in play.”

 

“Troy might rant and rave but he would never harm anyone.”  Mia said becoming concerned.

 

“Seems to me that forcing a couple at gun point to drive into Lake Granger would be considered hurting someone.   When I  pulled  them out of  the  lake  they  sure  looked  hurt to me.    Their  friends  who  responded to the  call  had  to  shock  her  twice to  start her  heart  beating  again...  they  thought she  looked  hurt…Johnny  floating  face  down  underwater,  he looked  hurt.” 

 

“There is nothing to prove Ms. Cross knew of any plans for her cousin to be violent.”   Hutten added not sounding as cocky.

 

“Braxton is a bully and a coward…He was making all kinds of statements coming back to the city in the back of a police car.”

 

“”He has bullied me all my life.  He did it   because he  was jealous of  me and the  relationship  I  had  with  my  family.   He  was   just a  nobody  my dad  let stay at our  house  because he  felt  sorry  for him.   His dad was a drunk and a thief and an arsonist.   His mother was one of my aunt’s friends who got drunk one night and had a one night stand with the wrong person.”

 

“It’s gonna be interesting to listen to these two blame each other.  I was almost feeling sorry for you when I came in here.  The way he told it you were the unloved daughter, who disappointed her father simply because she was a girl.”

 

“My father wasn’t much better than his brother but at least he played the game and gave my mother and me the outward appearance of a good  respectable  family.Troy was right my father did  kill himself  but  not  from  being   forced  to  retire  but  because he  was a  drunk.  He  was  so   falling  down  drunk  that  night it  was a  wonder  he   could  even  find  his  car  let alone  drive it.”   Cisco was surprised at her tone.  It was cold and nasty.“I always thought   Troy was my father’s child.   I know  my  father  used to cheat  on my  mother and  it  was one of  his  cast offs  that  claimed   his  brother  fathered her  child.”

 

Rich  Hutton  sat their  listening to his client and  thinking  this  was a case  for his  father in  law,  more than  him.   His father in law was a criminal trial attorney while he was more of a corporate trial   type.  Besides,  he  wasn’t  sure he  wanted to  come  up against Lee  Gage  and her lawyers   or  up against  certain  D.A.’s  in  L.A. County.



Johnny laughed at something Lee said. It was a beautiful day and they had decided to go for a walk.   The came to a big oak tree that had a swing   hanging from one of its branches. 

 

“Push me…I want to fly.”  She laughed as he helped her get seated. “Push me so high I can touch the clouds.”  She teased as he pushed her higher and higher.  Then the swing  became  a swing  for  two  and he  was  sitting  next to  her  as  they  swung  out over the lake.  The wind was blowing and pushing them faster and higher, it was like flying.   She looked at him and smiled.  “Always boyo.”  As she said it he felt a cold chill deep inside of him.  


“You died…you drowned because I couldn’t get the seat belt undone.”  Johnny told her.   “That’s why you could walk…”

 

“You had to say it and ruin everything.  You always ruin everything!  I could  only stay as long as you  didn’t  remember I  was  dead…You had to  ruin it, didn’t  you?  You killed your mother now you killed me.”  He could  only  sit there frozen  as she  let  go  of the swing and  fell  into the  icy  lake  beneath  them.  He  jumped  from  the  swing  and  searched  for her  but  she  was  gone.  

 


The alarms going off woke Roy with a start and he quickly tried to comfort his friend.   Holding him tightly he told him over and over it was just a dream.   The struggling stopped and Johnny lay still except for the quiet whimpering as his friend begged her not to leave him. 

 

“How’s he doing?”  Cap asked as Roy sipped the coffee   he had brought him along with a sandwich.

 

“He was restless last night so they gave him something to help him sleep.  They were afraid he was going to pull the IV out.  His lungs are clearing up and they are keeping a close watch on his ears.   He called for Lee a few times.”

 

“What about Lee?  Em said they were going to do another EEG.”  Hank was watching as Johnny began to stir.  “I don’t understand why these two   seem to get into so much trouble just being them.  They don’t deserve it and they certainly don’t go looking for it.”

