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NOTE TO READERS: THIS IS MY FAVORITE ONE THAT I HAVE WRITTEN SO FAR. LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK. :)
“Quit squirming around! I can’t get it if you don’t hold still!” Johnny commanded.
“Well if you knew what you were doing then you should have gotten it out by now. Let me just have Roy do it!” Chet huffed.
“For Pete’s Sake Chet, I think I can take out a splinter!”
Chet started to pull his hand away, but Johnny firmly grabbed it again. “Now hold still!...There!...I told you if you quit squirming I could get it.”
“Yeah, well thanks,” Chet said sheepishly as he sucked on the injured finger and plunked down on the couch.
At that moment the tones sounded. “Squad 51, woman injured... 11 Main, cross street Palmer...time out...14:20.”
Roy and Johnny jogged to the squad.
“Squad 51, KMG 365.” Cap handed Roy the slip, who then gave it to Johnny as they placed their helmets on and headed to the scene.
Once they arrived they found a teenage girl flagging them down from the sidewalk.
“It’s my Mom,” she cried frantically, “she cut herself with a knife and it’s bleeding all over…I wasn’t sure what else to do.”
“You did the right thing,” Roy assured her as they took out their supplies from the squad. “Can you show us where she is?”
“Yes, in the kitchen. Follow me.”
Johnny and Roy followed the teen into the kitchen where they found the Mom sitting at the table clutching a towel to her hand. The kitchen counter and floor were splattered with droplets of blood.
“I feel so foolish,” the woman admitted as the men approached. “I have cut veggies 1000 times and never cut myself before.”
She noticed how handsome the paramedics were, especially the one with dark hair and chocolate brown eyes.
“Don’t worry,” Johnny said with a grin while he took off his helmet, “we have all done things like that. Now let’s take a look.”
Johnny gingerly removed the towel and could see the deep gash across the base of her thumb.
As he was looking closely at the wound the woman admired his thick, dark eyelashes.
“Why is it that men always get the thick beautiful eyelashes, like yours?” She commented in a sexy voice.
Johnny looked up at her grinning, his face turning pink. “Thanks,” he muttered.
“Geez Mom,” the teen piped up, “can you be any more embarrassing?”
Roy rolled his eyes and cleared his throat, “So how does it look Johnny?”
“Oh, oh...ummm...looks like it might need some stitches. No need for an ambulance. Is there someone that can drive you?” Johnny carefully wrapped her hand with a bandage.
“Oh yes,” the woman admitted. “My neighbor can take me, or you can, when you get off work...it’s not bleeding much now, so I can wait. What time do you get off?” Her eyes wide with anticipation.
“MOM! You are so embarrassing! He is not much older than I am! Mary, across the street, can take you in, I’m sure.”
The Mom grinned at Johnny and gave him a wink. The girl was crimson with embarrassment, and so was Johnny.
He stammered… “Ummm...well… I...uh...am not really supposed to…”
“Come on Junior,” Roy said, grabbing Johnny’s arm and the supplies, leading him out of the house. “I think we’ve done enough here, especially you.”
“Oh Johnny...what THICK lashes you have… you are just such a dreamboat!” Chet teased in the locker room early the next shift as they changed.
“ROY!” Johnny glared at him.
“Sorry Johnny, that was just WAY too good to keep to myself.”
“Oh Johnny, I feel faint, can YOU give me a ride to the hospital?’’ Chet dramatically held a hand to his forehead pretending to swoon.
“Cut it out Chet!” Johnny said with a scowl.
As they made their way into the kitchen from the dorm, the other men chimed in…
“Oh Johnny, you are such a hunk!” Marco said in a female voice.
“Johnny, take me for a ride in the squad, you big man you!” Mike piped up.
“Roy!” Johnny said again, scowling at Roy.
The men burst out laughing until Cap knew he had to put a stop to it.
“Ok you twits, that’s enough...let’s leave Romeo here alone so he can get the coffee brewing.”
Johnny had just made his way to the counter to start the coffee when the tones sounded.
“Station 51, station 18, respond to freeway accident on I 495 south of exit 17. Time out 8:10.”
“Station 51, KMG 365.”
At the scene they could see a pickup truck had stuck a small car head on. Johnny and Roy quickly made their way to the vehicles as the rest of the crew began hosing them down making sure they would not ignite.
Roy looked into the front of the truck and could see a man beginning to come around. He had a gash across his forehead and reeked of alcohol. Roy felt disgust but knew he had to treat the victim.
“Cap, we are going to need the crowbar to get this door open and I need a C collar and backboard.”
“On the way Roy,” Cap responding, ordering Marco to get the needed supplies.
As Roy was tending the man in the truck, Johnny had made his way to the crumpled car. The driver’s window was smashed with jagged glass protruding from the edges. He could see the woman’s mangled face, the steering wheel pushed into her chest. He knew there was little hope, but he had to check.
He took off his glove and gingerly felt the woman’s neck. No pulse. At that moment, there was a blood curdling scream from one of the bystanders which caused Johnny to jump, slicing his forearm, right through his turnout, on the edge of the jagged window.
“Shit!” He looked down, seeing the 2 inch gash filling quickly with blood.
Everyone had looked to see what the scream was for. A man had collapsed who was watching the accident. His frantic wife had then screamed for help. The paramedics from squad 18 ran to assist him, since they had just arrived on the scene.
Johnny put pressure on his arm with his hand and made his way over towards Roy, who was placing the C collar around his victim.
“How’s the victim in the car?” Cap asked him.
Cap then noticed Johnny holding his arm, the blood seeping through his fingers.
“I’m ok, just cut my arm is all…” Roy glanced in Johnny’s direction. “Better get someone to look at it Cap. Probably more than a little cut knowing him.”
