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“Station 51 respond to Child down behind visitor’s bleachers of football field Washington Jr. High; Time out 07:15”
“10-4 KMG365” Captain Hank Stanley responded in auto pilot as he handed a copy of the call slip to his Sr. Paramedic and took the second copy with him as he jogged over to his spot in the engine.
As the engine followed the Squad out of the bay and down the road Hank’s thoughts turned from the rescue they were responding to and to a particular student at that school. Perhaps he could check her out of school early today and let her ride back to the station on the fire engine with him and his crew when they were finished with the run. To do so was against regulations but he was sure his men would be willing to look the other way just once.
Even though he wanted to, he knew he wouldn’t. There were reasons for the regulations and he wasn’t about to break them for such personal reasons. Besides his daughter wasn’t a little girl anymore and would probably be embarrassed if she knew he had even thought of it. In fact she was probably going to be embarrassed if she found out that he was even at her school, even though he was there on official business. Damn it was hard being a father of a teenager.
“Squad 51, turn through the parking lot on your left,” Hank advised, “That’s the most direct route to the football field.” He hadn’t told them soon enough to catch the first entrance to the parking lot but they did pull in to the second entrance and then behind the engine that managed to turn in the first entrance. Hank guided his ever capable engineer, Mike Stoker, along a path that was familiar to him and soon they were coming up to a group of students and teachers gathered behind the bleachers.
Hank quickly got out of the cab and started clearing a path for his engineer to drive through. “Okay let’s make a path, Everyone move back give us some room to work.” He called and motioned for Mike to pull forward so that the squad could get closer to their patient before turning his attention back to the throng of students. “Alright let’s move back, Make room, let’s clear a path so we can do our job.” Hank continued to call out as the teachers did their part and started ushering the student’s to the other end of the field making it possible for Hank to see the young girl lying on the ground curled up on her side with her hair in her face and a coat draped over her.
“Can you tell me what happened here?” Hank asked as his paramedics moved in with their equipment aided by the firemen from the engine.
“She was trying to do some kind of a flip off the top of the bleachers and she hit her head,” one of the other students informed.
“She’s been unconscious since she hit her head on the support beam there,” A teacher added.
“Do we know if she’s taken anything,” the professional Paramedic John Gage called out as he pulled the coat away from his patient and brushed her hair out of her eyes to begin his assessment. “Anything at all we need to know.”
“NO way, her dad would kill her,” A student called out.
“Mike!” Hank yelled and his Engineer came running to see what was wanted.
“We’ve been trying to call her home,” Another teacher reported, “We haven’t been able to get a hold of her parents yet.”
“Yeah, Cap?” Mike called as soon as he was at Hank’s side.
“Take over,” Hank ordered with a blanching face.
“I said take over, you’re in charge of the scene.” Hank clarified.
“Can you keep trying her home,” Paramedic Roy Desoto spoke as he put the antenna in place on the bio-phone, “We’re going to need parental consent to treat her.”
“That’s alright,” Hank swallowed hard, “I’m her father. Do what you need to do.”
Five sets of eyes suddenly turned to their captain as he slowly and carefully squatted down near the patient and reached out to place a hand on her ankle. One place he knew he could hold and stay out of the way of his paramedics.
“Kristen, right,” Roy deducted after doing a double take of the patient at his feet. It had been a while and she’d changed her hair style since he’d seen her last.
“Yeah,” Hank confirmed and nervously watched as they went back to their work.
“I need a c-collar and a backboard,” Johnny called out over his shoulder and Mike did a wonderful job of orchestrating the efforts of the team. “Roy her pupils are both reactive but the right is slightly dilated, she has a sizable lump on the right side of her head behind her ear. No visible fluid in the right ear, I’ll have to wait until we roll her onto a back board to check the other ear. Pulse 100, respirations 14,” he started wrapping a blood pressure cuff around the young girls arm when she started to moan and move her arm.
“Don’t move, Kristen,” Roy called out and placed a hand on her shoulder to encourage her to hold still but she didn’t seem to respond to either his voice or his touch.
“Hold still Krissy,” Hank spoke with a sigh of relief that she was starting to come around and showing that she was able to move. “Just lie still and don’t move honey.”
“Daddy?” she called groggily and started to roll her head when John laid a hand on it and held her still.
“I’m right here sweetie,” Hank gave her shin a good squeeze, “Don’t move now, just lie still and let the Paramedics do all the work honey.” Kristen stopped moving and there was some movement in her eyes but she didn’t quite get them opened.
“Can you tell them where you’re hurt honey?” Hank continued to talk as he rubbed her leg.
Kristen responded with incoherent moans and more attempts to move as the two paramedics worked together to get a c-collar around her neck and slid a back board into place.
Hank helped to roll his daughter onto the back board and offered assistance in applying and tightening the straps to hold her into place as the two paramedics placed the foam blocks on either side of Kristen’s head keeping her perfectly still.
All the while Hank was watching his men closely to see the look in their eyes, watching for any hidden sign or gesture between the two of them, anything that would give him a clue just what his daughter’s condition was and how bad she was hurt.
“Is there anything in her medical history we should know about,” Roy asked
“She’s had a nasty sinus and ear infection,” Hank informed his paramedics, “she finished the antibiotics about four days ago I think and she takes aspirin for monthly cramps.” Hank knew that last piece of information was going to cause great embarrassment to his daughter but she was just going to have to get over it.
“When did she last have aspirin?” Johnny perked up instantly with that information and Hank knew it was important information.
“I, I don’t know,” Hank admitted and his paramedics didn’t push because they understood that a father would normally be the last one to be involved in issuing that medication.
Roy relayed the information to Rampart and Dr. Bracket’s first question was to ask if they had parental consent to treat before ordering an IV.
As John started the IV, Hank reached up and steadied his daughter’s arm, “How are you hanging in there honey?” Hank talked as the paramedics worked their magic assisted by the rest of the team.
“Daddy?” Kristen called still groggy and incoherent.”
“I’m right here sweetie,” Hank assured as he heard the ambulance rolling in but couldn’t see it yet.
“Can you open your eyes for me Kristen,” Roy coaxed.
“Daddy?” Kristen called again as his only reply.
Hank was starting to get worried, Krissy was clearly not coming around very fast but at least she was responding to his voice.
“Cap,” John called, “Move up by her head where she can see you. Keep her talking and see if you can get her to open her eyes.”
Hank quickly stepped around his paramedic and managed to take the IV bag freeing up his hands as he knelt on one knee near his daughter’s head. “Krissy, talk to me sweetie, Can you tell me where it hurts?” He leaned over to block the sun from her eyes with his body.
“My h-head, m- sh-shoulder.”
“Which shoulder?” Roy questioned as he started running his hands across the bones a second time checking for any sign of a break, while John moved to her feet and pulled her shoes off and started dragging some tool across the bottom of her feet. Her toes were doing what they were supposed to do Hank could tell by the relieved look on his paramedic’s face.
“Daddy?” she responded.
“I’m right here sweetie, can you tell us which shoulder?”
“I-I’m not sure,” Hank gave his sr. paramedic a confused glance.
“She’s still a little disoriented,” Roy responded to his Captain’s look being very aware he was also dealing with a frightened parent. “She’s responding to us though and that’s a good sign. I can’t feel anything broken in her shoulder.”
Hank needed to hear that. “Hey there sweetie can you open your eyes and look at me,” he started to coax with new confidence. “Come on, Daddy needs to see those big brown eyes of yours.”
More truth than his professionally calm voice was reveling as he brushed her hair away from her face with his other hand.
“The ambulance is here,” Mike appeared at Hank’s side with a supportive hand on his captain’s shoulder. “How’s she doing?”
“She’s coming around, slowly,” Roy reported knowing his captain and the young girl’s father needed to hear more than anyone. “It’s looking more and more like it’s just a concussion.”
Hank sighed and Mike gave his shoulder a squeeze. “I’ve radioed the chief he said for you to just ride in with your daughter, I can take the engine back and the next shift should be at the station when we get there and I can take care of the end of shift paperwork.”
“Thanks Mike,” Hank sighed again.
“Any time Cap,” Mike responded with a warm smile, “Why don’t you let me take your turn out.” He suggested and Hank realized for the first time that he was still wearing it even though he didn’t need it.
Mike reached over and helped to unhook the turn out coat, while Hank held on to his daughter’s IV bag, and then helped him slip out of his coat before taking his helmet. The ambulance gurney was drug next to them and his daughter was surrounded by firemen and ambulance workers as her back board was lifted on to the gurney and then she was rolled toward the ambulance as Hank followed along holding the IV bag high.
“I guess I should get up front,” Hank commented nervously once the IV bag was taken from his hand. This was new territory to him, the first time one of his children had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance and he wasn’t expected to drive himself there.
“No you can get in the back Cap,” John directed, “We need your help to keep her awake during the ride.”
The ride in was uneventful at least as far as the paramedic was concerned. Hank began to relax as each time his daughter called out, “Daddy?” she seemed more and more alert and she was finally able to open her eyes and look at him.
“How are we doing?” Dr. Bracket asked as they arrived in the treatment room.
“She still can’t remember what happened to her,” Roy reported as the back board and patient was slid from the gurney to the exam table and Hank quickly reclaimed his daughter’s hand. “But she has remembered that she has a term paper due in English and a test in science today.”
“That’s my little brainiac.” Hank responded to and was relieved by the humor in his Sr. paramedic’s voice.
“Well that’s a good start,” Brackett smiled then quickly checked the pupilary response before calling out orders for x-rays and labs.
Hank was soon separated from his daughter and led to a waiting area where a clip board full of admitting papers and permission forms was thrust in his hands along with his daughter’s extremely heavy back pack. He had just finished the last signature on the last form when Dr Brackett approached him.
“The X-rays look good,” his report brought an instant and deep sigh, “She has a moderate to severe concussion and a few bruises on her back but nothing that should keep her sidelined for too long. I would like to keep her here for a couple of days and keep an eye on her.”
“Of course Doc. What ever you think is best.” Hank readily agreed, “Has she by any chance said why she was doing flips off the bleachers.”
“No, she still doesn’t remember why she was even up there but if it’s any comfort to you I did run a drug screen and it was negative for everything except caffeine. It looks like she’s become a fan of those new energy drinks.”
“I’m afraid she is, especially on days she has a test.” Hank admitted, “Are drug screens a routine part of treating all teenagers these days?” He asked to hide his relief in the test results.
“Not routine for teenagers but it is when I get a report of someone doing flips off the top of bleachers.” Brackett eased into his next question. “Do you have any idea why she would do such a thing?”
“Not a clue doc,” Hank admitted openly. “I’ve been aware that something has been bothering her for a while but I haven’t been able to get her to open up.” “With the boys all I have to do is pull the basketball or foot ball out and after a good work out I can get them to tell me anything. That works for my other daughter too but Krissy isn’t a tomboy like her sister. I just haven’t found the way to get her to open up, at least not yet. I’d accept any suggestions.”
Brackett smiled such involved fathers weren’t as common as he would have liked to see but then he was no expert not having any children of his own. “Perhaps being in a hospital bed for a couple of days will make her a captive audience.”
“She’s probably just discovered boys,” Hank sighed with a chuckle. “I don’t think I’m ready for that either. When can I see her?”
“The nurses are taking her off of the back board now and helping her into one of our designer gowns, I’ll have them get you when she’s presentable.”
“Thanks for everything doc. I really appreciate it.”
“Just doing my Job,” Brackett smiled and after giving a gentle slap on the back left the relieved father to take care of his next patient.
While he waited for the nurse to tell him he could sit with his daughter Hank decided to see just what was in his Daughter’s back pack that was so heavy.
There was her science book, boy they were sure making them thicker than they were in his day. Her Math book was pretty hefty too. Two library books on Ballet and... A Firefighter’s training manual?”
A fire fighter’s training manual! What on earth does a thirteen year old girl want with a fire fighter’s training manual? Hank took another look in the back pack and found that the next large book in the stack was another firefighters training manual. Comparing at the two manuals and he could see that one was his from his day’s in the academy and the other was last years edition from the public library. Another look in the back pack found several note books and a paperback novel.
Shaking his head in wonder and confusion Hank was trying to get the books back in the back pack with out tearing it when he heard his name called and looked up to see his wife running in his direction. Hank dropped the books at his feet and stood to wrap his arms around his panicked wife.
“She’s alright, just a concussion and some bruises,” Hank calmed, “They’re going to keep her here for a couple of days but she’s going to be just fine.”