 

“I think sometimes it is because they get involved in   the lives   of other people…sometimes it is just being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Then it might be just plain bad luck…Karma?  Who knows?  Only thing I know for sure all our lives would be poorer if they weren’t in them.”

 

“That’s true.  Did John ever tell you Lee wrote a check in memory of Tim Duntley to the scholarship fund?   Said it was a thank you for Johnny’s life…she never even knew Tim…or Johnny back then except names on reports.   She used her money not WBSF funds.”

 

“She wants us to build a house out by them.  Said she could get us a good price with the builder…and an even better one on the land.”  Roy frowned.   “I need to call and cancel the food for her party.” 

 

“Lee.”  The voice was soft and pained racked.   “In lake.”

 

“No, she is here at Rampart.  I talked to her nurse;   they are giving her meds to keep her from having muscle spasms.  The medicine is helping her sleep.”

 

“I killed her…couldn’t get her out…died because I was clumsy, useless.”

 

“She is alive...I wouldn’t lie to you…neither would Cap.” he replied, becoming alarmed at the rising heart rate he was seeing on the monitor.  “You got the seat belt undone and you got her out.  Cisco helped you get her to the paramedics.”  That seemed to reassure him and he went back to sleep.

 

Johnny was sitting up drinking some juice when Kel came in later. Roy    had gone up to her office and gotten it for him.  It was apple with extra minerals that Lee kept a supply of for everyone but especially him.  He hadn’t eaten any of the lunch they brought him.

 

“I want to see Lee.”  Johnny said as soon as he walked in the door. 

 

“You can go down after your breathing treatment and a nap.  I want you to get some rest before you get to moving around.”

 

“I can’t rest until I see her.  How bad is she hurt?  The nurses won’t tell me anything.”  He began coughing and   Roy helped him sit up straighter…   “HOW BAD! Is she dying?  Why won’t you look me in the eye?”  Becoming very upset and trying to get up.  The room began to spin and his stomach churning made him take in a sharp deep breath.

 

“No, calm down and listen.”  Kel’s voice was gruff, demanding.  “Dr. Shipper had to do a partial hysterectomy.  She was bleeding internally, so badly we didn’t have a choice.”
  
Is there something else?”

 

“She has a head injury but we are seeing improvement…the swelling is   down, pupils are more responsive.  Like I  said,  we are  keeping her sedated to  lessen  the  chance of  muscle  spasms.  You both had low body temperatures and you know it’s harder on her.”

 

Johnny lay back with his eyes closed as he processed all the information they had given him.   Roy worried they had given him too much since he was also injured.  “I can’t get Braxton’s voice out of my head…telling me he was going to kill her   if I didn’t drive into the lake.  He held a gun to her head.   I  thought maybe  if I  drove in  slowly  I  could  get her  out   and  to safety. He smacked my head against the steering wheel.  Then I  couldn’t  get  my  hands  to work  to undo  the  seat  belt…He  said  he  did  it  because   his   uncle  killed  himself because they made him  retire.   But there  was  something  in  his  voice…  it  sounded like he  enjoyed it…causing  pain.   I begged him to let her go, just   do with me what he wanted.”  He gave a weak smile.  "Of course she was taking all the blame trying to protect me.”

 

“I’ll let you go see her now, then after your breathing treatment I want you to rest.  Amazingly enough you’re X-rays   didn’t show any farther swelling.  A few more  breathing  treatments and  you  can  go  visit  Roy  and  Jo  for a  few  days.  No arguments” Johnny started to protest.  If Lee thinks you aren’t taking care of yourself she’ll worry about you instead of resting.   I want her off the pain meds as soon as possible.”



Three days later Johnny watched as she slept.  Hooked up to all the machines, she looked small and even more fragile than ever.  Silently cursing Braxton, Johnny watched the numbers on the monitor.  Her  breathing  was  more even and she had  opened  her  eyes  twice at the  sound of  his  voice.  Kel and Joe had both assured him she was doing well.    He had talked to Dr. Westmore and Dr. Shipper who both said she was doing fine as far as the surgery went.  Dr. Shipper was optimistic about the   samples of tissue they had sent off. 

 

“Johnny.”  The whispered word was ragged and hard to hear.   She was focused on him.