Johnny gave Roy a dirty look and Cap guided him to the back of the squad.
“How about you sit here and I’ll get some bandages. Looks like the paramedics have their hands full.”
“John, that looks pretty deep,” Cap admitted once Johnny had released the pressure to apply the bandages.
“I’ll be fine Cap. Let me just wrap it up and go help Roy.”
“I think Roy can handle it. You’d better keep pressure on that and we’ll make sure we get you to Rampart as soon as we can.”
“It’s ok Pal, we got it covered, now sit tight, and that’s an order!” Cap knew how stubborn Johnny could be.
Several minutes later found the victim from the truck packaged in the ambulance with Roy tending to him.
Johnny was standing by the squad, ready to drive it to Rampart. Cap noticed the pressure bandages on Johnny’s arm, blood seeping through.
“Chet,” Cap ordered, “drive John to Rampart to get that arm taken care of.”
“Cap,” Johnny stated, “I can drive myself. I’m fine.”
“John!” Cap said with a scowl.
At the hospital Johnny was exiting the treatment room where Dr. Morton had placed 8 stitches in his arm.
“Now remember, keep it clean and dry,” Dr. Morton reminded Johnny as they walked towards the nurses station where Chet was waiting for him, chatting with Dixie. Dr. Morton excused himself and headed to the lounge.
As Johnny approached the nurses station, walking towards him was the woman with the cut thumb.
“Well hello there!” She said, quickly walking up to him, her eyes twinkling. She then noticed his bandaged arm.
“Oh my! Are you ok? Did you get injured?” She asked with concern, gently resting her hand on his shoulder.
“Oh hi, I’m fine...ummm...what are YOU doing here?” Johnny said, his face becoming warm.
“I just had my stitches checked because they got wet, but they are fine… so nice to see you again! By the way, my name is June. And you are?”
“Johnny...John Gage!” Chet offered loudly, grinning.
Johnny gave Chet a scalding glance.
“You know, I am not doing anything this weekend...I am a great cook...wouldn’t you like to come over for a home cooked meal?” She smiled sweetly at him.
Chet, who was leaning on the nurses’ station counter was grinning from ear to ear, enjoying every minute. Dixie also watched with amusement.
“I...well...I’m on duty...so… I…”
“Gee Gage, I think you are free on Sunday,” Chet piped up with a huge smirk.
Johnny continued to stammer and try to make an excuse when he saw Roy coming down the hallway from the doctor’s lounge.
“Roy! THERE you are… you ready to go? We need to get back to the station,” Johnny started walking towards him and then looked over his shoulder back at the woman.
“Sorry! Got to go back to work… take care. C’mon Chet!”
Johnny scowled at him.
Chet was laughing and slapping the counter as he watched Johnny. Dixie chuckled and shook her head, getting back to her paperwork.
On the way back to the station, Chet sat between Roy and Johnny, a wide smile on his face.
“Geez Gage, if I knew you were into older women, I would have set you up with my Mom!”
“Shut up Chet! Besides, she’s not THAT old…not that I’m interested or anything...”
“She sure is interested in YOU!” Chet continued. “Oh Johnny, let me make you a home cooked meal at my house!”
“Chet, will you stop!” Johnny was beginning to get more than a little annoyed.
Roy grinned and tried to change the subject. “So Johnny, how did it go with your arm?”
“Fine, fine... a couple of stitches.”
“I’m sure it was more than a couple the way it was bleeding. Remember to keep it dry and I can change the dressing for you when it needs to be done.”
“I’m sure June would like to be your nurse too!” Chet suggested.
Johnny rolled his eyes and slumped in his seat, anxious to get back to the station and try to get away from Chet.
Back at the station Chet had practically leapt out of the squad, anxious to go tell the rest of the crew their run-in with June at the hospital.
“For crying out loud Chet...do you have to tell everyone?” Johnny hollered after him as Chet ran into the kitchen.
“You bet!” He replied over his shoulder.
Johnny shook his head and ran his hand through his thick hair. Roy walked up beside him.
“You know, it’s all in fun Junior.”
“Maybe it’s because you seem to be the one to attract all the ladies,” Roy said with a grin.
“Oh ha, ha, very funny Roy.”
“Well think of it this way Junior, at the end of this shift we are off for 2 days. I’m sure by then the guys will have forgotten all about it.”
“Ha! I doubt it,” Johnny scoffed and made his way into the dorm, trying to avoid the guys.
On the next shift, Johnny walked into a quiet station. He noticed in the parking lot that everyone else was already there. Where was everyone?
He looked around the empty dorm and then kitchen. As he was making his way back out into the bay all of the men, except Cap, came prancing out of the latrine, in single file, each one batting their eyelashes.
“What the heck?” Johnny asked. Then he noticed as they walked closer, each man had on fake eyelashes.
“We wanted lush thick eyelashes like you!” Chet admitted as he came close to Johnny so Johnny could get a better look.
“We want to attract the ladies like you do,” Marco said, batting his eyelashes at Johnny.
Even Roy and Mike had a pair on and were grinning at Johnny.
“Come on guys! Really??” Johnny asked.
Cap, who had come out of his office, was smiling at the group, but knew they had to get back to business.
“Ok you twits, take off the eyelashes and get ready for roll call and make sure those stay hidden. I don’t want the chief showing up thinking we are drag queens or something.”
The men laughed and agreed.
Once the other guys had dispersed Johnny asked, a little hurt, “Roy even you?”
“Junior, like I told you, it’s all in fun. Don’t let it upset you.”
Johnny knew they were just having fun but he still felt like he was the victim, yet again.
It was a busy day with numerous runs including a heart attack, broken leg, injured toddler, stabbing victim and a warehouse structure fire.