“I’m sorry they had to call you at work,” Emily Stanley sobbed, or was it sobbing? Something was amiss in his wife’s speech. “I’ve been at the dentist all morning.”
Hank put his arm around his wife’s shoulders and helped her to sit in the chair next to him. “They didn’t call me at work, 51 was the station that responded on the rescue.”
“Oh no!” Emily gasped.
“It’s alright,” Hank stopped his wife, “Mike took over like he’s very capable of and I somehow managed to stay out of everyone’s way while they took care of her.” “So did you finally let them pull those old wisdom teeth that have been bothering you for years?”
Emily looked at her husband and placing her hands on either side of her jaw gave a sorrowful nod with her head. “Two of them really needed to come now but I told them to just take all four and get it over with.”
“It’s about time,” Hank gave his wife permission to not be home that morning as he pulled her close coaxing her to rest her head on his chest. “They’re taking Krissy off of the back board and getting her into a hospital gown right now. They’ll come get us in just a minute. She was still a little groggy when I saw her last but the Doctor said she’s going to be fine.”
Hank somehow managed to get his daughter’s books back in her pack but not with out tearing a hole in the worn bottom of the pack. “I guess Krissy is due for a new back pack,” he thought to himself. “Better make this next one, one with wheels.”
As promised a nurse soon collected the worried parents and led them to their injured child. When they entered the treatment room they found Kristen with the head of her bed raised and an ice pack on the side of her head.
Dixie McCall was covering their daughter with another warm blanket as they entered and Emily quickly raced to her daughter’s side as Hank just stood back in relief that she wasn’t tied down to the back board any longer.
Hank flung his daughter’s back pack over one shoulder as he stepped next to his wife and lay his other hand on his daughter’s arm.
“That pack looks mighty heavy,” Dixie commented as she smoothed the new blanket around the IV tubing.
“I’ll say,” Hank Joked, “I’ve hauled firemen with full air packs out of fires that weighted less than this thing.”
“It wasn’t Johnny by any chance was it?” Dixie joked.
“At least twice,” Hank countered before turning his full attention to his daughter.
“How ya doin there sweetheart?” Hank gave his daughter’s hand a squeeze. She still looked like she was ready to drift off to sleep and he knew that she wasn’t going to be allowed to do so for quite a while yet.
“O kay, I guess, head still hurts,” she spoke with half opened eyes.
“The ice should help with that,” Dixie responded then turned to the parents, “someone will be here in just a few minutes to take her up to her room.”
By the time they had Kristen settled in her hospital room the numbing on his wife’s mouth was wearing off and Emily Stanley was growing quite miserable. Hank slipped out to the outpatient pharmacy and filled his wife’s prescription and called on his friends the DeSotos who were more than willing to come give her a ride home while he spent the night at his daughter’s bed side.
Hank managed to give his oldest son a call, just as he arrived home from School and before Joanne had arrived with their mother, and inform him that he was fixing dinner tonight and ordered him to entertain his siblings and take care of their mother.
He knew dinner was going to be frozen pizza, and that his way of entertaining his brother and sister while their mother slept off her pain meds was going to be playing video games but for tonight he was going to allow it. There wasn’t much he could do about it anyway because Kristen needed him.
It proved to be a long day as the nurses woke his daughter regularly and did neurological checks and Kristen endured the complication of nausea complete with vomiting. He’d also had to tell her at least half a dozen times that the doctor would give her a note to give to her teachers so she wouldn’t be marked down for handing her reports in late, and it was a constant battle to keep the ice pack in the right place on her head but finally late in the evening she had been allowed to sleep for a couple of hours at a time.
During the first two hour block his daughter was allowed to sleep Hank sat back in the recliner next to the bed and pulled the blanket the nurse had brought for him around the uniform he was still wearing. Now that things were quieting down the scene at the school played over and over in his mind. What really happened? How did his daughter end up in a heap at the bottom of the bleachers?
To stop his mind from going off on wild possibilities Hank decided to do a little light reading and what better reading material than the fire fighter’s training manuals that his daughter saw fit to have on hand for him.
Upon closer examination Hank realized that the older of the two manuals was his from his days in the academy. It still had all his notes that he’d written in the boarders and margins of the book but they weren’t all that legible these days, they probably hadn’t been the day after he’d written them.
Thumbing through the sections he’d highlighted he marveled at how things had changed over the years. As he looked closer he noticed several narrow strips of fresh notebook paper marking pages in the book and decided to see just what his daughter had found worthy of marking.
He flipped through the first three book marks and noticed they all dealt with different safety practices most but not all of them meant to help a firefighter get in and back out of a structure fire alive and well.
On the fourth bookmark he also found a newspaper article. Unfolding the article that had been clipped and placed in the book, he read about a fire where several firefighters had been injured and his memory of the fire came back to him.
It had been a five alarm fire that took them forever to get under control eight firemen had been injured early in the fire when a fuel tank of some kind exploded sending some of them down a flight of stairs and others were blown off a balcony of sorts.
Other firemen were injured later on when a ceiling fell in. The part Hank remembered now was about the time they finally got the fire under control but not yet out, one of his Paramedics, Roy if he remembered right, had come to him and told him that the news stations had mistakenly reported that the Captain of station 51 had been seriously injured in the first explosion and when they were at the hospital during their last trip with the injured firemen they had found his wife and children upset and waiting for word on the man they thought was their husband and father.
Thank heavens John and Roy had been able to tell them that he was alright because it was another five hours before he was able to get to a phone to talk to them himself. That was three months ago and the captain that had been injured still hadn’t returned to work. There was a good chance he never would.
Trying to read his daughter’s trail of bread crumbs Hank flipped to the last book mark to find more safety instructions and three more articles. One from a magazine article about a firefighter who died after falling down a flight of stars and breaking his neck, in a Las Vegas hotel fire another about a firefighter falling from his ladder and receiving serious injuries in Chicago and the third was of a firefighter falling from the roof of a warehouse in San Francisco.
When the nurse came in to do the next neurological check, Krissy woke easier than she had done since she had been admitted and with out even having to roll over she was quickly able to tell the nurse what her name was, her birthday and where she was and was in general more alert than she had been. Since she hadn’t thrown up in a while she was given a sip of juice and the nurse was just charting her findings when Krissy asked, “Is my Dad still here?”
“Right here Krissy,” Hank called from his chair and watched as his daughter painfully rolled over in bed to be able to see him. Hank reached out and took her hand then watched as she made herself comfortable again and drifted back to sleep. As he watched her sleep he remembered several occasions recently where he had been awaken from a nap after a hard night on duty by Krissy just watching him. He had often thought she wanted to talk to him about something but hadn’t been able to get her to actually talk to him.
How long had it been since he had suspected something was bothering his daughter? Could it have been three months? Was she afraid of him getting hurt on the job? Was that the whole thing in the nut shell? It might be easier to deal with if she had discovered boys.
It was an unusual feeling on his chest that woke Hank the next morning, after trying to figure out what it was he finally opened his eyes a sliver only to realize his daughter was laying on her bed next to him reaching out and running her finger across the top of his badge still pinned to his chest.
“Good morning,” Hank turned his head so that he could look at his daughter while he finished waking up.
“I must be hurt pretty bad for you to stay with me all night and not even change out of your uniform.”
“The doctor says you’re going to be just fine.” Hank consoled his daughter as he sat up straight in his chair and stretched before moving to the side of his daughter’s bed to straiten her covers and then sitting on the bed next to her.
“You didn’t spend the night with Mat when he broke his arm.”
“That was different.” Hank remembered back. “For one Mat was older than you are and another thing the doctors said they were going to give him something to make sure he slept all night. I knew they were going to be waking you up all night. Besides that, there were times yesterday when I was the only one you would listen to.”
Kristen closed one eye, tilted her head and looked up at her father, “so you weren’t scared?”
“I wouldn’t say that.” Hank admitted, “Seeing you laying on the ground unconscious and knowing how serious it could have been is enough to scare the living daylights of an old man like me.”
Kristen lay back on her pillow and silently focused on some distant memory.
“How much can you remember this morning?” Hank asked his daughter.
“I remember you waking me up and I was in an ambulance and I couldn’t move,” Kristen answered.”I think I remember you talking to me before that but I’m not sure, it’s kind of like a dream.”
“What’s the last thing you remember before that?” Hank was still hoping to get some answers about the flip off the bleachers.
Kristen thought for a moment and Hank could see the strain in her face as she was trying to remember. “I remember I was running the bleachers before school started.”
“Running the bleachers?” Hank questioned, “What’s that.”
“Just something I do when I have too much energy,” Kristen explained some what sheepishly.
“Like from a few too many energy drinks?” Hank was starting to get the puzzle pieces.
“I couldn’t sleep the night before and I had a test in science.”
“I think we should talk about some different approaches to your test anxieties but first let’s get back to what you can remember.” Hank directed the conversation. “Just what is it that you do when you’re running the bleachers?”
“I just run up the steps then across the top and down the other side then across and back up again for a few times until I get tired.” Kristen told her father wondering why he wanted to know.
“Do you remember what happened after that?”
“I was on the top when I needed to stop and catch my breath.” Kristen started to explain, “And I was resting on the top hand rail thingy, I, I sat on it, with my feet dangling, , “ Kristen’s eyes opened wide and she gasped, “I fell! I fell off the top of the bleachers.”
Kristen was breathing fast with the memory of what happened and her dad just gently pulled her close and rubbed her back. “You’re going to be o-kay now. But I hope you learned your lesson you might not be so lucky next time.”
“Are you in trouble because you had to leave work?”
“Nope, my men are the ones who took care of you,” Hank reassured his daughter, “They took care of me too. And the department has policies in place for these kinds of emergencies. They know how important our families are to us.”
After a reassuring moment in her father’s arms Kristen was able to rest her aching head back on her pillow, she still didn’t feel that great but she didn’t want to just go back to sleep just yet.
“Did any body by any chance get my book bag?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact,” Hank grinned as he reached over to the bed side table and picked up the fire fighter’s training manuals “you wouldn’t by any chance be willing to enlighten me on these?”
“Just research,” she shrugged her shoulders and ducked her head, her face covered with embarrassment as she carefully looked into her father’s face from under her hair to see if she was in trouble. “Mom said it would be alright to borrow your book.”
“Research huh,” Hank worked hard to keep the smile on his face and his voice light and curious sounding. “What subject would this research be for?”
Kristen was being very slow to answer and Hank was trying to decide weather to just be patient or to try and give her a little nudge when the nurse came in to do her morning assessments. She had just finished helping Kristen up to the bathroom and for a little walk around the room when Emily came in.
After mother and Daughter had been able to relieve each other with each of their improvements the Nurse returned with a wheel chair, “Dr. Bracket would like some fresh x-rays before he does rounds this morning. I’ll bring her back in just a few moments.”
Hank stood in the door way and watched his daughter being wheeled down the hall when they turned the corner he turned back to his wife.
“What do you know about the research Krissy is doing with my old training manual?”
Emily let out a deep sigh and sat in the nearest chair but didn’t meet Hanks gaze. “Is she worrying about something happening to me on the job?”
Finally Emily turned her eyes to meet her husband’s and reluctantly nod her head.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Hank pleaded angrily.
“Because your daughter needs more than the standard, ‘My job is dangerous but someone has to do it speech’.” Emily answered with her own hint of anger.
Hank took a moment to count to at least five and take in a deep breath before he spoke again. “How bad is it?” He asked then pulled a chair over and sat down to face his wife.
“She’s having trouble sleeping nights when you’re at the station; I find her pacing around the house, watching an all night news show on TV, or sitting in the front window watching for you or someone coming to tell us about you. A week ago the phone rang sometime after midnight and it really upset her.” Emily revealed something Hank had no knowledge of. “It was just some drunk who got the wrong number but Kris was sure they were calling to tell us you’d been hurt. I never did get her back to sleep.”
There was silence for a while as Hank let the information sift in. “I’ve been telling her about all the things you do to keep yourselves safe and how you look out for each other at the station and she’s been reading about your safety measures. I don’t know how much it’s helping though, for every safety measure she reads about she finds out something else that might happen to you.”
Hank sighed and stood up pacing around the now empty hospital room, “I wish you would have told me,” “I am capable of more than the standard my job is dangerous, live with it speech.” “You should have told me.”
“What can you do about it?” Emily spoke with tears in her eyes, “You can’t lie to her or give her false hope that everything will be alright, What if something does happen to you, it would totally devastate her.”