 

“Right here baby girl.” She smiled at the sound of his voice. He reached over and took her hand.  “Right here.”  He   gave her hand a squeeze

 

“Water …ple ASE.”    Her tongue traced over her dry lips. 

 

“How about some ice chips instead?  He stood up and gave her a small spoonful of the melting ice.   “I was beginning to think you were going to sleep through your birthday.”   He kissed her gentlely.  “I’m supposed to be giving you a birthday gift, not you giving me one today.”

 

“Gift” She asked puzzled by his comment.  He gave her another spoon of ice.

 

“Letting me see those beautiful green eyes smiling at me.  That’s a pretty special gift to me.”

 

“Love you Boyo always.”   She closed her eyes and was asleep again.  This was a more natural sleep not the drugged sleep they had kept her in at the first days following the surgery.   Her head still hurt and she had trouble staying focused on conversations and her eye sight was still blurred somewhat.  Her stomach wasn’t as upset so they had stopped the anti nausea meds.

 

He had been released from the hospital yesterday morning.  He had agreed to go to the DeSoto home for a few days.  One  reason  was it  was  closer to the hospital the other because  he wasn’t  ready to face that  empty  house.  


Cisco came bringing Johnny some lunch.

 

 “How’s it going Mijo?”

 

“Better.  She was awake and took some ice chips.   She  is  awake  more  often  and  Dr. Shipper  said  everything looks  good  as  far as  her surgery.”


Johnny’s hand was on her arm.  “Braxton still threatening to sue you and us?”

 

“Nope.  His lawyer convinced him it wasn’t a good idea.  He is trying to get it plea bargined down to aggravated assult.  Said he never intended to make you drive into the lake, that you panicked.   He  was  just trying to  get  her to admit to  manipulating  the  facts  to  make  Steven  Reynolds  the  scapegoat to cover up the incompetence of others in the fire department .  And to stop the harassment of his cousin because you have a vendetta against her boyfriend.   Mia Cross can’t decide if she is a victim or a supporter of her cousin’s actions.  I have a feeling she has  been  bullied  and  made to feel  like  he  was  better than her  most of her  life.  She hated her father   but still wanted his approval.  Any way, that trial is set for late January.   Braxton is out on bail.”

 

Two hours later Lee woke up feeling more alert and focused.   She laid there watching Johnny pace and stop and look out at the window.  She didn’t know why but it didn’t seem right to let him know she was awake.  He was trying to work something …something important out in his head.    As if he could feel her watching him he turned quickly.

 

“Baby girl, hi.”  He went over to her and kissed her tenderly.  “You need something?”

 

“Maybe some water?”

 

He gave her half a glass of water and held it for her.  She finished the water and he gave her a spoonful of ice chips.  “Pretend that is a slushie…I’ll get you a real one after while.”

 

“Lemon strawberry?”  She smiled at him. 

 

“With extra lemon.”  He kissed her and brushed the tears from the corner of her eyes.   “Don’t you ever doubt how much I love you?”

 

“I won’t.  If I die, promise me something?”

 

“What makes you think you’re gonna die?  Is the pain that bad?”  Glancing up to check the monitor.

 

“I did in the Rover…and I heard what you said to Braxton…about going away.   Promise me you would never do that because of me.   I would need you to stay take care of our family.   Dying doesn’t scare me, leaving you scares me.”

 

“You aren’t gonna die so we don’t need to talk about this now, ok?”  He wiped her eyes with a tissue.  He was still debating   how much to tell her when Hector and Maria came in followed by Cisco. 

 

Johnny was back at the hospital by 8:30.  Dr. Brackett hadn’t allowed him to spend the night but had left orders he could come in before official visiting hours began.  He had to talk  to her about the surgery  today  because they were  goingto  start  doing  some   passive  physical  therapy   later  that  day.  Lee had asked Kel yesterday about going home.  Maria and  Hector  would  be staying at the  house  at least  for a  few days,  then Ibbie  would.   Johnny brought her a strawberry lemonade slushie and some blueberry muffins.   Mick also sent along a box of doughnuts and muffins   for the staff.