By evening Roy and Johnny were filthy and exhausted. As they were about to get cleaned up the tones sounded yet again.
Station 51, engine 32...traffic accident...Canyon Road...time out 19:40.
The squad made their way towards the scene with Big Red following behind. The sun was setting, casting a pink and purple splash of color on the horizon.
Upon arriving at the scene they could see engine 32 had already arrived and were assessing the situation. Several of the crew were standing by the broken guardrail, looking over the edge of the cliff.
Cap and the rest of his crew jogged over to join the men.
“What do we got?” Cap asked as he peered over the ledge.
“It looks like the car went off the road and is barely clinging to that outcropping down there and below that is the river. One wrong move and the car goes over, with the victim. I don’t see how it is still hanging on as it is,” Captain Bourget from station 32 admitted.
Cap could see the car teetering on the edge far over the cliff. Beyond that was the raging river, the rough water swirling and bubbling as it cuts its path through the canyon.
Cap nodded. “Is there any way to tie it off? Do you think we can tie it to the engines?”
“I think that is the best bet, assuming we can get down there in time. We also don’t have much daylight left and that car could go any minute.”
Cap agreed and turned to his best rescue men.
“Roy, John, get your gear and grab the ropes. We need to tie off that car before we can attempt a rescue. Chet go with them. They are going to need the extra help.”
Johnny ran to grab his gear. As he slung the rope over his shoulder, it rubbed against his arm where it had been cut. It was healing but still sore. The stitches were to be removed in another week.
Chet, Roy and Johnny attached their safety belts.
The rest of the crew secured their ropes to the engine.
“What will we do if the ropes don’t reach? That’s a long way down there,” Johnny asked Roy as they made their way to the edge of the cliff, ropes in hand.
“We might have to tie them together,” Roy suggested.
At that moment, the car moaned and inched a few feet closer to the edge.
“We need to get down there now!” Johnny urged.
With their ropes tied to the engine, the 3 men began rappelling down the cliff. They were almost to the car, within 6 feet of it, when they ran out of rope. It was not long enough to reach the car.
“Shit!’ Johnny cussed. “If we had just a few more feet!”
“We need to have them send down more rope and tie them together,” Roy suggested.
At that moment the car inched a little further to the edge. The car began rocking back and forth, the front end pointing towards the raging river 50 feet below.
“We don’t have time for that,” Johnny said as he unclipped his safety belt and leapt next to the car, staggering a little as he landed.
“Johnny!” Roy yelled as Johnny teetered near the edge for a moment trying to catch his balance. His hand finally rested on the car.
“What the hell are you doing Gage?” Chet piped up. “Are you nuts?”
Johnny didn’t respond as he peered into the car.
“Looks like a young woman. She is unconscious. I’m going to check for a pulse.”
“Johnny, this is not safe...we need to tie off this car!” Roy demanded.
Johnny continued to ignore him as he climbed carefully into the back seat, took off his glove and felt the young woman’s neck.
“She has a pulse!” He hollered.
Chet and Roy looked at each other with disbelief to what Johnny was doing.
“I am going to try to pull her out from the back seat! I am not sure of her injuries! I am going to take her out! This car is going to go!”
As Johnny leaned forward to grab the young woman under the arms, she began to wake up. She started moaning and slowly opened her eyes as she took in her surroundings. She saw and felt the car teetering over the edge, with the raging river below.
“What?” She asked as she felt Johnny’s arms under her own, her head and leg throbbing.
“What is going on? Where am I? OH MY GOD!” She began moving around. The car groaned and rocked.
“STAY STILL! CALM DOWN!” Johnny demanded.
“Oh my god! I don’t want to die! Help me!” She pleaded and she began to sob.
“Look,” Johnny explained, “I am going to pull you into the back seat and get you out of this car! We need to hurry!”
“Johnny get out of there!” Roy boomed.
“Gage!” Chet hollered.
Johnny did not have time to take safety precautions with the young woman. He grabbed her under the arms and in one swift movement, yanked her over the front seat and into the back seat, then shoved her out of the car door onto the outcropping. She landed on her hands and knees, with a painful cry. Johnny was halfway out of the back seat of the car when it gave a final lurch and started to plummet to the river. He tried to make a jump for it, when he realized the sleeve of his turnout was caught on the handle of the door. In that one second, he locked eyes with Roy, blue met brown, both filled with terror. Then the car made its descent into the river with Johnny trapped inside.
“JOHNNY!” Both Roy and Chet screamed.
Up at the top, the rest of the crew knew what had happened.
“LA,” Cap began, speaking into his walkie talkie, trying to keep his voice steady. “We have a code I at our location. We are going to need water rescue sent to this scene.”
“Stay there!” Roy ordered the young woman. “Don’t move, I am coming to get you.” He then unclipped his safety belt and jumped onto the outcropping, almost losing his balance and going over the cliff himself.
“Roy! Be careful!” Chet yelled, as he continued to scan the water for any sign of Johnny.
“I can’t reach the rope from here. I am going to stay with her. Tell them to rig up the stokes, with ropes long enough to pull us up, and tell Cap we need to get down there and search for Johnny!”
“Got it!” Chet replied, then dug the walkie talkie out of his pocket and began relaying the message to Cap.
Johnny felt the rush of wind inside the car as it plummeted downward. He could hear Roy and Chet screaming his name. He clung onto the front seat in horror as the car plunged into the river.
The force of the landing caused him to smash his head onto the ceiling of the car. Even though his helmet was still on, the impact caused him to black out for a moment. With a throbbing head, he realized the car was quickly filling with water, the current swift.
He tossed the helmet off of his head and wiggled out of his turnout. He held his breath, and squeezed through the back window. He then tried to make his way to the surface.