Hank took in a deep breath and let it out then tenderly took his wife in his arms. “I’ll, I’ll figure something out,” he said.
Once Kristen was returned to her hospital bed her parents worked together to get her to eat her gourmet breakfast of jello and chicken broth. They had just gotten the last spoonful they were going to be able to get into her mouth when Dr. Bracket came in on his rounds.
“Well,” Dr, Bracket said after checking her pupils, chart and asking her how she was feeling and what more she could remember, “Everything looks pretty good considering. If she continues to improve like she has done I’ll release her to go home in the morning.”
“That’s great Doc,” Hank offered a hand to shake, “Thanks for everything.”
With his wife now on site and the information he was most interested in delivered and talk of taking a bath and changing into other pajama’s Hank gave his daughter a kiss on the forehead and left to get some sleep promising to return later in the afternoon.
As Hank made his way to the out patient exit his mind was figuring what to do. His truck was still at the station but he could easily take his wife’s car home and deal with his truck later once he reached the out patient department though he saw the paramedics of 51’s C shift and had another idea.
“Hey Captain Stanley, we heard about your daughter, how’s she doing,” Mcquire responded to the uniformed man walking toward them.
“She’s much better thank you.” Hank responded, “I was wondering if I could catch a ride back to the station with you. My truck is still there.”
The two partners looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. “I don’t see why not you’re even in uniform.”
“Thanks guys.” The three of them piled into the squad and before they managed to get out of the parking lot and onto the road Captain Stanley was dozing in the middle seat. When the Squad backed in to the bay Captain Ron Tollins of the C shift was quick to notice an extra man in the cab and left his office to investigate. Seeing who it was he reached over his driving paramedic and gave Hank’s shoulder a little shake.
“Hi Ron, I conned the guys into giving me a ride back for my truck.” Hank smiled at his counterpart through sleep deprived eyes.
“It looks like I need to make sure you get a cup of coffee before I let you drive it.” Ron joked, “I heard about your daughter, how’s she doing?”
“The Doctor says she can go home tomorrow,” Hank answered with a sigh.
“That’s great, I can only imagine what it must have been like when you realized who you were there to work on.”
“Yeah,” was all Hank needed to say and he knew it. “Did Mike get the shift paperwork done?”
“Yep, every bit of it,” Ron replied then let his paramedic out of the squad and the middle of his conversation. “What do you say you join me in the office while you finish waking up and I finish my paperwork.”
The two captains were visiting in the office when the B shift captain, Mitch Rowley, came in to get a report for his shift.
“Hey Hank, How’s the daughter?” Mitch greeted.
“Should be able to take her home tomorrow,” Hank repeated.
“I heard you stayed as cool as a cucumber through it all, I don’t know how you did it.” Mitch commented.
“I don’t know who you’ve been talking to cause I was a basket case.” Hank argued, “the only thing that kept me from loosing it totally was my faith in my men.”
The three captains talked shop for a moment and then Hank had a question for them. “Hey you both have teenage kids, have any of them ever been worried about something happening to you on the job?”
“You got that trouble?” Ron asked in response to his question.
“Yeah,” Hank answered, “And all the old stand by’s, aren’t working this time.”
“I’m afraid I can’t help you there,” Ron responded, “Mine still think I’m immortal.”
“Mine have come to grips with my mortality after I went through that roof last year, but the way I’ve been riding them about their grades lately I think they’re actually hoping I don’t come home some days.” Mitch answered.
“Hey Hank, How’s the daughter?” Came a greeting from the doorway and Hank looked up to see Chief McConnike standing in the door way.
Everyone in the room stood up at least at semi attention, “She’s good Chief, Real good.”
“You’re not back to work already are you?” the Chief questioned.
“No sir, I just came in to pick up my truck.”
“Good, do you need some time off?”
“A, No sir, Krissy should be going home tomorrow and I’m not do back on shift until the day after.” Hank responded, “I should be just fine to come back,”
“Alright then, but I know you have leave, so if you need it, take it,” The Chief admonished.
“Yes sir, Thank you sir.” Hank responded and that would have been the end of it except-
“Chief sir,” Ron spoke up, “Hank here was asking for some advice on how to work with a child that’s worried about him getting injured on the job. We weren’t much help; do you have anything you can offer?”
“Got one worrin do ya?”
“Yes sir,” Hank admitted reluctantly, not at all happy his friend had brought the subject up. Chief McConnike was not one of the people he wanted to confide in about anything.
“That usually comes after they have to deal with a serious injury, Have you had a near death experience lately that I’m not aware of?”
“No sir, but three months ago when one ten’s captain went down a news crew mistakenly put it on the air that it was me. My family waited for hours at the hospital for word before my medics took a couple of injured men in later on and saw them there. They were able to set them straight but it was still several hours before I was able to talk to them myself and completely put them at ease.” Hank explained.
“If that ever happens again you see me and I’ll authorize a land line.” Chief declared, “And that goes for all of ya. Not that you’ll ever know what the news is putting on the air.”
“Yes sir,” all three men said in near unison before Chief McConkie turned his attention back to Hank.
“It just so happens that my son was worried about me working on a car accident when the car blew up. I brought him to work with me on a day we had a training exercise dealing with taking cars apart. It did wonders for him and when he was in an accident a couple of years later he knew to not move anyone, hold pressure on a bleeder and have someone disconnect the car battery.”
“That might be something I could try,” Hank admitted, it did sound like a good idea, “Thank you Sir.”
Hank took a shower at the station and changed into his street clothes and that revitalizing effort along with the three cups of coffee Ron poured for him and it was determined that he was awake enough to drive himself home. Where he slept until his other children arrived home from school. Gathering his offspring as if they were his crew he sat them around the kitchen table with glasses, Milk and a package of store bought cookies.
“Your sister is going to be fine,” he said, “She should come home tomorrow but she’ll probably have a head ache for a few days and need to rest. Since I’ll be going back to work the next day I’ll be counting on you four to help out around here.”
As he talked, he watched the reactions, their sighs, their blank stares and the obedient head nods. These weren’t his men at the station they were still children. In spite of his close watch he couldn’t tell for sure if Krissy was the only one loosing sleep over his chosen profession. A profession he had chosen before his children were brought in to the world a profession he and his wife had talked about and she had accepted but his children had never had any kind of a say.
“Do any of you have any questions for me?” Hank asked his children as he passed the last cookie to his oldest child a son who was now a young man.
“How did it happen Dad?” Mat asked.
“It was an accident,” Hank explained. “She was sitting on a rail where her feet were off the ground and she lost her balance. She fell about fifteen feet and she is very lucky, she could have very easily been hurt much worse than she was.”
“Did you really have to give her first aid?” Susan asked.
“NO, I have some very excellent Paramedics that work under my command; I left all the first aid to them.”
“Mr. Desoto and Mr. Gage right?” James showed his knowledge of his father’s men.
“That’s right,” Hank answered.
“That’s why you do what you do, because things happen and people need someone who knows how to help them.” Mat showed a maturity and understanding that calmed his father, “I’m glad you were all there when one of us needed you.”
“Thanks son,” Hank said emotionally he too was grateful for the men who had come to the aid of his family and only hoped that he gave the next person the peace and hope that they had given him.
“Can we go see her, or do we have to wait for her to come home?” Tom wanted to know
“How do deli sandwiches sound for dinner,” Hank offered, “Then we’ll all go see Krissy.”
Upon arriving at the hospital Hank noticed the flowers and stuffed animals in the room. Emily informed him that his men had each stopped by to check on Kris and were each sorry that they had missed their captain.
After watching a movie on the TV in Krissy’s hospital room the Stanley group was gathered together and Emily took everyone except Kristen and her husband home. This night in the hospital was different instead of a recliner the hospital staff provided a cot for Hank to sleep on and he was able to sleep. Bracket made his rounds earlier than usual the next morning and when he was done Hank just called his wife and told her not to come to the hospital because he was on his way home with their daughter.
The ride home was quiet as Hank thought hard for a way to begin the conversation with his daughter finally after they pulled into the garage and Kristen was starting to unbuckle her seat belt Hank reached over and took her hand,“I’d like to spend the time until your brother’s and sister get home from school helping you with your research.”
“What research?” Kristen asked and Hank felt as if his daughter was trying to play dumb.
“The research you’re doing with my old training manual.”
Kristen released the seat belt buckle and turned to watch it retract in to its casing but didn’t turn back. “Are you mad at me?”
“No, sweetheart, I’m not mad. Why on earth would I be mad at you for caring about the health and well being of your old dad?” Hank reached out and placed his hand on the shoulder of the little girl who still hadn’t turned back to face him.
He then gently reached up and took hold of her chin and turned her face toward him. “As a Captain part of my job, the biggest part of my job is to do everything in my power to get everyone of my men and myself home to the ones they love and the ones that love them at the end of every shift.”
“But what can you do?” Kristen asked with a catch in her voice. “You have to save people.”
“That young lady will take me the whole rest of the day and then some to explain.”
The rest of the day Father and Daughter spent in the family room relaxed in the recliners talking about all the precautions and preventative measures a captain performs that have nothing to do with a fire or accident but before long Hank realized that his daughter really had done her research by the questions that she asked.
She really did have a pretty good idea of just about everything that could go wrong and lead to an injury or worse. When the rest of the Stanley children returned from school Hank was very aware that his daughter was going to need more from him to be able to sleep while he was on duty.
Later that evening when the rest of the children were helping to clean up after dinner Kristen timidly walked up to her father with her arms folded across her chest holding a couple of books.
“Can I show you something I’ve been researching?”
“Absolutely,” Hank smiled and patted the seat next to him and as his daughter sat down he could see that the books she was cradling were the Ballet books he had seen in her back pack. ‘She must want to take dance lessons’ Hank thought silently to himself and was thrilled at the idea.
“There was this article I read that I want to talk to you about,” She started hesitantly before producing a magazine folded open to an article on of course Ballet confirming Hanks suspicions.
Hank took the magazine from his daughter and quickly skimmed the subtitles and then he did a double take on his daughter’s face and read them again. Increased balance and dexterity, increased agility, reduced injuries, positive results in the fields of police and fire fighting!
“You want me to take ballet lessons?”
Kristen didn’t say a word but the look in her eyes and her hesitant posture as she sat on the sofa next to her father screamed volumes or rather one pleading ‘please’.
Hank placed his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and pulled her close resting his cheek on the top of her head, “Would it be alright if I took some time to study this article completely?” He felt her nod yes against his chest and when he placed his other hand on the side of her face to hold her tight he could feel the tears.
In the wee hours of the morning Hank met his wife in the hall way out side their daughter’s bedroom. “That’s the second time you’ve checked on her tonight,” Emily spoke to her husband in a whisper to keep from waking the children. “Is there something you’re not telling me? Just what did the doctor say before he let you bring her home?”
“No,” Hank whispered back in an emotional voice and Emily was starting to put the pieces together. “You know everything the doctor told me.”
Emily wrapped her arms around her husband’s chest and guided him back to their bedroom and shut the door. “Are you going to be alright to go back to work?”
Hank had to think about that question for a moment but he knew his wife was going to be more comfortable with his answer if he did. Taking the time to remove his robe first Hank climbed back in bed and placed his hands behind his head as he rest against the head board.
“Yeah,” he finally answered. “I worked through the nightmares of how bad things could have been with Krissy’s accident, that first night in the hospital.” “I’m more worried about what it’s going to take so that she’ll be alright when I go back to work.”
Emily climbed in bed next to her husband and snuggled into his side. She knew he needed a good night’s sleep to be able to be his best on the job but she also knew sleeping well wasn’t always something you could just will yourself to do. “It didn’t do any good to talk over the response plans for if there’s a fire at the mall? I thought she seemed very interested.”
Hank just shook his head. “Where did that kid learn to do research?”
“It’s her talent,” Emily answered with a chuckle, “Her older brothers even have her research their papers.”
“She gave me this tonight,” Hank reached over to the bedside table and picked up the magazine he read before his first attempt to sleep that night.
Emily took the magazine from her husband’s hands and with out pulling away from his side read the subtitles. “Oh dear.”
She stayed close to her husband but looked up to see his face. “Would this really make a difference?”
“I don’t think it would make a major difference, I mean if it did, it would be part of the required training at the academy, I haven’t had a chance to research anymore than just read that article though.” Hank dropped one of his arms onto his wife’s back and began to rub. “She’s really just asking me to do everything I can to make sure I come home at the end of the shift. It’s really no different than me asking you to get a mammogram or making sure the kids buckle their seatbelts while we’re in the car.”