 

“Mick said he would be sending you some cheese straws.”  Johnny said as he watched her eat.

 

“Good.   Now, what is it you have to tell me that you don’t want to?” She had been watching him and saw the incredible sadness in his eyes.  “Did you and Roy go get our things from the Rover?   Was Jo’s table ruined?”

 

“The table and baker’s rack are fine.  They cleaned up well.  The glass in the lanterns needs to be replaced but that isn’t any problem.   Ben is taking care of that.   When  you  feel like it we’ll  go  buy a  new  Rover…or  maybe  something  else.   The books you had in there were ruined and a few other minor things.  Have to replace the bandages and a few things from the first aid kit.”

 

“So, you going to tell me what is making you so sad?   Has it anything to do with the fact Kelly Brackett avoided answering my question about going home?  Or the ones about what exactly they did in the operating room?”

 

“The  internal  bleeding  was  caused  by  stress on  the tissue  from  the  seatbelt   buckle  twisting and  pushing in on your  organs.  They   had to do a partial hysterectomy.   They  took  tissue   from a  new  mass  that hadn’t  been there 5  months ago when they  did your  check  up.”

 

She laid there, her eyes closed, her hands clenched tightly.  She turned her head away from him.  should  have known better  than to  hope  this would  work out, guess your aunt  was  right…You  didn’t  marry a whole  woman.  If  you  had  to  do it again,  knowing I  couldn’t  give  you a  child,  would  you have still married  me?”  It was less than a minute before he answered but to her it felt like a lifetime.

 

“I married the woman  I  love  more than  life…You  never  lied to me about  the  problems  you  had…I  accepted  that  as part of  who  you are.  Lee,   look at me.  I  know it  hurts…but  you  have to accept   it as  you accepted me with all  my  problems.   Have you ever loved me less because of the Asperger’s?   Or the fact I have gotten hurt or sick?”

 

“No   but that’s different.”   She still wouldn’t look at him.

 

“Did you ever stop to think maybe if we had a child, he could have Asperger’s, also?  Would you have loved him any less? No you wouldn’t…so  why  do you  think  I  am   going   to  love you any  less?  Don’t you trust me enough to love you, not some fantasy?”

 

“I know I love you  with all  my heart and  soul…and  that you return  that  love. You prove it in  so many  ways…I  guess  I  always  thought  maybe…But Boyo,  always…I love  you and trust you.”   She looked at him.  I just need some time to get use to the idea that the dream of us having a child   will never happen.”

 

“It will happen and the real thing will be better than the dream.   It will happen when it’s meant to.”

 

“Give me some time to get use to the idea, ok?  Just a little time to myself, please.”   She  was  trying to  be logical and  calm  when she what she  really wanted to  do was cry and  scream  at  how  unfair  all this  was.  “Let me have 15 minutes to feel sorry for myself and angry at the outside world?   Because  my  real  world is  our  life together  and  that  is  good  and  strong…”

 

He kissed her.    “See you in about 15 minutes.   Call me in your office if you need me before then.”

 

  Making his way up the empty stair well he let his mind go blank concentrating on moving his feet.  He flipped the sign so it read 'Do Not Enter!' when he reached her office.   He sat in her desk chair   just looking at their wedding picture and the picture form the Ferris wheel.   They were in the double silver heart frame Joe had given them as a wedding gift.   He pondered what she had asked.  Would he have married her if he knew what the future would bring?

 

Roy came into the room surprised she was alone.  He could see she had been crying even as she greeted him.  She turned to the wall before saying anything else.

 

“He is up in my office.  Go see him please.”
 
“Yeah, I’ll do that.  Look, if you need any thing or just want to talk, call Jo.”

 

“Thanks I will.”  She let out a single sigh.  “Tell him I’m ok…its gonna be ok.”

 

Roy   keyed in the code for the office door.    “Junior?”

 

“Hey, Pally, I was just wishing you were here.   Got time to talk?”

 

“All the time you need.  You told her?”   Roy sat in the visitor’s chair across from John.