The current was fast and strong. What he thought was the surface was not. He was running out of air. He tumbled and tossed under the water, his lungs burning. Finally, he had to take a breath. He made one more attempt to get to the surface and at last broke through. He gulped greedily at the air, trying to fill his starved lungs, all the while being carried downriver in the rough water.
He tried to start to swim to the shore but the current was strong. Suddenly he slammed into a hidden rock beneath the surface, his side and arm exploding into pain. He began to once again sink into the dark, churning water.
From the ledge above, Cap and the rest of the crews did not see Johnny get out of the car. By the time he came to the surface, he had been carried downstream, around a bend.
“We need to get water rescue down there now!” Cap boomed.
“Hank, there is barely any daylight left. Do you really think we can search in the dark?” Captain Bourget from engine 32 asked.
“My junior paramedic is down there in that water and I’m going to do my best to find him!” Cap said sternly. “What is the best way to get to the edge of that river from here?”
Captain Bourget sighed, “I think if we go back down the Canyon road and take the Edgecomb road it should give us access to the river.”
“Right… I’ll call in to dispatch to tell them to meet us there, and to bring search lights.”
Captain Bourget nodded, but felt like it was a waste of time. Gage had surely not survived the fall or at the very least had drowned, but he knew what a close relationship the crew of station 51 had and he would do what he had to do to help them.
As the captains were discussing their plans, the rest of the crew of 32 and 51 had rigged the stokes and were sending it down to Roy and Chet. As they waited for it to arrive Chet fidgeted, literally at the end of his rope.
“When is that stokes going to get down here? We need to find Johnny! What is taking so long?” Chet demanded.
Roy was tending the girl, who had a fractured leg and a large lump forming on her forehead. She was very lucky not to be hurt worse. She moaned in pain.
“I know Chet. Hopefully Cap called in the water rescue team. I haven’t seen anything down there. Have you?”
“No man,” Chet admitted. “But it’s getting too dark to see much of anything.”
Finally the stokes was sent down and Roy and Chet managed to bundle the young woman into it and make their way to the top.
“Cap,” Roy stated after the woman was loaded into the ambulance, “I want to stay here and look for Johnny.” Roy looked at Cap with pleading eyes.
“Did the doc order an IV for your victim Roy?” Cap asked.
“Yes, she has a broken leg and concussion but Cap...Johnny…”
“Roy, you know regulations, I’m sorry Pal, we will do all we can to find him. You need to go with her to the hospital. You are the only paramedic here. Marco will drive the squad in.”
Roy ran his hand through his hair, distraught.
“Cap..” he pleaded again.
“I’m sorry Roy.”
Roy nodded, and made his way to the ambulance.
A frantic Chet was then at Cap’s side. “Cap, we need to go find Johnny! Cap we need to go now!”
“Chet, calm down Pal. Mike is getting our gear packed up and then we will head down to the river. We have water rescue meeting us there.” Cap put a gentle hand on Chet’s shoulder. “We’ll find him Pal.”
Johnny tried to fight his way to the surface once again, but his left arm would not cooperate and his ribs throbbed. He was exhausted from fighting the current. He wanted to give up.
Suddenly he thought of Roy and how much Roy would be disappointed in him. He didn’t want to let Roy down. Somehow he kicked as hard as he could with his legs and pushed with his right arm and almost made it to the surface, but his lungs could not hold out any longer. Just as he was about to break through, he inhaled, choking on the dirty water.
At that moment, a log happened to rub up against him and by some miracle, he latched onto it with his one good arm. He weakly hauled himself on top of it, pulling himself on top of the surface, all the while coughing and gagging.
“Roy…” he pleaded weakly in between coughs. He clung to the log, as the current continued to take him down the river, while darkness fell.
“Get the lights set up over here!” Cap ordered at the river’s edge as darkness began to close over the accident scene.
The car was fully submerged by now but Cap was determined to keep looking for Johnny.
“Let me go look for him Cap,” Chet pleaded.
“Look, I know you want to help, but you are not trained in water rescue. Let’s let the guys do their job that are trained for it,” Cap suggested.
Chet nodded glumly while Mike paced back and forth by the engine, wishing he could do something to help.
The water rescue team, donned in their wet suits and air tanks, held onto the ropes and began to make their way into the river and to the car.
“Do you think he made it out of the car Cap?” Chet asked hopefully.
“I don’t know Pal,” Cap replied, “I guess we are about to find out.”
At Rampart, Roy was in a big hurry to get back to the accident scene.
“Doc,” Roy asked Dr. Brackett after he had helped get the girl settled in the treatment room, “are you okay if I go?”
“All set Roy, and good luck. Keep us posted. We will be waiting to hear from you.”
Roy nodded and quickly exited the room.
Marco was just coming in from parking the squad when Roy jogged out to meet him. “Let’s go.”
A short time later the water rescue team made their way out of the river and onto the shore.
“Well?” Chet demanded as soon as they were close enough to hear.
“He’s not there,” one of the men replied winded, as he removed his goggles. “It is pitch black down there and our lights don’t work that great under the water. We felt around and didn’t feel anything. My guess is that the current pulled him downstream and that is where you will find the body.”
“The BODY??!” The BODY?!” Chet screamed. “What the hell are you talking about? He could still be alive you asshole!”
“Calm down Pal,” Cap said, grabbing his arm.
“Yeah Chet, it’s ok,” Mike agreed.
“No it’s NOT Okay!” Chet continued to yell at the water rescue man. “In case you didn’t realize it, that ‘body’ is one of my best friends and I expect you to treat him like a person, not a corpse!”