“It certainly won’t do any harm so I should just do it with out a second thought just for her. I just don’t know if it will be enough for her.I can’t really see myself in a tutu either.”
“I don’t think they put men in tutus.” Emily giggled quietly but she did understand his feelings.
“If the guys at the station found out I’d never hear the end of it.” “If Chet Kelly found out I’d be the laughing stock of the entire department.”
“I don’t see any reason that you need to tell them,” Emily reasoned, “After all they don’t tell you everything they do off duty.”
“They don’t tell me everything they do on duty,” Hank joked.
“Do you think you can sleep?” Emily rubbed her husband’s chest, “I know that will make a difference and the rest we can decide on later.” With that she managed to pull him down in bed and he did get comfortable and in his wife’s arms he did find sleep.
Hank walked out of his office at the station with the clip board in hand, it had been a wild night for the previous shift and there was a lot of work to be done but before he could hand out assignments there was something else he needed to do.
“Men,” he said lowering the clip board, “last shift I gained a new appreciation for your skill and proficiency. I don’t know if you can possible realize how comforting it was to me knowing how good you are while you were taking care of my daughter.”
“Your trust in us at a time like that was the greatest compliment you could give us Cap” Mike took half a step forward and spoke for the group.
“I don’t think I could have trusted anyone more right then and I’m happy to announce that she is home from the hospital and despite being a little stiff and sore she’s doing fine. The counter in the common room is covered with baked goods from my wife and there’s a thank you note from Krissy on the bulletin board.”
Now the first order of business is to get the hose traded out on the engine. Last shift reports that they had some nut case driving over the charged hose so we need to make sure we inspect them for damage. John and Roy I understand the squad was run extra heavy last shift and is low on supplies, your backboards and stokes are waiting for you at Rampart so I suggest you quickly make a list of supplies and make a run. We also have the hydrants on Maple Drive to bleed now that the water line has been replaced. The rest of the assignments will be posted when you get back."
Even though his work load kept him busy Hank was able to go through his file of information on recommended secondary training and to his surprise Ballet was in the file, along with martial arts, tie chi, music appreciation and yoga.
It was late in the afternoon before they were even able to begin the tasks of straightening up the station. The sun was just setting outside when the call came in for a four car pile up on the freeway.
As they approached Hank was surprised to see eight police cars and one of the victims face down on the ground in hand cuffs but that explained the presence of camera crews from the three leading news stations.
All in all the accident was fairly minor. All four cars had managed to stay on their wheels and none of them would require more than a simple crow bar to get the doors open. With the exception of the car the police had been chasing when it collided with the other three cars everyone was wearing a seatbelt and injuries were minor.
Chet and Marco were working on getting all the doors open while John and Roy were doing triage and assessing the needs of the patients while Mike was washing down the minor gas leak and misting the smoking engine of one of the cars, leaving Hank the job of disconnecting all of the car batteries and hopefully shutting off the two car horns that were blaring nonstop. He had just raised the hood and was pulling on the cables of the second car when sparks flashed and a pop proceeded something striking his forehead just below his helmet.
Suddenly blinded by what he wasn’t sure he instinctively covered his eyes with his hands and backed away from the car. Before he’d taken more than a few steps he felt hands on his shoulder and one around his waist directing him as the second station crew could be heard approaching. He was expertly aided to lie down on a blanket spread on the ground and his helmet was quickly removed before pressure was applied to his forehead and his eyes were quickly washed out.
In moments he was able to see the comforting face of John Gage and hear him telling him that it didn’t look bad but he was going to need a couple of stitches. A bandage was applied to keep the blood out of his eyes and Hank got up and went back to helping with the accident until the last ambulance left and then Hank told Mike to bring the engine to the hospital when they were done and put the other captain in charge before driving the squad to the hospital where he would get the laceration over his eye sewn up.
“Did you loose consciousness at all?” Dr. Bracket asked as he prepared his supplies to sew the fireman’s head up.
“No not at all,” Hank answered quickly, “It bled like crazy and the blood got in my eye and blinded me but once John put a bandage on it and washed my eyes out I was able to go right back to work.”
“Well we should have you taken care of and ready to go back to the station in just a few minutes.” Dr. Bracket informed him and as he worked on the fire captain they chatted about his daughter and Hank asked Dr. Bracket’s opinion on Ballet and reducing accidents.
“I don’t have an opinion one way or another,” Dr. Bracket admitted, “But I am aware of doctor’s that prescribe it as physical therapy for back injuries and it’s used for elderly patients to help restore a sense of balance and prevent falls.”
Hank had just been allowed to sit up on the side of the treatment gurney when John stuck his head in the door. “Cap.”
“Yes John, I’m just about done.”
“A, you a, made the news tonight, your wife and daughter are in the waiting room.” John informed him before adding, “Roy’s talking with them now but your daughter is really upset.”
Hank took in and let out a deep breath and looked at his paramedic to see that he wasn’t exaggerating.
“I’ll be right there.” Hank instructed and as John left to give that information to his family he turned to the nurse, “I don’t have blood on my shirt do I?”
Kristen met her father half way between the treatment room and the waiting room and flung her arms around his neck in a grip that was not going to be loosened easily.
Hank picked his daughter up off the floor and held her allowing her to cry in to his shoulder as he rubbed her back and repeated the calming mantra, “I’m alright, it’s okay, it’s just a small cut, I’m just fine.”
Hank pulled into his garage and turned off the ignition. He then slumped over and rested his aching head on his arms draped over the steering wheel. After he had been able to calm his daughter down enough to get her to let go of him the night before they had headed back to the station but didn’t make it before they were called out on a four alarm warehouse fire that had all the signs of being arson.
It had been nearly four a.m. before they were released to head back to the station and even longer for everyone to unwind and shower before they could get in to bed and try to sleep. While waiting his turn for the shower Hank had talked with Roy for a while, the only other man at the station who had children at home, and thanked him for his efforts to calm his wife and daughter.
“We’ve been talking about her fears since the accident but I think tonight shows that we haven’t totally come to grips with things yet.”
“My Kids don’t know what to think, they’re still young and fortunately I haven’t been hurt all that many times, We really have just never really talked about it.” “I know the department has a special camp for the children of firemen who are injured or killed in the line of duty but I think in your case that could cause more harm than good.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right.” Hank waved his paramedic off to bed. “Well it’s my problem; you need some sleep the squad tends to get more calls than the engine.”
Now he was off duty and home, His head ached and he wanted some aspirin, Tylenol or ibuprophen he didn’t care which and his bed but before he could get there he needed a little nap to build up the energy to get out of the truck. He had just rolled his head in an effort to get comfortable when he touched his sutured laceration and jumped, looking up he noticed the door from the garage to the kitchen was open and standing in the doorway watching him was his daughter Kristen.
Hank managed a smile for his daughter and beckoned for her to come to him with a wave of his hand. He then scooped up the papers on the passenger seat and held them waiting for Kristen to climb in and sit down.
“Are you O-kay?” Kristen asked and her voice betrayed every ounce of fear she was trying to hide.
“I’m fine, I’m just exhausted, we had an all night fire to fight after we left the hospital last night.” Hank managed to reach out and give his daughter’s shoulder a squeeze trying to keep a smile on his face but determined not to lie to her.
“Is there something I can do to help you?” Kristen asked and Hank could see her trying to figure out how to carry him into the house.
“As a matter of fact there is.” Hank looked at his daughter as he rested his head on the frame of his truck. “I really need to get some sleep, how would you like to do some research for me while I do?”
“Sure, what do you want me to research?”
“Here’s a list of dance studio’s that teach a program that’s recognized by the Department but it’s an old list, and they might not all still be in business and here is my schedule for the next month. Can you find out which of these are still open for business and which one will work with my schedule and then I’m going to need someone to practice with between lessons. You wouldn’t by any chance know someone who would be willing to take the lessons with me?”
“I could do that,” Kristen was starting to cry but there was a smile of appreciation behind her tears.
“I was hoping you would say that,” Hank reached out and pulled his daughter to his chest and gave her a squeeze. “Now can you take my hand and drag me in the direction of my bed?”
Once they were in the door Emily was quick to step under her husband’s arm and lead him off to the bedroom but before they reached the door they could hear Kristen on the phone and Emily gave her husband a surprised look.
“She’s told me how I can bring her some peace. How can I not do it; she just asking me to do everything I can to come home after every shift. I’ll find a way to live with all the other stuff.”
Emotionally Emily pulled her husband’s shoes off for him, kissed him and left him to sleep.
Six hours later when Hank was awaken by his growling stomach his daughter was waiting and eager to share the findings of her research.
“All of the ones on your list have a waiting list to get in but one of them told me about a new dance studio that is accepting students and when I called and told her why we wanted to take lessons she told me that her father was a fire fighter too.”
“Sounds like that’s the place we should go,” Hank commented and managed to keep all of his trepidations from his voice. “Em, since I have to go back on duty in the morning would you take care of registering the two of us and getting what ever, um, yeah, supplies they are going to require. You know my sizes.”
With that Kristen let out a deep slow sigh.
“You didn’t think I was going to change my mind did you?” Hank asked.
“Kinda,” Kristen admitted before she dropped her eyes to the floor.
Hank placed his hand under his daughter’s chin and lifted her drooping eyes to meet his. “I promise you that I will not only take the lessons I will do my best to learn everything I can that might make me safer at work.” “We are going to keep this quiet though, right, especially around the guys?”
“Yes Dad,” Kristen answered very quickly and with understanding, “I won’t say a word.”
The next shift seemed long and drawn out since none of the crew had fully recovered from the all night fire at the end of the last shift, but they managed to get through it. Emily called toward evening to tell her husband the time for his first lesson and he managed to discreetly confirm he’d be ready with out giving his men a clue what he was about to do but as he turned around after hanging up the phone he felt as if they were all snickering at him.
The next morning he was late getting off due to a last minute run but he managed to pull up to the house and honk and his daughter came running with his duffel bag slung over her shoulder along with her own and they were off.
The dance studio was in a residential area in a large room at the end of a wide stairway that lead above the garage and Hank was thrilled to see that the room wasn’t surrounded by mirrors. He was also thrilled to see that the students in session when he arrived were in their mid forties and older, one of them using a cane.
The dance instructor, Jannie Martin, was a woman of gray hair herself and an understanding smile. She instantly saw right through Hank’s professional mask and managed to put him at ease. The dance lessons were pretty well run as private lessons although there were often anywhere from three to four other groups in the studio at the same time as the Stanley’s, some of them were just there to follow a routine that had been video taped others would get a quick set of instructions and then Jannie would move along to the next group while keeping watch on them out of the corner of her eye. Hank and his daughter were new to the discipline and received a lot of undivided attention during their first lessons.
By the end of their second lesson Hank and his daughter had learned how to stretch properly and several strengthening exercises. They also learned that the instructor had originated in Chicago and her father who had passed away a few years ago of old age had served on the department there from before he got married until he retired. Something that helped put Kristen at ease. The instructor herself was a retired rehab nurse who was just keeping busy with one of her passions in her retirement.
The rug in the Stanley family room was rolled up and set aside bearing the wood floor for practices at home and Hank was able to work on many of his exercises at the station, in his office, with his door closed, late in the evening. The crew was puzzled by his behavior and a couple even asked once or twice it he was alright or needed someone to talk to but no one seemed to have a clue what he was up to.
At the end of the first month of lessons Hank was playing hoops with his son in the driveway when they had both reached the collapse on the lawn till you can catch your breath stage.
“I’ve heard that some professional athletes take ballet lessons to improve their game,” Mat spoke between pants, “Now I can see why. Your vertical leap has increased by at least six inches.”
“Really,” Hank panted, “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Do you really think it will keep you safer at work?” Mat asked.
“It can’t hurt,” Hank answered, “it’s no replacement for all the regular training we do but you never know when an extra six inches in vertical leap could make a difference.”
“Yeah, well I don’t know how often you even try a vertical leap at work but I think it’s working to help Kristen,” Mat reveled news Hank wanted to hear, “now when you’re on duty she’ll work out on her ballet stuff in the family room until she falls asleep on the sofa, but at least she sleeps now.”
“That alone makes it all worth it,” Hank sighed with relief.
“How long are you going to keep it up?”
“I’m just getting to where my ankles don’t hurt all the time, I think at least another couple of months and then we’ll talk about what more can be accomplished and make a decision then.” Hank was finally rested enough to rise up on his elbows.
