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READERS: HERE IS ANOTHER STORY I HOPE YOU ENJOY. AS ALWAYS, IT IS NICE TO HEAR FROM YOU. :)
Johnny watched the thin river of blood meander its way across the uneven floor, and pool by the boxes stored under the window. His side throbbed and burned. He tried to shift his weight to get more comfortable but as he did so he could feel another slight gush of blood come out of the wound, adding more blood to the river.
“Roy,” he said weakly, but urgently. He stretched out his right foot as far as he could and gently poked Roy with the tip of his shoe. He wished he could check on him but since his hands were tied behind his back and then tied to a post, it was the best that he could do.
Roy had been unconscious for awhile now and Johnny could see his swollen eye and cheek where he had been struck by the glass jar.
“Roy,” he tried again, poking Roy in the shoulder with his toe a little harder.
“Ahhh…” Roy groaned weakly, blinking his eyes trying to get up, realizing he was lying on his stomach with his hands tied behind his back as well. His face throbbed.
“Johnny?” He strained his neck to try to look at Johnny in the dim light but he didn’t have the energy quite yet to try to pick himself up while being tied.
“Roy, are you ok? I can’t move. They tied me...to a post.”
Roy could see the dark stain on Johnny’s shirt and then noticed the river of blood.
“My God Johnny, you’re bleeding a lot. Dammit, I need to get up.” Roy’s head was pounding but he somehow managed to get himself to his knees. The room began to spin and he closed his eyes, trying to orient himself.
“Pally? You ok?”
“Yeah, just trying to wait for the ride to stop.” Roy cracked open his eyes and glanced around the dirty basement.
“Have you seen anything that we can use to try to stop the bleeding?”
“I’m not sure...it’s getting dark and harder to see. There might be...some rags in the corner somewhere. It’s getting cold too.”
Roy knew it wasn’t that cold but Johnny was losing blood and probably going into shock.
“Ok, I will try to see if I can find something. How long was I out anyway?”
“Not sure...maybe an hour...hard to tell. They said they would be back later...not sure what that means.”
Roy stood on shaky legs and began his search the best he could with a throbbing head, but he was more concerned about Johnny.
“How are you feeling? Are you in a lot of pain?”
“Not too bad if I don’t move. It’s a burning pain, but it is still bleeding some.”
In the corner, by some paint cans, Roy found some rags. He knew they were not sanitary but it was something. He bent down and grabbed them and made his way over to Johnny.
“Hey Junior, I found some rags. I am going to try to sit beside you and pack them as tightly as I can in the wound. It’s going to hurt and doing it with my hands behind my back is going to make it even harder.”
“I know Pally,” Johnny replied weakly, “just do it.”
Roy got down on his knees and sat down next to Johnny and wiggled himself back as far as he could. He turned and looked behind him and stuffed the rags in the wound as tightly as he could to try to stop the bleeding. Johnny hissed in pain.
“That’s ok... Thanks.”
Roy turned to look at Johnny and could see his eyes squeezed shut in pain. Roys wrists burned and felt raw from the all of the movement against the ropes trying to help Johnny, but if it helped him, it was worth it.
“Who are these guys anyway?” Roy whispered to himself.
It was nearly 6 months earlier that station 51 was called out to a late night structure fire. Upon arriving at the scene, squad 32 was assisting 2 young men in their late teens that had suffered smoke inhalation. They were fighting the oxygen, struggling to free themselves to try to get back in the house since their parents were still inside.
“Look, you can’t go in there. We have other crews that will get your parents out. Now stay still and take the oxygen,” Ron, a paramedic from station 32 coaxed.
“Johnny, Roy, there’s a man and woman still trapped inside, they think they might be in the upstairs bedrooms. We have hoses inside but it is getting unstable. Make it quick,” Cap ordered.
Johnny and Roy nodded and once their gear was in place, trotted to the house.
“We had better stick together. Smoke looks real thick,” Johnny suggested.
Roy gave the thumbs up and they made their way inside, with spray from the hoses showering them from behind.
The first bedroom proved no luck but once they made their way into the second bedroom they saw the woman lying on the floor, not moving. Roy went over and scooped her up into a fireman’s carry.
“ I need to get her out of here! The fire is spreading pretty fast,” he hollered to Johnny through his mask. “You should go too. I don’t think we have time to look for the man!”
“Let me just look in the last bedroom!” Johnny yelled back.
“I’ll be right behind you!”