“Look, I’m sorry,” the rescue man replied, “All I’m saying is that in this current, and after that fall, it’s doubtful he is still alive. Besides, we can’t find him in the dark. We need to wait until daylight to start looking again.”
“He’s right,” Captain Bourget spoke up. “There is nothing we can do tonight. It is too dark to see anything, even with search lights.”
The men sighed and nodded, knowing that there was little hope of finding Johnny alive.
Roy and Marco caught up with Cap and the rest of the crew a half mile or so down the river from the accident scene. The water rescue crew agreed to meet up with them at first light since they could not search the water in the dark. In the meantime, Cap and his crew, along with the crew of engine 32, continued to search the edge of the river in hopes that Johnny had managed to swim to shore.
“Johnny!” Chet screamed, scanning the riverbank with a large flashlight, walking slowly through the weeds and underbrush.
Roy jogged up beside him. “Have you seen anything? Any sign at all?”
“No man,” Chet said, choking up. “I was such a jerk to him Roy. How could I be such an asshole? What if...if...we never see him again? Why did I pick on him all the time?”
“Chet, he knows you were just kidding around. That is the relationship that the two of you have. It wouldn’t be the same without the phantom at the station.”
Chet nodded, tears slipping down his face. He was thankful for the darkness.
Johnny had no idea how far he had traveled downriver or how much time had passed. His chest was tight and he found it difficult to breathe. His ribs ached and his left arm was useless, the pain immense. Still, he clung weakly onto the log.
The only good thing was that the current was not as strong and the water flowing more smoothly. The full moon reflected on the black water, causing sparkles to dance across the surface. Johnny could barely make out the shore line. With one last effort, he began to kick his feet, in hopes of making his way to the edge.
The crews of 51 and 32 were exhausted. They had been on shift for over 16 hours with very little rest, but they were determined to continue their search.
It was the middle of the night and they had made their way down the riverbank scanning both sides of the river with their lights, calling for Johnny.
“I think we need to take a break,” Cap sighed. He knew everyone was exhausted and discouraged.
“But Cap, the sooner we find him, the sooner he can get medical help,” Chet pleaded. “He is probably injured.”
“I know Pal but we can’t help him if we collapse ourselves. Let’s get some food and coffee and then we can continue the search.”
The men reluctantly agreed and Cap called into dispatch to have some food and coffee sent to the rescue site.
Johnny panted in pain as he made his final kicks to the riverbank. At last he could feel the soft muck beneath his feet. With his last bit of energy he crawled his way out of the water and collapsed onto the bank. Then all was black.
The men sat under the moonlit sky sipping coffee and munching on sandwiches. Johnny had been missing for over 4 hours.
“I can’t believe we are sitting here eating while Johnny needs us,” Chet complained quietly to Roy, so Cap couldn’t hear.
“I know Chet, but he’s right. We won’t do him any good if we can’t stand up. I am worried about him too.”
Roy went over to get more coffee, leaving Chet alone. Chet was determined to find Johnny, so he set off on his own.
The men finished eating, and were about to begin their search once again when Mike asked, “Hey, where’s Chet?”
All the men looked around, as far as they could see in the dark.
“He was just with me a few minutes ago,” Roy admitted.
“That twit! Well at least he has a walkie talkie with him. I’m sure he didn’t get far,” Cap remarked. “Let’s get going.”
“C’mon Johnny, you have got to be here somewhere,” Chet said to himself as he scanned the riverbank with his flashlight. “I am not giving up on you man.”
Chet felt like a jerk for teasing Johnny so much. He wanted to apologize. He knew Johnny was one of the best rescue men and paramedics in the county and he only joked with him to kid around. He really did care about him.
If only he could get the chance to say how sorry he was…
At last the sky became pink with the hint of dawn and the exhausted men could see without the lights. The water rescue team made their way back to the river and began making dives to the bottom, the best they could in the strong current. They tied off safety lines to shore so they also would not be swept away.
The crews of 51 and 32 continued on their search, knowing that they were only on duty for a few more hours. Whether they were on duty or not, the crew of 51 was staying until the job was finished, one way or another.
Chet was noticing how the sky was splashed with purple and pink, the white puffy clouds outlined with an orange glow. Chet thought of how much Johnny would enjoy taking a picture of the beautiful sunrise to add to his art collection. Suddenly, he could see a dark figure on the bank several yards away. Could it be?
In a burst of energy he began to run. As he got closer, he could indeed see it was Johnny.
“JOHNNY!” Chet knelt next to him. Johnny was covered in mud, his hair plastered to his pale face. His arm twisted and discolored, with several of his recent stitches ripped away, exposing the gash once again to his forearm.
Chet felt his neck for a pulse. It was faint and rapid. He also noticed Johnny breathing raspy and shallow.
“Johnny! Can you hear me?” Chet placed a warm hand on Johnny’s cool forehead and brushed away some of the hair clumped with muck. He did not respond.
Chet then dug his walkie talkie out of his pocket.
“Cap, I found him! He’s alive!”
“How is he man?” Chet yelled over the roar of the helicopter blades while he hovered next to Roy. He had insisted that he stay with Johnny on the trip to Rampart since he was the one that found him.
“I don’t know Chet. His lungs sound bad. Between the broken ribs and the water he swallowed, he is in rough shape, not to mention his arm.”
Roy had told Chet earlier that Johnny probably had a broken humerus and possible broken shoulder. He could also tell by the blackened rib cage that Johnny most likely had several broken ribs.
Dr. Brackett had ordered IVs and oxygen and was anxiously awaiting for Johnny to arrive. Roy had also splinted his arm and wrapped a new bandage around the gash on his forearm.
As the helicopter was about to land, Johnny began to stir.
He cracked open his eyes to see Roy and Chet hovering above him. He could hear the loud whir of the helicopter as it landed. Roy gently took his hand.