 

“She asked me to make her a promise.  If   something happen to her I wouldn’t go away.   I don’t know if I could keep that promise.  I would try.  Said I needed to stay here for our family.   Then a few seconds later I had to tell her about the operation.  She turned away from me and asked me if I would marry her again if I knew this was gonna happen.”  He ran his hands through his shaggy dark hair.  “I didn’t answer her right away.  I think that hurt her.”

 

“I doubt it.  She knows that you need extra time, sometimes, when it’s really important to find the right words.   She sent you a message.  She’s ok and it’s going to be ok.”

 

“Can I tell you something that has to be kept a secret even from Jo?”  Johnny asked his eyes pleading for a positive answer.

 

“Yeah,  sure.”  A little concerned at how sad and worried he looked.   The biopsies haven’t come back yet have they?”

 

“No, that is  just another thing to worry  about.  She  wanted to  know if I  would marry her again.  I need to tell her and  make her understand  in  a  heart beat.   In  a way, I  am almost glad they did the operation.  She  was still  clinging to the idea of  having a  baby.   I  think  with  each  rejection   the  idea became more of a possible  solution for her.”  they  talked a bout  what else  was  bothering him. 

 

“I don’t  understand  why  she  doesn’t  want to talk to any one about it…they  are going to  be  thrilled   for  you.”

 

“She’s afraid…and she doesn’t   want to disappoint any one…We  better  get down there.  I need to  make  sure she understands…



Lee looked  around  the room and let out a long  sad  whimper.  It  wasn’t  fair.   She  should be  putting up decorations and baking cookies and  having  a wonderful  time  getting  ready  for Christmas.   She  didn’t  even have her  shopping  done.   Feeling  totally  sorry  for herself  she  laid in  her  quiet  bedroom  crying.   For  two  days she had  been  home and  no one had  came to see her.   Maria and  Johnny  said  they had  called   but  still.   And  today, even  Johnny had been  in and out only briefly.   It   just  wasn’t  fair.
 

 

Hey,  Baby  girl,  what’s  the matter?    Do  you need  something  for pain?”  Very  concerned,  since she had  never  complained or  cried  since the  day  in the  hospital.

 

“I  need to be a human  being  not a  lump of  nothing …I  need to  stop  feeling  sorry  for myself…”    Se made a sniffling  sound  as she  tried  not to cry  harder.

 

“You  need to cry  and let it  out and   then  get  ready  for your  company.  We  made  some  changes  but  it’s  still  gonna  be a  good  party.”  He  very  carefully sat down on the bed.   Do  you feel   well enough to  come  sit in the  recliner?  You can wear your robe or I’ll  help  you get  on  your  sweats.”

 

“The  new  sweats.”(sniff,  sniff).  “Sorry  for being a cry  baby.”

 

“NO  one  thinks  you’re a  cry  baby.  I think you are brave and wonderful and  now  let’s  get these on  you.  I’m  gonna  roll  you  on  your  side…easy…ok  lets  roll  the  other  side…Ok,  you  ready for me to  left you?”   He  put  her in the  waiting  chair.  “Think  we  did a  pretty  good  job.  Want me to  help with your  hair or  Maria?”

 

“You, please….Did  you  ever imagine I  would  be this much  trouble?”

 

“It’s  no  trouble helping  you,  silly.  Ready to go  party?”

 

“Let me  put  some  lipstick  on…Can’t  do  much  for these  red eyes…”

 


 The  lights  were on the  tree and  boxes of  ornaments  were around it.  This  was the  first  birthday/tree trimming  party  Rosemary  had  been invited to.
 
“This is  a little  different than I had  planned,  so you have to  wait for your  present  from  me.  Just  sit there and relax.”  Lee  supervised  the  placing of the  ornaments  and  once the  tree  was decorated and  lighted,  Maria  set  up the  nativity scene.   Chet’s angle came from her place  on  the  book  case to  sit  by  the  manger.  Then at the  very  last,  Johnny  went over to the  display  case.

 

“Roy,  you  ready  to  help  with  this.”   With  Cap  and Mike  steadying  the  ladder  Roy  handed the beautiful  china  doll  up to Johnny  who  placed it  ever so carefully on  top of the  tree.

 

“This is  the  most  perfect  the most  beautiful  tree  ever.”  Lee declared  as  Johnny  got  down  from the  ladder.