Roy was hesitant about leaving Johnny but he knew his victim came first. He nodded and headed down the smoke filled hallway towards the exit.
Johnny made his way into the last bedroom and saw the man unconscious on the floor. He did not have time to check for a pulse as the fire was spreading rapidly, the smoke thick.
As he hoisted him over his shoulder the ceiling began groaning. Johnny made a mad dash down the hallway, straining with the 200 plus pound man over his shoulder.
He almost made it to the stairs when the ceiling came crashing down. The last thought he had was that he was thankful Roy was out of the building. Then all went black.
When the rescue men went in to find Johnny, they found a heap of smoldering boards, with Johnny’s gloved hand poking out at the bottom.
The victim had landed a few feet away. As the men approached him, they could see a beam had hit him squarely in the head, splitting open his skull. It was a gruesome sight, even for the experienced firemen. The rest of his body was covered heavily in boards and debris. They knew they did not have time to recover him at that moment.
“We need to leave him!” Chet hollered.
“Johnny has a pulse!” Marco stood from kneeling next to Johnny. “We need to get out of here fast before more of this building comes down!”
Chet nodded and he and Marco, along with the rescue men from engine 32, began heaving boards and debris off of their fallen man.
“Let’s grab and go!” Chet stated as the men picked up Johnny and made their way out of the building as more of it started to collapse.
Outside, Roy was tending the woman, who was starting to come around. Her frantic sons crowded around her, trying to comfort her as she became aware that her husband was still in the house.
“Henry!” She sobbed. Cough...cough… “Where is he? Why haven’t they taken him out yet?”
“Yeah, what is taking so long?!” One of the young men asked. “He should be out by now!”
“They are doing the best they can,” Roy said, his concern growing by the moment. “Ma’am, you need to leave on this oxygen.”
At that moment, the men emerged with Johnny. The house made a loud crash as it folded in on itself, flames shooting brightly into the night sky.
“HENRY!” Where is he??” The woman wailed between coughs.
One of the paramedics from squad 32 stepped in and tried to comfort the woman while trying to get her continue taking the oxygen.
“DAD!” The boys screamed in unison.
One of them made a mad dash towards the house, but Cap grabbed him in a stronghold.
“Son, I’m sorry,” Cap said softly.
The men placed Johnny carefully on a yellow blanket. He was starting to regain consciousness as Roy made his way to his side. He gasped when he saw Johnny’s pants, which were smoldering from the knees down, burnt cloth exposing blackened skin.
Johnny began moaning in pain. His legs were burning. They were on fire! His head was throbbing and his body ached but his legs felt like the skin was melting off.
“Arggh!” He groaned in agony, squirming away from Roy’s touch.
“Easy Johnny you’ll be ok,” Roy soothed, his hands shaking as he helped remove Johnny’s gear. “Marco, grab the burn pack!”
Marco rushed to get the burn pack as Cap contacted Rampart.
Suddenly, the young men were hovering above them.
“Where is our Dad?!” One of them demanded. “You left him in there?! Where is he??”
He glared at Johnny, waiting for him to respond.
“Look, they did all that they could. They tried their best. Please back off, he needs medical help,” Roy stated while tending to Johnny.
Johnny glanced at Marco, who sadly shook his head.
“I’m...so sorry.” Johnny said softly while trying to battle the agonizing pain.
“You bastard! You selfish jerk! You call yourself a fireman! You are a WASTE!” One of the young men continued yelling at Johnny and the rest of the firemen, until the police had to intervene and lead him away from the scene.
Johnny squeezed his eyes shut wishing he could block out what he was saying but he knew it was true. He deserved the agonizing pain that he was in. He had failed at his job. The victim had not survived and it was his fault.
Johnny spent the next several weeks in the hospital and then therapy recovering from his burns. He would have scars for the rest of his life to remind him of the horrific day when he lost the man in the fire. He kept replaying the scene in his mind, wishing he could have done something differently but he wasn’t sure what. His crewmates were supportive of him and kept assuring him that is wasn’t his fault, but somehow Johnny still felt that it was.
Roy glanced at the tiny basement window and noticed it was getting darker. It was harder to see Johnny in the dim light. He wasn’t even sure if he was conscious.
“How are you doing Junior?” Roy asked scooting closer to him.
“I’m hanging...in there…” he replied weakly. “Wonder when they are...coming back?”