“Hey Junior, glad to see you awake,” Roy grinned.
Johnny tried to speak but felt like he could not get enough air to do so. His lungs were tight and the pain immense. It was much easier to not try...and let the blackness creep in again.
“Johnny...hey pal…” Chet began.
“Sorry Chet, he’s out again,” Roy confirmed.
“Did he regain consciousness at all Roy?” Brackett asked with a scowl as he flashed his penlight into Johnny’s eyes. He could hear Johnny wheezing through the oxygen mask.
“Just very briefly when we were landing,” Roy responded with a frown.
“So will he be ok doc?” Chet questioned, standing a little too close. Brackett was overpowered with the scent of mud and sweat.
Brackett scowled. “I haven’t finished my exam yet...look why don’t the two of you wait in the waiting room? It’s getting a little too crowded in here.”
“Come on boys,” Dixie encouraged, “you are both a mess and exhausted. Why don’t you go get some coffee and we will tell you as soon as we know anything.” She gently took each one by an elbow and led them to the door.
“Doc, tell us as SOON as you know anything ok?” Chet pleaded, over his shoulder.
“Will do…now get outta here.”
Reluctantly, Johnny and Roy made their way to the waiting area for some much needed coffee.
About an hour later, Brackett found the crew of 51 in the waiting room. They were covered in mud and sweat, each sporting blood shot eyes and disheveled hair. They crowded around him and once again Brackett was overpowered with men that badly needed to shower.
“WELL?!” Chet demanded, his bloodshot eyes wide and eager.
“How is he doc?” Roy questioned softly.
“You were right Roy,” Brackett began with a frown, “his humerus and shoulder are broken and will require surgery. He has some broken ribs but luckily none of them punctured the lung. His lungs are congested and I am hoping he does not get pneumonia. We will start him on antibiotics right away. We will need to take him to surgery to repair that arm before there is permanent damage. I will have our best ortho doctor work on him…Look, I know you guys are worried about him, but you have been awake for over 24 hours, and not to be rude, but you stink. Go home, shower and sleep. I will call Roy if anything changes.”
The men nodded and sighed.
“Doc,” Chet asked hopefully, “is he awake? I really need to talk to him.”
“Sorry Chet,” Brackett replied, “he is still unconscious. It will be quite some time before he is awake. Go home and rest.” Brackett put a comforting hand on Chet’s shoulder.
Chet glumly nodded. He still had not had a chance to apologize to Johnny and he so badly wanted to.
“The doctor’s right,” Cap began, “let’s all get some rest. We know he is in good hands now. We are all off for two days, so let’s stay in touch and we can come see him again soon.”
The men agreed and began to make their way to the exit.
“I’ll see you later,” Roy said to the guys as they began to leave. “I want to ask the doc a question.”
The exhausted men made their way out the door, hoping to hear good news about Johnny when they returned.
“What is it Roy?” Brackett asked. Roy looked terrible. Brackett noticed his eyes rimmed with red, dark rings beneath them from lack of sleep.
“I was wondering if I could see Johnny for a minute before you take him to surgery? I wanted to see him without the other guys. Is that ok?”
Brackett knew the special bond that Roy and Johnny shared.
“Sure Roy,” Brackett agreed with a small smile. “They are getting him cleaned up before we take him upstairs. After that, you need to get some rest.”
Roy nodded and made his way into the treatment room where Dixie and another nurse, named Sue, were gently washing some of the mud and grime off of Johnny. He was still unconscious. Roy could see his distorted arm, blackened ribs and hear his shallow wheezing through the oxygen mask.
“Roy would like a minute with Johnny.” Brackett informed them.
“Oh sure Roy,” Dixie replied with a warm smile. “Don’t worry, Johnny will be ok,” she added as they left the room.
“Make it quick Roy,” Brackett said as he walked out the door, “we need to get him upstairs.”
“Sure thing doc.”
Roy gently took the hand of Johnny’s good arm.
“You know Junior,” he began, “you need to stop risking your life like this. Yeah sure, you saved your victim, yet again, but what were you thinking? We almost lost you. I know that you can’t hear me, but you need to hang in there and get better. Chet is worried sick about you and is driving all of us crazy, even more so than usual!” Roy smiled, but had tears in his eyes. “I am going home for a bit, but I will be back. Take care, Junior. I love you pal.”
Roy squeezed Johnny’s hand gently, and left the room.
Johnny had begun to awaken while Roy talked, but he didn’t quite have the energy to respond in any way. The last thought he had before he slipped away yet again was, ‘I love you too Pally.’
Roy opened the door to his house to be met by his wife, Joanne, who had heard him pull into the driveway. Roy had called her from the hospital and told her about Johnny.
“Roy!” She ran over and hugged him warmly, then stood back and looked him over. “Oh sweetheart, you look exhausted. Let me make you something to eat and then you need to go get some rest. How is Johnny doing?”
“He was holding his own when I left. I hated to leave him Joanne.” Tears formed in his red rimmed eyes.
“I know honey, but you need to rest. You said he was in surgery right? I’m sure they will call when he is out. Come on, let me get you some lunch.” She started to guide him into the kitchen, but he stopped her.
“I’m really not hungry. I’m going to shower and try to get a nap in before the kids get home from school. I hope I can sleep.” Joanne nodded as Roy wearily trudged up the stairs and into the bathroom.
Not long after, he lay in his bed staring at the ceiling praying Johnny was doing ok in surgery. He wanted to be there, but knew he had to get some rest. At last, he closed his eyes and drifted off into a restless sleep.
Meanwhile, in his apartment, Chet had showered and was pacing back and forth in his tiny living room.