 

“You  said  that  about the  tree last year.”  Johnny  teased as he  kissed her.  “Bet  you  say it again  next  year  too.”

 

Empty boxes were cleared and presents appeared.  They were opened  with  much  teasing and laughter.   The  guys  then  went out to  grill  the  steaks and  finish  cooking the  ribs  Maria had  started  in the oven  early that morning.  Christmas  music  was  turned  on and  everyone   was  having a  wonderful  time.   Rosemary  went over to the  chair  Johnny had  put next to the recliner.

 

“Thank you  for including me.”  Rosemary said. “It’s  a  wonderful  party.   I  love seeing how happy Johnny is.   I can’t get over how great he’s with  the  children.  I hope you are considering  having a child of your  own  soon.”

 

“Yes, that’s all I have thought about lately…”  Trying to carry on a conversation in a normal tone.  “Could one of you get me a pain pill please?”  She asked as Kathy came in from the kitchen.  Kathy  checked the  time and  gave her one.

 

“So,  Junior,  did the insurance  company  say  anything a bout  your  Rover?”   Roy  asked as they  finished their  cake and  ice cream.

 

“They  totaled it out and threatened to  drop  us.” Johnny  answered.

 

“Yeah  two  cars in less  than  8  months, I  could see why the insurance  company drop  you Lee’s  car had to have all that fancy  extra  equipment  added.    They  raised my rates  just because of  2  minor  fender  benders in a  year. Neither one was my  fault.”  Chet  added.

 

“If it  wasn’t  for that  extra equipment she couldn’t  drive  so it  really isn’t  fancy.”   Johnny was quick to defend her.

 

“Johnny,  I think  we need to get her back to bed.”  Maria  said  watching  Lee struggling to stay awake.   “I  was surprised she  asked for a  pain  pill  knowing that it  would make her  sleepy.”

“You  guys  just  eat  more  cake  or  whatever…This won’t take long.”  He picked her  up and  carried her to the bedroom.  The  guys went outside so  hector  could  look at   Marco’s   car.

 


 “I  think  we  should be  going, I  promised the sitter we wouldn’t  be  late.”

 

“I  wasn’t sure if  you would  bring Mikey  and the baby.”  Em said.  “I  think  under the circumstances it  was a  good  choice.  She looked as if she had  been  crying  when we first  got here.”

 

“Dr. Westmore  told  them she  will have  some  days her  emotions will be  totally out of  control  because her  body  is adjusting to the difference in her  blood  chemistry.”   Maria said looking back  towards the  bedroom.


“She will be fine with the  support  he  gives her.”

 

“Have the reports  come in yet?”  Melissa  asked.

 

“I’ve been in Europe  since  the day  after Thanksgiving.   Has Lee been ill?”  Rosemary asked feeling totally  confused.

 

“We  thought you knew.”  They  explained  what had  happen.   Rosemary  was  totally  shocked.

 

“That’s why she said that all she had  been  thinking about  lately  was having a  child.”

 

“They  didn’t  tell you?”  Jo  looked at Kathy and  Em  as if to say  should I  tell her?  Both  gave her a slight  nod.  “Johnny knew  from  the  first time he  told her  he  loved her she  couldn’t  have  children.”

 

“And  he never loved her  less  for  it.”  Maria  said.  “He has held  her and  cried  with her  every  time  they  received another  rejection  letter  from an  adoption  agency   over the last  few  months.    The  tears  were  for her  pain…even though I  am sure  he  was  feeling his own.”

 

“I need to stay in better touch with them.  I  always  wanted a  good  relationship  with Johnny.   There  was   just too  much  hurt and  chaos when he  first  came to  live with me…My  husband’s  illness and  death,   my  children and  my own  grief…I  failed  him  then.  I  don’t  want to fail  him  now.”

 

“You  gave him a  safe  home  from  the abuse…Even when  your  children  emotionally  abused him   there  was a part of  him  that  knew  he  was  safe with  you.   He  talked about it one  night  when he was ill  and I  spent the night  with him at the  hospital.   He had a terrible nightmare  and  afterwards  we talked.   It was part of the therapy that Dr. Hightower had  suggested.”     Maria  looked at  Johnny’s  aunt   closely,  trying to decide if  she  was sincere about  wanting a  better relationship.   The  conversation  ended when Johnny came into the room.