At that moment, they heard heavy footsteps coming down the stairs. Their captors unlocked the door and walked in, one holding a gun, the other a glowing lantern.
“Well, I see you are both alive,” one of them hissed. “That is too bad…but in a way good, since we want you to suffer the way you made our parents suffer.”
The glow from the lantern cast an eerie glow on Roy’s swollen face. As he sat on the damp floor next to Johnny he asked, “Why don’t you tell us who you are? Can’t you explain why you are doing this? What do you think that we did to you? My friend needs medical help. Can you at least untie us so I can help him?” Roy pulled at the ropes around his wrist, feeling the skin being rubbed raw as he did so.
“Who are we? What do you think Jim, should we tell him who we are OR keep them guessing? Guess our parents meant NOTHING to them!” He spat out angrily, giving Roy a solid kick in the ribs.
Roy gasped, bent over with the wind knocked out of him.
“Stop!” Johnny begged weakly. “Please…”
“Oh, who are you to tell us to stop you loser?” Ned glared at him. “YOU are the reason why both of you are here. YOU left our Dad in the fire and made our Mom die a slow death. Now the same will happen to you and your friend!”
Johnny felt his stomach flip as he realized who they were. The man that died in the fire months ago. Of course! How could he forget how distraught the sons were?!
“I’m sorry,” Johnny said softly. “I really am. I think of him every day.”
“Ha!” Ned scoffed. “I’m SURE you do! Do you know what you did to our mother? She survived the fire but she died without him. She was so distraught that within 5 months she had a heart attack and died. I bet you didn’t know that did you FIRE MAN?!” At that, he leaned over and slapped Johnny hard across the face. Johnny’s head slammed back against the post and his cheek stung. For a moment he saw stars.
“Look,” Roy gasped, trying to recover from the kick in the ribs. “We are sorry about your parents, but there is nothing we can do to bring them back. Killing us is not going to do anything except ruin your lives.”
“Ruin our lives?!” Ned screamed. “What do you think you have done? You have taken both of our parents away from us and they meant NOTHING to you!”
In his rage Ned lifted his gun about to strike Roy with it, but at that moment Johnny kicked out as hard as he could and got Ned in the shin. Johnny panted in pain with the effort, his side flaring into white hot fire.
“OW! You bastard!” Ned yelled and raised the gun to strike Johnny instead. As the rifle was heading towards Johnny’s head, Jim, the other brother, pushed Ned causing the butt of the gun to graze against Johnny’s temple instead of full force on the head.
“Wait Ned! We don’t want them dead...yet! Remember, you wanted them to suffer!” Jim cried.
Ned panted, lowering the rifle. “You’re right Jim. I just get so angry!”
Johnny shook his head gently, trying to clear his double vision.
“You ok?” Roy whispered as their captors talked.
“Yeah...I’ll be ok,” Johnny replied softly, his head throbbing and his side burning.
Turning back to Roy and Johnny Ned said, “Enjoy your night, scum. We will be back in the morning.”
With that, he and Jim left, locking the door behind them, and taking the kerosene light with them.
Once they were gone, Roy and Johnny were left alone in the damp, dark basement.
Johnny lay his throbbing head against the post behind him, thinking of how this horrible day had started.
It was a sunny April day when the crew of 51 had started their shift at 8 am. The squad had been called out on several minor runs.
By mid-afternoon Johnny’s stomach was rumbling in the front seat of the squad as he and Roy drove to the hospital to re-stock supplies.
Roy chuckled. “A little hungry Junior?”
“Well yeah, we missed lunch after all. I’m starved! Do you think we can stop and get a burger?”
Roy smiled, glancing at Johnny as he drove. He was like a big kid, his long brown hair blowing in the wind from the open window, excited about getting a burger.
“Sure, why not?” Roy agreed.
“Squad 51,” squawked the radio. “Respond to man down. 15 Elm Street, cross street Danson. Time out, 15:10.”
Johnny scowled while he picked up the radio. “Squad 51.”
“So much for lunch,” he grumbled.
They drove to the address to find an old abandoned warehouse with no one in sight.
“Did we get the address right?” Johnny thought out loud.
“Better double check it,” Roy answered while he parked.
“LA, squad 51, can you repeat the address?”
“10-4 51, 15 Elm Street, cross street Danson.”
“10-4 LA. There doesn’t seem to be anyone here but we will look around.” Johnny placed the mic down and they both made their way out of the squad.