“Dammit, why did we have to leave the hospital?…” he muttered to himself… “I know if I go back they will just kick me out and tell me I need to rest. I don’t want to rest! I want to talk to Johnny!” The guilt continued to eat away at him. He glared at the phone, willing it to ring telling him that Johnny was out of surgery and was awake.
“Arrghh! I can’t stand this!” Restless, he grabbed his keys and headed out the door.
Johnny’s lifeless eyes stared up into the rising sun. His usually tan face ghastly white, mouth agape. Dirty river water slowly trickled from his mud soaked hair. They were too late!
“NO!!!” Roy screamed and bolted upright in bed. Joanne ran to his side.
His heart was beating wildly, sweat running down his face.
“Roy,” Joanne soothed, “you were having a bad dream. Are you ok?”
“Oh God Joanne!” He gasped. “It was Johnny, we found him but it was too late.” Roy broke down and Joanne wrapped her arms around him. “It was so real,” he sobbed.
“Oh sweetheart, I’m sure he will be fine. You have only been asleep for an hour. Why don’t you rest some more.”
“No,” Roy said sternly, wiping at his eyes, “I need to get back there. I’m sorry Jo, you could come with me if the kids weren’t going to be home soon. I will call you from the hospital when I know something. I need to be there.”
Joanne nodded, knowing she couldn’t stop him when he had his mind set, especially about his best friend, but she knew he was exhausted.
“Drive safely Roy, and please, call me when you get there. You really shouldn’t be driving.”
“Ok honey.” He kissed her and made his way down the stairs.
Roy had made it about halfway to Rampart when he came upon a traffic accident. At an intersection, a car had run a red light and, to avoid another car, smashed into a telephone pole. Roy did a double take. “Geez that looks like Chet’s car,” he thought out loud.
At that moment he could see the victim being loaded into the ambulance. Roy’s stomach did a flip when he realized it was indeed Chet. He quickly pulled over and put on his hazard lights.
He ran up to the ambulance as the door was closing. He recognized the paramedic from squad 18.
“Hey Bill,” Roy began right before Bill gave the customary 2 slaps to signal the ambulance ready for transport.
“Oh hi Roy, guess you noticed it is Chet huh?”
“Yeah, how is he?”
“Got a nasty bump on his forehead and he hasn’t come around yet. Other than that, he seems ok, with what we can see. Luckily he was wearing his seat belt.”
“Great,” Roy sighed, “I am on my way to Rampart myself. I will see you there.”
“What was he doing even driving?” Dr. Early pondered as he shone his penlight into Chet’s eyes. “I thought Kel told me he sent all of them home and told them to rest?”
“I guess he didn’t listen,” Dix replied. “I heard that Roy is in the waiting room too.”
“Those firemen sure can be stubborn!” Dr. Early stated.
“Yeah, well they all have a close bond,” Dixie admitted. “When one of them is hurt, they all want to be here for each other.”
Dr. Early nodded. “Let’s do a full skull series but I don’t suspect a skull fracture.”
As he was giving that order, Chet began to moan.
“What happened?” He asked as he gingerly touched his forehead. His head throbbed to the beat of his heart.
“You were in a traffic accident but you will be ok,” Dixie replied.
“Did I hurt anyone? Why can’t I remember what happened? The last thing I remember was...I was waiting for the phone to ring...is Johnny ok? How is he?” Chet began to get up off the exam table. Suddenly the room began to spin.
“Hold on Chet,” Dr. Early began, “you are not going anywhere. Lay right where you are.” He gently pushed Chet back down.
Chet agreed since he could not seem to stand up anyway without falling on his face.
“You did not hurt anyone,” Dixie continued, “you hit a telephone pole and hit your head. The last I heard Johnny made it through surgery. Kel was with him. As soon as he is out of recovery we will let Roy see him. Now you need to rest and we need to take x-rays.”
“Ok,” Chet sighed, “Thank God...Dixie I have been such a jerk… that day with that woman June...how I pushed Johnny into having a date with her and he was so mad at me...why do I do those things Dix? Why am I such a jerk to him all the time? What if he doesn’t make it?” Chet’s eyes began to water.
“Now you listen Chet,” Dixie said sternly, “Johnny loves you just the way you are. Sure he might say you are on him all the time but that is the way it is with the two of you. Remember when he got bit by the rattlesnake? You were right there by his side. And what about when he got hit by that car? I think you were just as worried as Roy. Now relax, he will be fine, and he cares about you. Just as much as you care about him.”
Chet nodded, trying not to let the tears slip down his face. His head continued to pound.
Dr. Early had been listening to the whole conversation. “Ok Chet, do as Dixie says and relax. I am going to send x-ray in and then you are going to get some rest. I am going to give you a very mild sedative. I can’t give you anything too strong because of your injury.”
“NO! Don’t put me out! I need to talk to Johnny!” Chet pleaded.
“You will… but not tonight, and that is your doctor’s orders. You are exhausted and injured,” Dr. Early replied sternly.
“Ok doc.” Chet gave in, wishing he could speed up time so he could see Johnny.
Two days later found Chet and Roy sitting beside Johnny’s ICU bed. Chet had been released after 24 hours. Johnny continued to be sedated and on the ventilator. He had begun to run a fever and Dr. Brackett felt like it was best to keep him sedated to try to fight the infection in his lungs. The surgery on his arm had gone well and it was then put in traction.
“How is he doing?” Dr. Brackett asked as he came into the ICU cubicle and picked up his chart.
“No change,” Roy admitted, wiping a hand across his gritty eyes. In the past 72 hours he had gotten very little sleep. He was supposed to be on duty but had called in to take some vacation time. Chet had done the same. They both wanted to be there for Johnny.
“I think the last they checked his temp was still around 102,” Roy continued.