Troy  Braxton had been staying very low key.   He was out on bail and had to be careful.   The  Gages  were  not  going to get away  with his.   Neither  was  that  damn  cop  who had  broke  his  nose and  threatened  Mia.   She was so scared of   the scandal she had  stopped  taking his  phone  calls.   He  went into  the  bar,  looking around  for  the  biker  they  named  McGinty.    He  spotted  him and  invited him  to have a  drink  and   offered him  Torres’  old  job,  telling  him  he  could  do whatever he  wanted and take it as  far as  he  wanted.   Braxton  gave him  the  $5000  and  left.   So  full of  himself  he  never  noticed  the two  people  following him.   McGinty  made a phone call talking rapidly in Mexican to his father- in-  law.

 

Two  nights  later  Braxton  received a  phone  call  from  Mia  asking him to meet her at  the small park  near her  apartment.   They had met  there before as  it  was usually very quiet and  private in the evening.

 

He arrived late as usual.  His way of reminding people he was the one in  control,  they waited on him.   As he  walked towards the  bench  under the trees  three men  jumped  him.   As  they  hit and  kicked  him  they  yelled  obscenities at him  in  English and  Mexican.   The last thing Braxton  remembered before  seeing  two men  holding a  knife on  Mia  was  feeling  the pain of his hand being stomped on by  a very large man in  biker  boots.


 

Lee  and  Johnny  were having  breakfast at O’Sheas’  before  going  Christmas  shopping.   Dr. Shipper had given the ok  for Lee to start  being more active. They ordered and were going  over the list when Cisco  came  in.   He sat  down and  ordered  steak and  eggs. 

 

“So  why  you  looking  like the canary  that ate the cat?”  Lee asked  seeing the  twinkle in his  eyes.

 

“Well  now,”  he  drawled  out the  words,  his Texas accent  showing  more than usual.   “It  seems as if   patrol  got a  call  last night  about a  man  laying out  by a  tree in Baylor  Park.   The  same  tree you hit, Little One.


He was beat near to death and won’t  be a  pretty boy  no more.    Gonna  need  lots of  dental  work  done and  maybe  some reconstructive  surgery on broken   cheek and  face  bones.   His  hand is  never  gonna  heal  right…every  bone in it  was  broken,  the  little ones  crushed.”

 

“That’s  horrible.”  Then it  dawned on her  why  he  was  looking so  pleased.  “Troy Braxton.”

 

“Yep…Ms. Cross said she  was  forced  to call him,  then  the  men  who  grabbed her and  some others  beat  him  and this  giant  stomped  his  hand.   The  descrition  she gave  sounds  like a Some  guy  that  works  for the  one of the  tongs.    Funny  thing is  there  was news  footage  showing him  going into a  fancy  private party  down in Mexico  about the  same time  this attack  was  happening.”

 

Johnny  and  Lee listened  both  thinking about the  past  few months.  Finally Lee  took a  sip of her  soda.  Putting the glass down she looked at  the two men.   “Then its over?  What is  going to  happen to Mia Cross?”

 

“I  think  she  will  come out of this looking like a  helpless  victim…If  she is I’m  not so  sure.   Like  Grandda  Michael  always  said,  ‘Karma is a  bitch and  paybacks are  hell.’

 

“He also  said  that  Lady Justice  works  in her own  way.  If it hadn’t  been  for him forcing the car  into the lake  and the  operation  they  wouldn’t have  found  that  new  mass.   So some good came of it…Johnny’s  new Rover will be  delivered  tomorrow.”  

 

Grinning,  Johnny  held  up his wrist.  “I  even got my  watch  back.  Bear and Sam  and a  few others  put up a reward for it.  Seems someone  found it in  a  parking  lot.”

 

“Paybacks  Mijo,  paybacks  for all the  good  deeds you  do.”

 


                                  The End
 

 

Posted to site   06/21/14

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LINKS TO PARTS 1. 2. 3.

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