“Well this is strange,” Johnny commented while peeking through the slats of the warehouse, trying to see inside. The doors were bolted shut.
“Do you see anything?” Roy asked, coming up behind him.
Suddenly two men came around the corner of the back of the warehouse, both wearing baseball caps and sunglasses. They urgently waved at Roy and Johnny.
“Hey, over here, our friend is hurt back here! Hurry!” One of them pleaded.
“Ok, let us get our equipment,” Roy said and they jogged back to the squad.
Once there, they grabbed what they needed and trotted over to the 2 men.
“Hurry, he is over here…” Both men quickly went behind the building with Johnny and Roy at their heels.
Once they got to the back, there was nothing to see but a big empty parking lot, scattered with trash. An assortment of weeds poked out through cracked pavement. A short distance away was a parked car, with no one in it.
“Where is he?” Roy asked, a bit winded, scanning the lot with his eyes.
“What?” Johnny said. “What is this all about?”
“Oh, you will find out,” one of them sneered, “when we are good and ready to tell you. But first we go for a ride.”
The young man poked Johnny in the ribs with the gun. “Go get in that car, you too,” he said turning to Roy.
“Wait Ned. Don’t you think we should tie them up? What if they try something while we are riding?”
“Yeah, maybe we should, Jim. Get the rope out of the trunk.”
“Now wait,” Johnny began, “there must be some kind of mistake. We didn’t do anything wrong. Let’s just talk about this.”
“There is nothing to talk about! Just shut up and do like we tell you to do!” Ned punched Johnny hard across the face, splitting his lip open.
Johnny staggered back several steps, but managed to stay on his feet. Blood dripped from his lip and onto the pavement as he gingerly touched it with his finger.
Roy went to his side, hand on his shoulder. “You ok?”
“Yup, but I guess we better do as they say. Looks like we don’t have a choice.” His lip continued to bleed, dripping onto his light blue uniform shirt.
Once Roy and Johnny were tied up they were shoved into the back of the car. Jim drove while Ned peered at them from the front seat, gun aimed at them.
“You so much as move wrong and I will shoot you, understand? You are going to die anyway, so now or later doesn’t matter to me,” Ned stated with anger.
“What? Why? Can’t you tell us what we did, or what you think we did?” Johnny pleaded, his lip beginning to swell, but the bleeding had slowed down.
“I told you, shut up. You will find out when I’m ready to tell you. Now keep your mouth shut!”
Johnny slumped back on his seat and glanced at Roy, knowing there was nothing they could do for now but wait.
Back at the warehouse the squad’s radio came to life. “Squad 51… report your status….squad 51??”
Dispatch became concerned and contacted the police. They also contacted the rest of the crew of station 51 who were mostly at the table, reading the paper and chatting over coffee when the call came in.
Cap hung up the phone, concern written all over his face.
“What is it Cap?” Chet asked from the table.
“Just got a call from dispatch. They can’t reach the squad. They called in to check the address and dispatch confirmed it but they haven’t heard from them since. It’s been close to an hour now. The police have been called to the scene.”
“What can we do Cap?” Mike questioned.
“Not much Pal. We need to stay on duty. We just have to wait and hear from the police. Guess in the meantime I need to call in a replacement for Roy and Johnny.”
“Should we call Joanne?” Marco suggested.
“Let’s wait…”Cap replied, “ I don’t want to upset her if this turns out to be nothing.” But his stomach was already in knots, worried about his missing men.
Inside the car Johnny squirmed in the back seat, trying to find a comfortable position with his hands tied behind his back. The rope was itchy. His lip continued to throb.
“Quit squirming around!” Ned growled at him. “You’re worse than a kid!”
“Where are you taking us?” Roy asked. They had driven miles out of the city and had turned onto a bumpy dirt road.
“To the last place the two of you will ever see,” Ned answered with a smirk.
Finally, the car pulled up to a small weather beaten house. Johnny peered out the window to see grey peeling paint, filthy broken windows and a sagging porch with broken steps leading up to it.
“Does anyone actually live here?” Johnny asked with disbelief.
“This was my granddad’s house, and it’s ours now. Have some respect!” Ned yelled.
Roy and Johnny both noticed how quiet the other brother, Jim, was. Ned seemed to be the one with all of the anger, while Jim was just going along with it.
Jim parked and stepped out of the car, opening the back door for Roy, grabbing his upper arm to give him support as Roy got out.