“Is it embarrassing to wear tights?”
Hank looked over at his son still sprawled out on the lawn, his breathing still heavy, “yeah, a little, but I can take it.”
“I know you’re only doing this for Kris, and maybe a little for the rest of us. There’s not too many Dads that would do something like that and I think it’s way cool.”
“Thanks son.” Was all Hank could say and it was all he needed to say.
“I want you to know that I don’t want you to get hurt either. I guess I just always count on the other firefighters to look out for you and take care of you.”
“They do son,” Hank rolled over on one elbow to look at his son more directly. “That’s what firemen do is look after each other.”
“Are you sure the guys at the station don’t know what your doing?”
“Positive. I would definitely know if they knew.”
When Hank and Kristen showed up to their next lesson they met their instructor helping an elderly lady down the stairs. “You two go on up and start your warm ups I’m just going to walk Mrs. Shumway here across the street to her daughter’s house and I’ll be right back.”
When they reached the studio they found a pair of late teens to early twenty somethings working on a fast paced dance routine that didn’t appear to have anything to do with ballet.
Hank hesitated for just a minute then took a deep breath and pulled his sweats off from over his tights and started the practiced warm up routine they were now familiar with. Today they were hoping to get Kristen standing on her toes for the first time and Hank had done enough research of his own to know that a good warm up was important.
Fortunately the other couple didn’t pay any attention to them and he was able to get into his routine and almost forgot they were there. Until he heard the grunt, followed by a frightening thud and turned to see both of the other dancers on the floor not moving. The girl had a gash on her forehead and was unconscious and the guy was holding his arm which was bent slightly between the wrist and elbow and swelling fast.
“Krissy call the fire department tell them we need a squad and an ambulance,” Hank ordered and immediately knelt down to hold the girls head and neck steady as he applied pressure to stop the bleeding from her head wound. “Just lie still and leave your arm against the floor.” Hank instructed the young man before asking. “I didn’t really see, can you tell me what happened?”
“We were working on a routine for a competition at our school and we were trying a lift maneuver. Jannie, told us not to do it unless she was here but we’ve done it before.”
“They’re on the way,” Kristen reported and Hank was impressed, “the dispatcher said they were sending both an engine and a paramedic unit and they should be here in less than five minutes.”
“That’s good sweetheart now can you get that big duffle bag over there and put it under that guys feet.”
“Sure and there’s a magazine over there that I could use to splint his arm with,” Kristen offered.
“That’s great honey but the paramedics will be here soon and their going to want to look at it before it’s splinted so we better wait and let them do it.”
Kristen did as she was told and then managed to find a large towel and a jacket which she used to cover the two patients.
“Good work honey,” Hank praised not able to even move with out jeopardizing the spinal immobilization he was holding.
It was well under the five minute mark when Hank heard the familiar sound of sirens coming up the road and turned to his daughter. “Go down and show them where to come and tell them that they’re going to need a back board.”
In minutes Hank saw the feet of the paramedics at his side followed by Jannie and three firemen also carrying equipment.
“What happened here?” Jannie called.
“They were doing a lift maneuver and it didn’t go as planned,” Hank explained. “I think she landed on her head.”
After checking the girl’s pupils one of the paramedics placed a c-collar around the girl’s neck and Hank helped them roll her as they placed a back board under her and then rolled her back at which point Hank was then free to sit back on his heals and stay out of the way. But his thoughts were on his daughter and how he had watched his paramedic team do pretty much the same thing to her just a month and a half ago. No longer needed with the victims Hank rocked to his feet and walked over to drape his arm around his daughter as they watched the paramedics taking care of their patients.
“Nice tights,” Hank heard a very familiar voice behind him and turned to face his worst nightmare, the very familiar mustache and curly black hair of one Chester B. Kelly.
The laughter and howls in the day room were so loud they easily echoed into the captain’s office as Hank was trying to concentrate on the report given by his colleague. Hank didn’t need to hear what they were saying to know who or what they were talking about.
“Sounds like at least one of your men had a good time on his days off.” Ron commented at the laughter wafting in their direction.
“Something like that,” Hank cringed and could feel his face turning red. He had actually hoped his crewman would try and blackmail him with the information but it was very clear by now that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut long enough to do that.
After the fire crew had left the studio, Jannie had called the parents of the two dancers before basically falling apart. After calming her down she canceled the rest of her lessons for that day but not before rescheduling Hank and Kristen for two lessons on his next break from duty and giving them a months worth of lessons free of charge. Something that Hank didn’t really feel comfortable with but he was already anxious about what his life at work was going to be like now that the word was going to get out. Of all firefighters to show up at that studio why did Chet Kelly have to be one of them?
“It looks like your first order of business today is going to be reining your men in.” Ron pulled his attention back to his work, “But if anyone can do it I know you can,,,,, Twinkle toes.” With a laugh and a slap on Hank’s back Ron then left to change out of his uniform and go home.
As Hank stepped out of the office with his clip board in hand five men took one look at him and instantly had to fight full out laughter as Chet did a poor imitation of a pirouette.
“Attention!” Hank bellowed, and his men tightened up but none of them were able to wipe the smirks from their faces. “Yes, I am taking dance lessons, (he wasn’t about to admit to ballet lessons in front of his men,) Not that it’s any of your business but it’s something I am doing with my daughter that means a lot to her. Any one who has a problem with that can see me in my office and I’ll process their transfer.”
The cleaning assignments were barked out with the goal in mind of having every man as far apart as was possible and still be able to respond when the alarm sounded. Hank then went to his office and against character shut the door.
Their first run of the morning was a construction sight where the workers had accidently cut trough a gas main and three stations responded and stood by in case the worst happened. Hose was lain and hydrants hooked up but then they all just waited and hoped they weren’t needed as the gas company moved in and worked to uncover the buried shut off valve.
“Hey Hank,” one of the other captains called out across the field of strewn and charged hose. “There’s a phone booth over there incase you need to change in to your tights.” Hank just cringed and took a deep breath as every fireman around him smirked or flat out laughed at his expense. Even Mike let out a stifled snicker.
When they made it back to the station Hank again sequestered himself in the office but did leave the door open this time. He could smell lunch and heard the call that it was going on the table and was trying to decide if he dared join his men for lunch when a white hanky was seen waving in front of his office door. After three or four waves, Roy Desoto stepped from behind the door frame into the door way still waving his white hanky.
“May I come in?” Roy asked with a measure of caution evident in his voice.
Hank let out a sigh and nod his head before waving the SR. Paramedic to a chair.
“I just wanted to say that I kind of know how you feel, my daughter has me confined to her room playing with Barbie dolls for hours at a time.” Roy offered.
“It’s not quite the same.” Hank held his hand to the side of his face and slouched in his chair.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Roy admitted, “But still I understand better than the guys who don’t have daughters.”
“Agreed,” Hank sighed.
“I’ve been sent to inform you of a truce, the rest of the guys have agreed to let you come eat lunch in peace.”
“I have to ask a favor though,”
“Don’t let your Daughter talk with my Daughter; I don’t want her to get any ideas,” Roy dared to smile.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Hank agreed and left the safety of his office with the security of his Sr. Paramedic and the only other father at the station to join his crew for lunch.
As promised the Crew refrained from popping off jokes while lunch was being eaten but it meant for a strained sort of quiet that wasn’t a whole lot better and even thought they weren’t telling jokes the smirks on their faces and glances with each other revealed that they were still thinking them. Still Hank managed to complement Marco on his cooking before taking the newspaper back to his office to read.
When lunch dishes were washed Hank separated his crew again by sending the squad in one directions and taking the engine in another direction to perform safety inspections. Six inspections and two minor runs later they were back at the station and Chet Kelly was the one assigned to prepare dinner.
Hank managed to keep his distance from his crew until he heard the call that dinner was going on the table. Again there was no Joke telling but they had advanced to being able to talk shop and share information about the inspections that they had performed, when Chief McConkie made a surprise visit.
“So how is the department’s Barishnackoff?”
Hank Stanley chose to refrain from offering any kind of an answer. “Or are we talking about the Department’s John Travolta?” Chief McConkie tried again. Hank let out a sigh and leaned back in his chair but again refrained to answer.
“Yeah, well anyway, Head quarters was wondering if you and your daughter would perform at the fireman’s picnic next month?”
“NO!” there was no mistaking his answer, “I will not subject my daughter to the razzing and ridicule this department is dishing out and before you ask I have no desire to make a fool of myself either.”
Hank stood up and faced his superior, “Is there anything else I can do for you sir?”
“A, well, how about a cup of Coffee?”
Hank silently walked over to the cupboard and pulled a cup from the shelf before filling it and taking it back to the table and setting it in front of his Commander. “If you’ll excuse me I have some paperwork to finish.” Hank excused himself and then left the room.
Before he was seated at his desk Chief McConkie was standing in the door way to his office. “You need to lighten up there a little Hank. We’re just having a little fun.”
“There are some things that are off limits to be made fun of and my family and what we do together while I’m off duty are on that list.” Hank stood his ground and although he feared some repercussions to his actions he wasn’t about to back down and he made his point by remaining seated with his arms folded across his chest.
“Point made,” McConkie backed down. There was a few moments of talking over department policy before the Chief excused himself and Hank was sure that he had managed to kill a large volume of the razzing the Chief was intending to dish out on his visit.
Later that night Hank considered skipping his nightly work out but thought of his daughter and his promise to her and defiantly sequestered himself in his office. Before he had his shoes changed however he was aware of several pairs of eyes trying to peak in through the window of the office door.
Thinking for a moment he picked up his jacket and opened the door just enough to catch the collar of his jacket between the door and the frame covering most of the window only to see three pair of eyes fighting to get a look through the small space in the window that wasn’t covered by his jacket.
One piece of paper with a little tape took care of that. Turning his music up a notch he went through his routine and when he was done he just knew there were still men with their ears glued to the door. Since Johnny had been one of them he had seen trying to look in, he was sure a stethoscope was also in use.
Pulling the office door open suddenly Hank was rewarded with Chet, Marco and John falling through and laying on the floor. And yes Johnny did have a stethoscope in his ears. Chet had been using a glass held to the door.
Hank just shook his head, turned off his music and stepped over the three men on the floor turning back once he was in the bay, “Gentleman, Lights out in fifteen minutes.”
Hank turned in hoping he had managed to put an end to the teasing at least from his own crew but when a four alarm warehouse fire call came in the middle of the night Hank realized he was still vulnerable when he pulled his night turn outs on to find that someone had pinned a cape to the
back of his suspenders.
“I sure hope who ever did this made sure this cape is fire resistant!” Hank bellowed as he stopped his still half asleep men before they entered the apparatus bay. It was easy to tell by the look on the faces before him who was responsible and that the cape was likely very flammable.
“Station 51 10-4 KMG365,” Hank responded in a professional voice while writing the address down with one hand as he was pulling at the cape trying to tear it from his shoulders with the other. Mike and Roy stepped up each undoing one of the safety pins holding the cape to his suspenders.
“I don’t appreciate you guys putting my life at risk.” Hank continued the dressing down, “Now if no one has noticed we have a fire to respond to and I for one would appreciate it if you acted like professionals instead of a bunch of juvenile delinquent screw ups! Now let’s get going.” With that a copy of the address was forcefully slammed in to the hand of his Sr. Paramedic and everyone was swooshed out of the dorm and into the bay.
It was with increased haste that they all climbed in the equipment and got ready to go, they all knew their captain was not happy and that meant they had all better be at their best for the rest of the shift.
When they arrived they were the second engine and squad on the scene and firemen and warehouse workers were helping to move the eight injured workers from the fire. Squad 51 was needed to assist with the care and treatment while engine 51 was directed to the far end of the structure that had multiple sections on fire.
This was already looking like another arson fire and the last one they had fought in this area was intermingled with booby traps and fuel cans left to explode in places that would weaken support beams. Hank was warning his men to watch out for similar surprises as they pulled the hose from the truck bed.
When the third engine arrived they were sent to the middle of the building and all of the hoses had just been fully charged when the first of the explosions occurred. Hank had seen a cluster of fifty gallon drums around a support to a main stair well and cat walk and knew they needed to be kept cool to keep them from exploding and bringing down the whole building on top of everyone in there. He watched as the next crew came along the cat walk three men wrestling with a charged hose working on the flames on the upper level.