“Hmm…” Dr. Brackett frowned, “a little better than it was yesterday, but not much. I think we will continue with this antibiotic and give it one more day. If there is no change we will have to possibly change his meds.”
Brackett looked at Roy and Chet. Both were beyond exhausted. Neither had shaven, but Brackett had forced them to shower and eat. He also knew they had not slept much. Chet had a large bruise across his forehead but was lucky he was not hurt worse in the accident.
“You know, I can contact you when I remove him from sedation. You don’t need to be here all the time,” Brackett commented.
“Yes we do Doc,” Chet admitted. “I need to be here.”
“We’re fine Doc,” Roy added.
Dr. Brackett scowled again. “You both sure are stubborn,” he muttered as he made his way out of the cubicle.
It was three days later when Johnny’s fever finally broke and Dr. Brackett was ready to take him off of the ventilator. In the meantime, all of the crew of station 51 had gone to see him several times, but none as much as Roy and Chet.
They both stood by his side anxiously awaiting for him to finally be conscious.
Once the sedation had been lessened, Johnny began to stir. He cracked open his eyes and started to gag on the vent.
“Johnny, don’t fight the vent,” Roy said gently, holding his hand.
“Ok Johnny,” Brackett began, “you know the routine. I am going to have you cough while I remove it. I know it will hurt. Do the best you can.”
Cindy, the ICU nurse on duty, was there to assist.
Johnny tried to cough but he was so weak not much came out. He gagged as it was removed, the pain in his ribs agonizing.
He panted and moaned in pain.
“Ok Cindy,” Dr. Brackett ordered. “Let’s give him some pain meds to allow him to rest.”
“Wait!” Chet pleaded. “I need to talk to him before he goes out again!”
“Chet it can wait,” Roy commented, “he is in pain.”
Johnny gazed at Chet with pain filled eyes, then at Roy. He had no idea how long he had been out but they both looked like hell.
He tried to speak, but still did not have the energy to do so.
“Sorry Chet,” Brackett stated, “that will have to wait. Go ahead Cindy.” Cindy nodded and inserted the meds into the IV port. Johnny began to relax and slip into a healing sleep.
The next day Johnny was finally starting to wake up on his own. Roy had gone home for a quick visit with his wife and kids. He promised to be back in a few hours.
Chet pulled his chair closer as he saw Johnny begin to awaken.
“Johnny, hey pal...how are you feeling?”
Johnny didn’t know where to begin. His throat was sore and dry, his chest tight, and his shoulder down to his wrist throbbed.
“Umm...ok,” he croaked. “Water?”
“Sure Pal.” Chet grabbed the cup and held the straw to Johnny’s lips.
“Where’s Roy?” Johnny whispered, scanning the cubicle.
“He went home to see Joanne and the kids but he will be back soon.”
“What happened...to you?” Johnny croaked again. He could see the large purple bruise across Chet’s forehead.
“Oh nothing...I’m fine...hey listen...I need to talk to you...I...I’m so sorry man...for everything...when we couldn’t find you for so long...I didn’t know if we WOULD find you...and I thought...what if I never see you again...I have been such a jerk...I’m so sorry man!” Chet fought back the tears. “I promise, from now on, no more phantom, no more jokes, I will be a better friend. Can you forgive me?”
“Chet,” Johnny tried to speak, but it came out in more of a whisper.. “Don’t worry...I...forgive you...I get tired of it...sometimes....but I know...it’s all...in fun…”
Johnny began to cough. It was exhausting trying to have a conversation.
Johnny got tired of Chet picking on him at times but the thought of him being serious and a bit sappy would be too strange.
“Here, have some more water,” Chet offered.
“Besides…” Johnny continued once the coughing was under control, “it would be...weird for you...to be normal.”
Chet grinned. He noticed Johnny’s eyes beginning to droop.
“Ok Pal, I will let you get some more rest. I will tell Roy that you were awake for awhile. Thanks Johnny…”
Johnny weakly nodded, his eyes closing.
One week later Johnny was in a regular room and out of ICU. His arm was still in a cast from shoulder to wrist but no longer in traction. He was surrounded by the crew of 51, engaged in conversation, when there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Johnny offered. His eyes widened in shock and surprise when in walked June. Roy rolled his eyes and Chet grinned.
“Hello there!” She said sweetly, walking in carrying a large container of soup. “I heard that you were here and I wanted to bring by some of my chicken noodle soup.”
She placed the container on the table and then looked around at the stunned men. She noticed how handsome they all were.
“Hi everyone,” she smiled, “My name is June and you must be Johnny’s friends...my how handsome you all are!”
The guys smiled back, some turning pink with her compliments.
“But not as handsome as Johnny here!” She beamed at him. “Do you know he did a great job bandaging my thumb..now look,” she held it out , “it is almost all healed...but poor Johnny...how much longer will you be in here? When you get out I can cook you a nice big steak!”
The guys stood by in disbelief, until Chet piped up, protecting Johnny. “Now look, Johnny is too nice to tell you this but…”
“Chet!” Johnny interrupted him. “It’s ok.” Johnny did not want to hurt her feelings, especially in front of the whole crew… but he wasn’t sure what to do.
Chet looked at Johnny confused, then decided it might be fun to tease Johnny, just a little...after all...it was all in fun.
“Oh Johnny, I forgot what a ladies man you are. Let’s leave the two of you alone so you can get to know each other better.” Chet began to push his crew mates out the door. They grinned back at Johnny, Chet giving him a wink.
“Wait! Guys!” Johnny yelled, hoping they would not leave him alone with her. She quickly ran to his bed and snuggled up next to him. “Guys!….Roy!... Come back!”
Posted To Site 7/10/17
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