Ned wasn’t so nice. He opened Johnny’s door but grabbed Johnny’s arm and ranked him roughly from the back seat. Johnny stumbled and landed hard on his knees on the dirt driveway, luckily not landing on his face.
“Hey, would you take it easy?” Roy suggested.
“Shut up!” Ned growled and grabbed Johnny by the arm, hauling him back to his feet. “Let’s get inside.”
They made their way up the broken steps and pushed open the door, which was barely clinging to its hinges.
Inside it was hot and musty. Obviously no one had lived there for years. Cobwebs clung to the corners and draped from the ceiling. A few pieces of tattered furniture were strewn about, along with a broken lamp perched on a coffee stained table.
“Where should we put them?” Jim asked as he guided Roy by the elbow. “In the bedroom?”
“Hell no,” Ned began, “I think the basement would do nicely. I told you no one would find them here. We can just leave their bodies to rot. Not like anyone will find them way out here. Granddad may have left us this house, but not like we are going to live way out in the middle of nowhere. Besides, it needs too much work to even live in it.”
Jim nodded, and began to lead Roy to the basement steps. Ned dug his fingers into Johnny’s upper arm and roughly pulled him along.
Back at the warehouse parking lot Vince and several other policeman were scanning the area, looking for Roy and Johnny.
“Well,” Jeff Phillips, one of the police officers began, “it looks like someone took them but all of their equipment seems to be right where they left it here in the parking lot. Guess they were not after any drugs or medical supplies, or the squad.”
“Yeah,” Vince added, “and I’m afraid one of them might be hurt.” He pointed to the few drops of blood on the dusty parking lot pavement which led to tire tracks. “The question is, why would anyone want to take Roy and Johnny and where do we begin to look for them?”
Once in the basement the boys pushed Roy and Johnny into one of the corners that was held up by a post from floor to ceiling. The basement was small and even more musty than the house. The floor was cement, but cracked and uneven. Nearby a shelf held an assortment of jars, cans and one rusty looking hunting knife. Sun streamed in from the one tiny window which was covered from the outside with dirt and weeds. A cluster of cardboard boxes were stacked under the window. Dust danced and swirled in the air as Ned picked up the hunting knife.
“Well, look at this Jim! Granddad’s old hunting knife! Wonder how many deer he skinned with it? Wonder if he ever skinned a PERSON with it?!”
Jim swallowed loudly.
Ned stepped in front of Roy, then Johnny, holding up the rusty knife in front of their faces.
“Who will be first?” Ned glared from Roy to Johnny.
“Look, this must be some mistake,” Johnny began, “we don’t even know who you are...please let’s just…”
Before he could continue Ned plunged the knife into Johnny’s side and quickly pulled it out.
“Guess YOU wanted to be first, SCUM!” Ned jeered.
Johnny bent over in agony as white hot pain sliced into him. He staggered back, falling painfully onto his side on the cool, filthy cement, his hands still held behind his back by the ropes. Warm sticky blood began to seep steadily onto his shirt.
“NOO!” Roy yelled and lunged at Ned, head butting him in the chest as hard as he could.
Ned staggered back and landed hard on his backside.
Jim, who had been watching quietly knew he had to help his brother. He grabbed Roy by the back of the shirt and pulled him back off of Ned. Ned jumped to his feet and angrily grabbed a jar off of the shelf, striking Roy hard across the face with it. Roy was knocked off of his feet and fell hard on the cement, face first, then all was black.
“What did you find out Cap?” Chet questioned as the crew gathered around by the station house phone.
“Not good. Vince said that he thinks they have been taken. The squad and all the supplies are there, but no sign of Roy or Johnny and they found a small amount of blood. For some reason, Roy and Johnny have been kidnapped.”
“What?!” Marco asked, astonished.
“What are they going to do?” Mike questioned.
“Vince said they are going to start by asking people who live nearby if anyone saw anything. You know how some people like to follow squads and ambulances...so far they have no leads. It doesn’t look good. I guess I need to make that call to Joanne now…”
The men were silent, each lost in their own thoughts and prayers.
“It’s so dark in here. I can’t see a thing. How are you doing Junior? Are you in a lot of pain?”
“I’m ok Pally, I think the bleeding has stopped or slowed down a lot. I’m just real tired and cold. Thirsty too. Geez...we haven’t had anything since breakfast huh?”