Hank ordered both Lopez and Kelly to pull a two and a half inch hose each and he stood between them helping each one hold their balance and keep moving forward. Hank was sure they were going to be able to get the flames knocked down before the drums blew when an explosion on the upper level sent the three men there over the railing to the floor along with structural debris raining down on Hank and his men. Hank felt a twinge in his shoulder when he was hit by a support beam but his air tank took the brunt of it so he was able to shake it off and looked to his two linemen.
“Are you Okay?” He screamed through his mask and both men nod affirmatively, “Cover me I’m going in for them.”
Hank reached the first two men who were nearly on top of each other. One was unconscious the other stunned but trying to get to his own feet. That’s when he saw what might have been some kind of a detonation device near the drums they were cooling and decided to move fast.
He picked up the unconscious man and pulled him onto his shoulders but as he did so he not only felt the shoulder that had been hit by the beam he felt the resistance of the firefighter’s shoulder straps from his SCBA getting caught on his air tank.
He tried to position the dead weight of the fireman better but it was not going to happen. He then reached down and took the other fireman by the arm and pulled him to his feet causing an increased strain in his injured shoulder but he continued to hold on to him and guide him toward the exit and help.
As other firemen came to their aid Hank directed them to find the third firemen that had been blown from the catwalk and told them about what looked like a detonator before continuing out to the engine where Mike was able to help him ease the unsteady fireman to the ground before he helped him untangle the SCBA straps and unload the other fireman, very aware of the groans of pain coming from his captain as he did so.
Once unloaded of his charges Hank pulled the handy talkie from his coat just as two men exited the building carrying the third fallen firemen followed by Lopez and Kelly, “LA this is engine 51, We have a code I times three and a possible detonation device set to blow five fifty gallon drums advice pulling out and away from the building. We need medics at our location.”
When Johnny drove the squad up next to the engine he saw Mike working on the three firemen and raced to their aid as he knelt down next to the one who looked to be the worse Mike leaned over and whispered just loud enough to be heard over the pumps, “Cap got hurt too.”
Johnny looked at his leader and found him at the edge of the blanket spread on the ground one knee on the ground the other up with his arm resting on it. As he watched he caught the winces and grimaces between his heavy breathing and pale sweaty face but the man at his feet was the highest priority. “Mike, help him get his tank off. I’ll get to him as soon as I can.”
Mike made his way to the captain’s side, “Let’s get your tank off Cap.”
“Later,” Hank insisted, “I might need to go back in.”
“But Cap you’re hurt,” Mike insisted.
“Do I need to remind you who the captain is here?” Hank turned a stern eye to his engineer. Johnny noticed the exchange but had his hands full.
When an additional squad arrived with fresh paramedics Johnny had already started IVs on each of the firemen and had them ready to transport but his concern for his captain caused him to turn them over to the newly arriving Paramedics and to turn his attention to the man who still had his tank on and was standing ready to go back into the flames.
They had been watching the fire burn and both felt and heard several small explosions but not the one they were expecting. All of the firemen were fighting the blaze from a safe distance in anticipation of the big blow.
“Cap let me have a look at you,” John said as he started to undo the harness to the Captain’s SCBA gear. “Can you tell me where you’re hurt?”
“It’s just the back of my shoulder, I’ll get it looked at later,” Hank pulled John’s hand away from his harness and gave him an authoritative look. “You go ahead and ride in with your patients. We’ll see to it that the squad is brought in for ya.”
Hank watched as his paramedic reluctantly moved toward the ambulance, he had already sent the most serious of the patients in with the other paramedic and Hank knew he was having trouble following his current command but he did follow and that was a step in the right direction since judging by the guilty looks when he dressed them down before they left for the fire, John had been one of the ones responsible for the cape incident but he hadn’t acted alone.
In truth Hank was hurting a lot and although he was sure it was nothing life threatening he also knew he needed to be relieved from duty but before that happened he still had to get his men in line. What he was about to do was harsh but he had to get his command back and the respect that came with it.
The ambulance John was in was just reaching the parameter of the fire scene and would soon pull on to the road and be gone. Hank carefully pulled his handy talkie from his coat and was about to thumb the button when he saw the Battalion Chief and someone with him walking in his direction.
“Hank is this what you saw in there?” the chief asked as the fellow with him showed him a screen from a remote controlled camera.
“Yes sir, that’s it,” Hank grimaced, “Pardon me for not getting up but I seem to be having some muscle spasms right now and can’t seem to move.”
“What? Why didn’t you go the hospital with that last ambulance then?” the Chief questioned.
“Because these boys require adult supervision right now,” Hank watched his engineer’s reaction out of the corner of his eye. He looked appropriately ashamed. “With the Captain of eighty one and most of his men down in the explosion I didn’t dare leave. I was just about to radio you and suggest you call in a couple more engines when I saw you coming this way.”
“LA this is Battalion 8, dispatch two more engines and a squad to our location.” Chief McConnike called in to his handy talkie as Hank bit down against the pain in his back.
Chief McConnike then switched to the PA system, “Any available paramedics please report to Engine 51 we have a code I.”
“Chief?” Hank called when the chief was done calling in orders.
“The boys at 51 are a bit restless tonight if you’ll have the engineer of eighty one drive his engine to station 51 he can sleep in one of the extra bunks and the boys of 51 will have both engines washed and waxed by the beginning of the next shift.”
Hank grimaced again in pain as Kelly and Lopez were given a break from the hose and joined Stoker at the engine. “I would recommend someone like yourself stop by and inspect their work however, just to make sure they do it right.”
Chief McConnike eyed the three members of the crew that were still at the scene and they looked as if they knew they deserved what was being dished out to them. Content to let Hank call the shots with out further explanation, “All right then I’ll take care of the inspection. Let’s get you worked on.”
Two Paramedics arrived and quickly began working on Hank who this time allowed it and in short order his scratched up air tank and turn out had been removed and an IV started with something given for the pain and he was transported to Rampart on his stomach.
When Hank was wheeled into the emergency department John and Roy were quickly at his side but he managed to open his eyes against the medication and inform both of them that their services were required back at the station helping with the wash and waxing of the two engines and while they were at it wash and wax the squad. If his men didn’t all transfer out before he was back on duty they were most certainly to get the idea of what kind of behavior was expected of them.
Dr. Morton was assigned to treat the fire captain and Hank was fine with the usual poor bedside manner as he ordered x-rays that confirmed no bones were broken just a deep bruise and a pulled muscle that went in to spasm. As Hank lay face down with Ice piled on his shoulder things got real interesting when he asked if Ballet could be used as physical therapy for his injuries.
“Since when would Ballet be a form of physical therapy?” Morton was nearly rolling on the floor laughing.
Hank had had enough and being in pain didn’t help his disposition any either. “Nurse, would you please find me a doctor who will take me seriously and get this court jester out of here.”
“Now wait just one-“ Morton began to protest.
“As in now!” Hank raised his voice loud enough to be heard in the hall to make himself clear.
Dr. Bracket was already on his way to talk with the injured fire captain in regards to the rumors that his paramedics were being reprimanded when he heard the yell followed by Dr. Morton hurrying from the room as if he had been shot out of a cannon.
“What just happened in there?” Dr. Bracket asked his colleague.
“I think I missed a rather severe head injury.” Morton’s face still bore a stunned look from his dismissal. “He’s asking about doing Ballet to rehab his injured shoulder.”
“I see,” Dr. Bracket winced. “Well that is an alternative he can consider.”
“You’re joking right.” Morton scoffed.
“No I’m not,” Bracket then let out a sigh, “I’ll talk with him.”
“Good, because I just got fired.”
When Dr. Bracket entered the room he found Hank gripping the side of the gurney mattress in pain and quickly read the chart to see what pain meds he had been given before writing an order for more and handing the chart to the nurse before bending over his patient.
“The nurse will give you something that should ease the pain, just try and relax as much as possible. Take some deep breaths.” Dr. Bracket coached as he held his hand on the fireman’s back feeling the extent of the spasms.
Hank complied to the best of his ability and as the medication was injected in to his IV he soon began to feel relief and his breathing eased as did his grip on the gurney.
“Dr. Morton told me about your request to use Ballet as part of your rehab.” Dr. Bracket spoke in a soothing tone, “I’m going to have to check with a colleague of mine before I can advise you on that and I would like to wait until a slightly more reasonable time of morning to do so. Is that all right?”
“Sure doc, at least you’re taking me seriously.” Hank sighed and relaxed a little more as the pain continued to ease.
“I wanted to talk to you about some rumors,”
“It’s a station matter doc, nothing you should concern your self with.” Hank cut the doctor short.
“Does this by any chance have anything to do with the Ballet?” Brackett inquired.
“What part of, it’s nothing you should concern yourself with, did I fail to explain properly?” Hank responded and Dr. Bracket got the message that the conversation was over.
With his patient sleeping due to the muscle relaxants now in his system Kell Bracket stepped into the hall. With a sigh of concern he looked up to see Dr. Morton receiving a new patient being brought in by the paramedics of station 51 and knew that the rumor of them being taken out of service for disciplinary actions had been somewhat exaggerated.
“Okay we have time here, let’s get her up to obstetrics,” Morton instructed concerning the patient Roy and John had just brought in and the orderlies complied leaving the three care givers standing in the hall way as Dr. Bracket approached.
“How’s Cap?” John asked anxiously when he noticed Dr. Brackett, and Kell knew the men still cared for their bellowing captain.
“He’s fine, it’s just a soft tissue injury with some pretty intense muscle spasms.” Kell reported and saw the sighs of total relief on the faces of both paramedics.
“We should be sending him home in a couple of hours, just as soon as I’m sure we have the spasms under control.” Kell added and was surprised by the sudden panicked look in the faces of the once calm paramedics as they looked at each other.
“You know he’ll stop by and check on our work,” Johnny looked to Roy.
“Yeah,” Roy responded blowing out a deep breath, “We better get back, we still have a lot of washing and waxing to do.”
“About that,” Kell asked hoping to get the rest of the story.
“Doc, let’s just say, we had it coming and leave it at that.” Johnny replied humbly as he moved with haste toward the exit.
“Yeah,” Roy added moving to follow his partner, “We’re lucky we’re not washing and waxing the entire fleet.”
As Kell watched the two medics hurry to their squad he let out his own sigh of relief, realizing fully that this wasn’t a matter he needed to concern himself with. “I don’t know what those guys did but it sure got them in trouble this time.”
“Na, their not in real trouble,” Dr. Morton shared some insight from his days in the Navy, “But when the whole platoon acts up you can’t very well assign them all to latrine duty.”
“I guess that wouldn’t be very effective would it.” Kell acknowledged still more relieved.
“Not at all,” Morton chuckled slightly, “Now what about this Ballet as physical therapy, I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“If the patient’s willing it’s one of the fastest ways I’ve found to return full range of motion.” The two doctors were startled by the reply from behind them. “Trouble is, about the only ones I can get to even try it are young women and they’re not the ones who need it the most.”
“Well hello Dr. Crainer, what brings you in at this hour?” Kell turned to the man who had responded to Dr. Morton’s question.
“I got a call about a sixty year old man with a fractured pelvis.” Dr. Crainer responded.
“Oh yes, I believe he’s in eight, right this way.” Dr. Bracket led his colleague to his patient and while they walked he asked the questions he needed answers to, in order to advise Hank Stanley on his recovery.
Two quick patients later Dr. Bracket returned to the bedside of a now awake but mostly pain free Fire Captain, “How is it feeling now?”
“Better Doc, when can I get out of here?”
Doctor Bracket pulled the ice packs away from his patients back and took a good long look at the discoloration that was beginning to show. “You’re going to be sore for a few days I’m afraid but the more you can keep ice on that bruise for the next 24 hours the sooner you should be able to return to work. We can have one of the nurses call your wife to come pick you up and take you home.”
“I better do the calling doc. Once that phone rings my daughter is going to have to hear my voice on the phone or she’ll take forever to calm down.”
“The nurse can help you with that.”
“When can I find out about physical therapy?” Hank had a lesson after his daughter got out of school that day and he felt it was going to be very important to attend it in order to help his daughter deal with his latest injury.
“I have been able to talk with a doctor who recommends Ballet for such things and he says that you will need to be careful of who you have work with you. It takes more than just a Ballet instructor the person will need to also be trained in Physical therapy techniques. He gave me a list of instructors he knows of.
“Is Jennie Martin on that list?” Hank asked but he was pretty sure that she was because of the other students he had seen at the studio.
“Yes, as a matter of fact she’s on the top of the list and very highly recommended.” Dr, Bracket paused a moment to choose his next words carefully. “I have a question I would like to ask if I may, from a professional point of view?”
“You once asked me if I thought Ballet would help reduce work related injuries, I didn’t have an answer for you but do you feel that it has helped you in some way?”
“I haven’t been with it long enough to say for sure, but I can say that it’s helped me strengthen muscles that I didn’t know I had before the lessons and it has helped my daughter deal with her fears about my work.”
“I see,” Brackett smiled warmly, ”This must be your daughter’s football?”
“Something like that.” Hank admitted, surprised that the doctor remembered their conversation.
“I must admit I don’t know any other men who are man enough to try anything like this. You are to be commended.”
Later Hank was helped to gingerly lower his aching body into his wife’s car. His arm was in a sling and then several elastic bandages were wrapped around his chest and shoulder holding ice packs in place.
With his daughter in the back seat he reached back to squeeze her hand and then told his wife that he had to be taken back to the station to ‘finish up some business’. He had to see if his little ‘time out’ had done the trick. He hoped that it had, because he really didn’t want his men brooding about their punishment or worrying about his injuries once they were off shift. He hoped they could all go in to their days off as friends as long as they remembered he was their captain when they came back to work.
When his wife drove into the lot he saw that the back bay doors were open and both engines looked ready for a parade, John and Roy were working on finishing up the squad with Mike’s help while Chet and Marco were working on the Chief’s car.
Hank slowly pulled his body out of the car with his good hand finding his daughter standing next to him in a posture of holding him up as soon as he was up right. As she walked with him into the bay his men quickly lined up and stood at attention.
Hank placed his hand on his daughter’s shoulder and held her in one position as he stepped away from her and walked toward his men.
“At ease,” He called as he walked by them, each man looked tired and battle worn their uniforms looked like you would expect them to after such activities and Hank knew they would be doing a lot of sleeping once they got home, but more importantly there were no smirks to be seen they truly looked like his men once again. “The equipment looks good, you’ve all done a top notch job.”
Chief McConnike heard the commotion and came to investigate he had already seen the respect the men felt for their captain in the way they followed through with his punishment with out complaining and even went the extra mile in volunteering to wash and wax his car in addition. Whatever the problems were it was clear they were taken care of.
After a brief conversation with the Chief, Hank was once again loaded into his wife’s car and Kristen was dropped off at school on their way home. Once parked in the garage Emily looked at her husband. “They know about the Ballet classes don’t they?”
Hank sighed and looked at his wife before answering, “They know I was seen in a dance studio wearing tights, and I have admitted to taking dance lessons, the term Ballet hasn’t exactly come up at the station.”
“Were things as bad as you thought they would be if they found out?”
“It was nothing I couldn’t handle,” Hank answered in confident relief.
For the next few days Hank went to the dance studio everyday. He was truly amazed as how the techniques he was learning really helped his back and shoulder feel better and to his surprise and everyone else also, he was actually cleared to return to work for his next shift. He was still a little sore and the back of his shoulder was brightly colored extending beyond his shirt collar slightly but he felt confident he could do his Job and so did his men.
It was learned and he was responsible for teaching his men that the believed bomb they had pulled away from was a fake. It was believed that it was put together to achieve the result of getting the firefighters to pull back and let the fire burn. But Hank also pointed out that there were several other smaller bombs that did go off and that in the future this arsonist could decide to actually arm the big ones too. So for now when ever they saw anything like that they were to do just what they did, back off and let the bomb experts handle it. Records were searched and it was determined that this guy or group of arsonists had torched at least five warehouses in the last year and they were sure to see them again.
Two more months passed and Hank and his daughter were gaining enough ballet skills that they were starting to have some fun. Not that Hank had any desire to perform in front of anyone but he did enjoy being able to make graceful turns with out getting dizzy and high jumps that amazed even him but they also got the attention of the guys at the station when ever he played basketball. Most of all he enjoyed steadying his daughter as she turned and lifting her high above his head as she posed gracefully and the hugs they shared when they got it right.
There were fancy French names for these moves that echoed in his mind when ever he practiced them because he vividly remembered his instructor calling them out like a drill sergeant every time he practiced. But he would never say them out loud because that was too much like openly admitting that he was taking Ballet lessons and he was still very much in the closet.
He had to admit that he had a greater sense of balance and could now move and bend in ways he hadn’t been able to before, something he noticed most when they worked in and around wrecked cars, but was he safer at work because of his lessons.
He couldn’t really claim that he was. Because he thought his daughter might actually be getting to the point where she could sleep in her bed on the nights that he was on duty, Hank agreed to two more months of lessons but still his station work outs were done in the privacy of his office and the men at the station allowed them to remain private but his work outs were majorly limited by the size of his office. The razzing from men not of his station had died down by now and all was back to normal.
Even the fire at the mall was normal. Dispatch called out four battalions worth of fire engines and squads. Station 51 was the first one on sight to find the fire was nothing more than a fireworks display near the opening of one of the stores that had been started on fire by some delinquent boys playing with lighters. By the time the Engine arrived the store had been evacuated through the emergency exit, the automatic sprinkler system had suppressed the fire and there were two injuries. The store manager had been the victim of one of the fireworks blowing up in his face while he was trying to use a fire extinguisher and a woman had fallen off her heels and possibly broken her ankle.
It was totally routine when Hank radioed in to cancel all other engines and squads. It was absolutely routine when he ordered Kelly and Lopez to start raking through the burned items in the store to make sure there were no smoldering embers left to reignite the fire later. It was completely routine for Hank to check in with his paramedics to find they had everything under control and then—
“Cap,” John got his attention and then jerked his head toward a police officer talking with a young lady with wet hair wrapped up in one of the paramedic’s yellow blankets. Then John really got his attention by adding, “She’s fine, not even smoke inhalation she just got wet from the sprinklers.”
With the added comments from his paramedic Hank took another look focusing on the young lady the police officer was talking to. The blanket and the wet hair could have belonged to any one but the voice he could now hear belonged to his daughter.
Hank stepped up behind his daughter and placed his hands on his hips.
“Did you need to speak with this young lady?” the police officer looked over Krissy’s head.
“HI Daddy,” Kristen said once she turned to see who the police officer was talking to.
“Daddy?” the police officer looked surprised, “So you’re the one who taught her how to evacuate a building.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Kristen proclaimed in embarrassment, “I just told them where the back door was.”
“From what everyone that was in the store at the time is telling me she did a little more than that.” The police officer informed with a smile, “You can be very proud of this young lady.”
Hank put his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze, “I’ve been very proud of this young lady for quite some time now.”
It was perfectly normal for Hank to ask the police officer to call the young girl’s mother to come get her and every bit as normal for him to be busy and not notice when his wife guided his daughter to the car and drove her home to get into some dry clothes but as the stories and reports of what had happened before they arrived filtered through to him he felt a warm pride that was not at all normal or routine.
Their troublesome arsonist had struck once more but luckily they had been busy at the Mall at the time of the fire and missed out on all the excitement, thanks to the pre planning and training no one had gotten hurt this time.
Unfortunately they feared he would get more aggressive the next time.
When Hank pulled into the driveway the next morning he could see his daughter sitting in the front window watching for him. As he waited for the garage door to open he watched as she left the window and was not in the least surprised to see her standing in the garage waiting for him to drive in.
As soon as the truck was stopped Kristen climbed in to the passenger seat and Hank knew she wanted to talk.
“So how’s my little hero this morning?” Hank started the conversation.
“I’m no hero!” Kristen proclaimed emphatically, “I really didn’t do anything.” “All I did was find the back door and tell everyone which way to go to get out. I didn’t do anything heroic.”
“I heard you went back in for the manager,” Hank added something he had heard.
“Not really,” Kristen was flustered and slightly defensive but Hank just kept the biggest grin he could on his face and she continued to tell her side of the story. “I was standing in the doorway showing everyone where to get out when the sprinklers went off and then one of the fireworks that was on fire went poof in the guys face and he was blinded. I just walked in and guided him through the door it’s not like I carried him or anything and the sprinklers were already putting the fire out, I just showed him the way to the door.”
“They tell me you washed his eyes out with bottled water,” Hank added another detail he had picked up from his reports.
“It seemed like a good thing to do at the time.” Kristen replied sheepishly.
“It was a very good thing to do, you might have saved his eyesight,” Hank added his eyes misting over with pride as he pulled his little hero into his chest and squoose.
“You know I wouldn’t have known what to do if you hadn’t have shown me your attack plans in case there ever was a fire at the Mall.” Kristen spoke not pulling away from her father’s embrace. “Remember when I got out of the hospital after I fell?”
“I remember, now I’m glad I did,” Hank smiled and rubbed her shoulders. “I’ll have to show you our attack plan for in case the school has a fire.”
Kristen looked up at her father, her eyes were moist but she had a smile on her face every bit as big as her father’s.
“I know you don’t think what you did last night was a big deal but trust me it was a very big deal.” Hank spoke after a few quiet moments of rubbing his daughter’s back. “If more people knew to do what you did my job would be a whole lot easier.”
“It felt really good to help that man,” Kristen admitted with her head hung low. Then she looked into her father’s face with a serious expression, “That’s why you do what you do isn’t it?”
“Yep, that’s why,” Hank answered smiling warmly.
Something about Kristen changed that day, Hank was never sure exactly what or why but she was different some how, Different in a good way, more at peace, more confident, more frequently seen in the company of boys. He was so not ready for that last one.
His wife had been reporting that their daughter was sleeping better, even on the nights he was on duty. Now there he was in his bunk at the station. His feet were rotating at the end of his ankles as he drew circles with is big toes under the covers. Hank didn’t feel particularly stressed but he wasn’t able to sleep just yet. Was it time to stop the ballet lessons? He was surprised that he actually felt hesitant about doing so.
Kristen didn’t seem ready to stop the lessons so Hank was thinking he should hang in there just a little while longer, just until he was sure his daughter was truly at peace with his work as his eyes started feeling heavy and relaxed and his pillow more inviting.
“Station 51,” blankets started flying, “Station 110,” Feet slid in to boots, “station 99,”
Suspenders were pulled on to shoulders, “and engine 86,” the crew filed out of the dorm and into the bay on a run still shaking the sleep from their minds and eyes, “warehouse fire, pier road and fifth street, pier road and fifth street.”
“Station 51, 10-4 KMG365” and they were off.
A block away from the fire they could see the flames and Hank saw some other signs also.
“Alright guys,” he spoke into the radio mic, “This looks like it could be another one from our booby trap arsonist, make sure you keep on your toes and your eyes open. Let’s have another one with out injuries.”
They did stay on their toes and the first explosion was expected. Everyone was clear when it went up but the call of a fireman down came in from another section of the warehouse and the crew of 51 was the closest ones to go in.
When they arrived on the second floor of the building they found that one of the linemen’s feet had gone through the floor and was now stuck and the fire was burning hot below him. Johnny and Roy quickly went to work in an effort to extricate the fireman with the aid of his partner, while Kelly and Lopez took control of the hose they were manning and stepped forward about six feet to keep the flames at bay as the others worked.
Hank was helping to pull the hose along and evaluating the situation when he noticed a major crack in a support beam over head.
“Can you point your toes?” Hank called to the trapped fireman.
“Yeah, yeah, I think so,” the guy answered and soon they were pulling him free, his boot didn’t come with him but that wasn’t a real problem as his partner pulled him on to his shoulders and headed for fresh air with Roy at his side.
“I guess the ballet paid off after all,” Hank thought to himself as he watched Johnny step closer to his crewmates on hose to pick up a crow bar that had been set aside. That’s when a large section of floor gave in between Hank and his men leaving John, Chet and Marco stranded from the closest stairwell. Hank quickly and instinctively looked for all options and that’s when he saw the barrel and the detonator with the digital timer counting down the last seconds.
Knowing his voice wouldn’t carry through his mask Hank leapt across the opening in the floor spreading his arms out to knock as many of his men to the floor as possible. He did catch John and Marco, Marco managed to pull Chet down with him. They were just crashing to the floor when the bomb blew.
“Grand Jete, (pronounced grahn-zheh-tay) that’s very good, good height, good distance, very good, very good indeed,” Hank heard Jannie Martin’s voice echoing in his head. “Now let’s do it again and look like you’re having fun this time, remember to hold your arms out, it helps with balance.”
It was a hand feeling its way around the collar of his turn out in search of a carotid pulse that pulled Hank back to the here and now.
“Cap! John! Marco, are you alright?” told Hank that Chet was alive and well, he could feel Marco trying to move under one arm and the hand checking for a pulse was John under his other arm, they were all alive. Having the wind knocked out of him Hank couldn’t speak but he managed to pat John on the shoulder with one hand while he held a thumb high with his other hand in the direction he had heard Kelly’s voice. When he felt someone take his hand he knew his gesture had been seen.
“John! Cap! Are you all right?” Roy was heard from a distance. “HT 51 to Battalion 8 we have four men down. We need ladders and help on the second floor.” Hank heard Roy’s voice coming from the handy talkie poking him in the side and he knew help was coming.
He soon felt the debris on top of him shift slightly followed by an unfamiliar voice asking, “Are you o-kay?”
“Yeah, but there’s three more men under there,” Hank heard Chet answer and responded by pounding his elbow into the lumber that was holding him down to announce his location. The load quickly shifted and then lifted and when he turned his head he could see Chet and three other firemen pushing the section of roof over onto the floor freeing them.
Before he had a chance to feel relief hands were quickly checking him for injury and then pulling him and his two men to their feet. His arm was pulled around a strange shoulder and he was led to a ladder which he climbed on to in automatic pilot and was then guided down to the ground level before other hands took hold of him and pulled him toward fresh air and the blankets spread out near the squad.
Roy met up with them once they had their feet on the ground and the secure hand that guided Hank once he was out of the building was good old reliable Mike. It was Mike who pulled his face mask off and asked if he was hurt any where. Hank shook his head and allowed Mike to help him remove his SCBA gear before sitting on the running board of the squad.
Roy was at his side as soon as he sat down, shining his little pen light in his eyes. “Did you hit your head Cap?”
“N, no, I don’t think so.” Hank answered, “Blast wave rung my bell a little but other than that I think my air tank took the brunt of the debris. How are the others?”
“Johnny landed on his air tank and has some possible broken ribs and a bruised shoulder, Marco is dazed a little, possible concussion but Chet seems to be alright just a few bruises and you don’t look to bad off. Are you sure you’re not hurt anywhere?”
“I’m not sure of anything right now,” Hank answered honestly and felt a comforting hand squeeze his shoulder before looking into Mike’s worried eyes. “I’m sure I’ll be fine, take care of Gage and Lopez.”
By the time the Chief ordered all of them to go in to Rampart to be checked out Hank’s head had cleared and the only thing he could think of was how close they had come and what had actually saved their lives.
The biggest battle in the ambulance was who was going to ride on the gurney, Roy thought Gage should because he had the most injuries, John thought Cap should because he held the highest rank, it was decided that Marco would because he was most comfortable lying down.
Chet was approved to drive the Squad in behind them and was there to help unload each of his station mates from the back of the ambulance even Roy was given a helping hand. The five firemen huddled at the end of the hall waiting to be told where to go as Dr. Bracket and Dixie McCall started checking them out.
“So all five of you were in the blast?” Bracket asked as he checked Marco’s pupils.
“NO, just them, I was clear,” Roy Responded.
“The rest of us would have been dead if it weren’t for Cap,” Johnny was now reliving the blast in his mind. “Where did you learn how to jump like that Cap?”
“Yeah, Cap that was amazing how you just leapt across that hole in the floor and took us out of the blast cone.” Chet exclaimed in true awe, “How did you do it?”
“Yea, Cap how did you do it?” Marco also asked.
Hank stood nervously his hands fiddling with his helmet as he looked up to see six pairs of eyes looking at him. He then snickered slightly, “Would you believe, it was something I learned in Dance class.”
Alone in his office at the station Hank sat in his desk for the longest time and just looked at the drawer on the bottom right. That was his drawer, the one the other captains left alone just like he left their drawer’s alone.
He had come back to the station in the squad with Roy and Chet and Chet was changing and then he would go back to the hospital to get Marco and take him home. Roy would get Johnny and take him home.
Hank would hang around until Mike returned the engine to the station before he left. He had been checked over from head to toe and all they found was a bruise on his chest that came from the crow bar that Johnny had been holding when he tackled him to the floor.
Hearing the back door open and close Hank was sure he was alone in the station and dared to open the drawer and pull his ballet slippers from with in. wrapping both hands around them and gripping them tight Hank closed his eyes and thanked what ever higher power was listening. It was the love of and for his daughter that got him into the classes but it was what he learned there that made it possible for him to go home to not only his daughter but his wife and his other children. And three other men would be going home tonight also, not to mention the first firefighter they rescued. It would have taken a lot longer to get him out had Hank not thought to have him point his toes.
When Hank took in and let out a deep breath he again opened his eyes and found Roy Desoto standing in the doorway to his office.
“I thought you were gone,” Hank spoke trying hard to hide his embarrassment and the ballet slippers in his hands.
“I hung around for a minute because I wanted to talk to you if I could.” Roy looked hesitant and Hank felt guilty. He had always told his men that his door was open to them and he wanted them to come to him willingly when ever they needed to talk about anything, especially if it were job related.
“Of course have a seat.” Hank motioned to a vacant chair with one hand as he slipped the sippers behind him with his other hand.
“Umm, Well, hum, “Roy stammered and Hank focused on his training to make the man as comfortable about talking to him as possible. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while now and I just haven’t, well I just wasn’t sure how to ask,”
“Roy,” Hank leaned forward to face the paramedic more intently, “What ever it is just ask, you have nothing to be afraid of from me.”
Roy sighed and took a deep breath, “Umm, well, My wife’s been talking to your wife and um, well now my wife wants me to take your um, a, dancelessons.” Roy nearly spit the last two words out and Hank completely understood why.
“My wife’s been talking?” Hank questioned realizing that his secret wasn’t as big of a secret as he thought it was. Both men were slightly red faced as they sat across from each other for a silent moment.
“So my wife has been talking has she?” Hank finally broke the silence.
“Yea, a, it was shortly after we spent the night washing and waxing the engines and Joanne wanted to know why. When I wouldn’t tell her she started asking some of the wives and when they started telling what they had heard, Well Emily told them all the real story so that they wouldn’t believe all the wild crazy ones that were being told.” Roy explained hoping his boss wouldn’t be mad at his wife.
“There were some pretty wild stories out there hu?” Hank responded still blushing.
“umm, yeah,” Roy answered hesitantly, “Everyone in the department has asked what we did to get you so mad at us to make us wash and wax four trucks.”
“I only volunteered you to wash and wax two engines and the squad.” Hank defended.
“Yea well it’s common knowledge that we waxed the chief’s car too.
“So you think you want to take Ballet lessons,” Hank finally breached the subject after a moment of silence.
“Well, no actually,” Roy admitted, “Joanne on the other hand feels that if there is any chance that it will increase the chances of me coming home at the end of a shift – Well how can I refuse when she puts it like that?”
“I can understand that feeling,” Hank admitted.
“Of course I don’t want the rest of the guys to know.”
“I understand that feeling too,” Hank grinned at his paramedic and knew they would find out eventually.
The private conversation stopped suddenly when the bay doors opened and they saw the engine being backed into the bay. A quick glance at Mike and they could both see he was tired and covered with soot and grime.
“Did they get her all mopped up?” Hank called to his engineer after he nearly fell from the cab.
“They’re still doing some mop up but they released me to bring the engine back since the rest of the crew were on injury leave. How is everybody?”
“Chet’s picking up Marco and Johnny now. They’re listed as day by day at this point but they shouldn’t be out too long.” Roy reported. “Maybe a shift, two at the most.”
Mike sighed in relief “I’ve got good news too.”
“I can take good news.” Hank stepped closer.
“The report came in just as I was leaving; the police think they caught our Arsonist.” Mike reported.
“Hey that’s great,” Hank sighed.
“Yeah, it was a really close one today,” Mike finally had his chance to vent his feelings, “We almost lost the better part of our team.”
While Mike was showering Hank and Roy dared to talk a little more on the subject they had been discussing before Mike returned when they were interrupted once again.
“Hi Cap,” Johnny approached the office door, He had his arm in a sling with elastic bandages holding ice to his back and shoulder as he leaned against the door frame for support. “Hey a, I was asking Morton about the physical therapy you had when you hurt your shoulder and he said I would have to talk to you about it.”
“Yeah, he said it might help my leg feel better too,” Chet commented, “I wonder what he meant.”
Hank took a deep breath and looked at Roy, “Did Morton by any chance tell you anything about the physical therapy I had?”
“Well a, no,” Johnny answered hesitantly, “Bu-ut he didn’t have to, I mean we all kinda already knew and Joanne has been trying to get me to talk to you about it for nearly a month now.”
“What ?” Roy exclaimed, “My wife has been talking to you?”
“Well yea, she a, she said something about how it’s supposed to reduce injuries and she wanted me to take it so that you would.”
“Johnny if there is any hope of reducing accidents you should take it,” Chet quipped, “You need all the help you can get.”
“If it will help me be able to jump like you did today Cap, I’m in,” Marco spoke up from just out of sight.
Hank hid his face in his hands to hide how red he knew it had to be but then he remembered that three of these men were alive because of something he learned and how could he deny any one of them the same chance he had.
“You know,” Hank started hesitantly, “the bay area behind the vehicles is a great place to work out once you’ve learned a few things.”
“You mean we could do this at the station?” Chet questioned. “And no one else would have to know about it?”
“Not unless you tell them,” Johnny remarked and everyone laughed.
“Would we have to wear tights?” a familiar voice came from behind the squad.
“NO Mike you wouldn’t have to wear tights at the station.” Hank called out. “But they are required at the studio.”
Ten Years later.
Hank hurried through the doors of the hospital. Traffic had been a nightmare and he had had to get there with out the aid of a light and siren. Walking as fast as he could he slipped into the elevator just as the doors were closing and then exited before the doors completely opened again on his desired floor.
Down the hall he hurried, his wife had already paged him with the room number, and in the door he nearly flew.
There was Kristen lying in the bed totally exhausted with her mother and her husband at her side.
“Hi Grandpa,” Kristen called to her father when she saw him. She had the biggest smile ever on her face and as Hank tentatively stepped up to the bed she thrust a small bundle into his arms. Little Emily Rose, just one hour old.
Hanks eyes welled up with tears as he cradled his first granddaughter close and placed his pinky finger in her tiny little fist to be squoose.
Emily snuggled up to her husband and looked at the new grandchild while resting her head on his shoulder.
“Now you’ll have some one else to dance with Daddy,” Kristen said her own tears forming.
“Maybe we could try Peter Pan again and she can be our little tinker bell. You’ve got so many people working out with you now that the guys won’t have to play several parts each.”
“Do you think I could still handle the part of Captain Hook?” Hank asked with a watery smile. It had been so fun when they did the ballet before, Jennifer Desoto had played the part of tinker bell then and Kristen had played the part of Wendy.
Marco, Roy and Johnny had played the part of the lost boys and the pirates while Mike managed the part of the dog as well as the alligator and Chet Kelly made a hilarious Peter Pan, tights, mustache and all.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to change the part to Chief Hook next time.” Kristen continued to smile warmly at her father.
“I didn’t know you were still dancing,” Hank’s son-in-law commented and Emily and Kristen giggled hysterically as Hank just turned red and snickered before all three of them held their fingers to their lips in a combined “Sh shhhhhhhh.”
“They call in ‘Career Development workshop’ these days.” Kristen whispered loudly followed by another giggle.
“You mean that thing you do with all the firemen every week?” The son-in-law looked surprised, “You’re really just---“
“Shhhhh,” Kristen teased again. “It’s top secret, everybody knows, but it’s top secret.”
“No one dares talk about it because they’re afraid the Chief here will assign them to engine washing duty.” Emily added still giggling herself.
Hank didn’t have nearly enough time to cradle his newest grandchild when the nurse chased them all out and took the baby to the nursery but then he had several years ahead he hoped. As they slowly walked back to the elevator Hank felt himself lifting up on the balls of his feet and stepping to a rhythm
“If Kristen hadn’t have begged you to take Ballet lessons,” Hank’s son-in-law asked once the elevator doors were closed and he was sure no one would over hear him, “would you have even considered it?”
Hank snickered and had a far away look in his eyes. “Never in a million years.” He answered, “But I’m sure glad she did because I wouldn’t trade the memories I have and the things I’ve been able to do with my daughter for anything in the world.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Hank shouldered his son-in-law, “why don’t you join us and we’ll get you up to speed so that you can start building some of those memories with your daughter.”
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
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