Roy scooted close to Johnny, trying to share the warmth of his own body.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I could really go for an ice cold glass of water. Heck, I would even take it warm at this point.” Roy chuckled lightly, trying to lighten the mood, but he knew that he and Johnny might not survive. He thought of Joanne and the kids and how much he loved them. If only he could see them one more time…
His thoughts were interrupted by Johnny, “I’m so sorry Pally. We are here because of me. Because of my failure. If I had gotten that man out, we wouldn’t be here.”
Roy could not see Johnny in the blackness of the basement but he could hear the despair in his voice.
“Now Joanne and the kids will be without you and it’s all my fault. I’m so sorry…” His voice hitched and he trailed off.
“Junior, this is NOT your fault. These kids are all screwed up because of their grief. There is no way anyone could have gotten that man out of that fire in time. Even if I was with you, it wouldn’t have mattered. You did all that you could. We will get out of this mess somehow.” Roy stated, but in his heart, he didn’t know if it was true.
Several hours later Johnny and Roy had dozed off and on. Both of their stomachs rumbled with hunger, but their thirst was almost unbearable. Looking out the basement window Roy noticed the sky becoming pink with the hint of dawn.
“Hey Junior, looks like the sun is finally coming up. At least we will be able to see now. My hands are so numb from being tied up I can’t even feel them anymore. How are you doing?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean...I can’t feel my fingers anymore either. Man... my mouth is so dry... I can barely swallow. When do you think... they will be back?”
“Not sure, hopefully soon.”
A few short minutes later light footsteps could be heard on the basement steps. The door was unlocked and a wide eyed Jim entered carrying a canteen.
“Ned doesn’t know I’m here,” he said quietly. “I can’t do this anymore. I am going to let you go. He is asleep in the upstairs bedroom. I waited until light so you could see.” As he explained himself he quickly began to untie the ropes that bound them.
“You will have to walk out of here the best you can. You can have this canteen of water, but I’m sorry I don’t have any food for you.”
Roy moved his arms gently and slowly to the front of his body with a soft groan. He rubbed his raw wrists. His shoulder muscles were so tight and sore the could barely move his arms. His hands tingled.
In the dim light from the window he could see Johnny’s hopeful eyes but also see that he was in pain.
Johnny had also begun to rub at his raw wrists but the movement caused sharp pain in his side. It throbbed and burned.
“Come on Junior, let’s get you some water.” Roy’s arm shook as the reached for the canteen from Jim.
“Now just a little for now.”
Johnny nodded and drank the glorious water but only took a few sips. “Now you Pally,” he said weakly.
Roy also took a few sips and stood unsteadily. He was light headed from lack of food and water. He couldn’t imagine how Johnny felt with his injury.
“What about you?” Roy asked Jim. “What will he do if he knows you helped us?”
“I can say I felt bad for you for being tied up so long and when I let you stretch, you slugged me and knocked me out,” Jim suggested. “I can’t stand by and watch Ned torture you to death, which is his plan. I miss my parents too but I can’t do this. Please, you are going to have to hit me, hard, and go as fast as you can. I don’t know how much longer he will be asleep.”
Roy nodded. He knew they had to hurry.
“Ok, but I’m sorry about this.” And with that, he punched Jim as hard as he could across the face and knocked him off of his feet.
“Argggh!” Roy groaned from the sting of his knuckles and the sudden movement of his sore weakened arm.
Jim was knocked out cold for the moment and Roy knew it was time to try to escape.
“Johnny, we need to move.” He bent down and assisted Johnny to his feet, gently supporting him around the waist.
Johnny struggled to his feet, hissing in pain.
“I really need to look at that wound but we need to get out of here,” Roy whispered.
Johnny hurt too much to reply, but leaned heavily on Roy as they slowly made their way up the basement steps and out of the house towards freedom.
“So you’re saying that they just vanished?” Cap asked Vince with disgust. “After almost 24 hours, there is no hope?”
The crew of station 51 were now off duty and were gathered at the police station.
“I don’t know what else we can do. No one saw anything. We have sent out more patrols but nothing has turned up,” Vince replied discouraged. “We can put up missing person fliers and try to get the word out to local TV stations to see if anyone saw anything but right now we are at a dead end.”
“Geez Vince, can you not use the word ‘dead’?” Chet suggested with concern.
Vince glumly nodded.
“What can WE do?” Mike asked.
“I’m sorry, but there really isn’t anything. I guess all I can tell you now is to remain hopeful and pray.”
“Pally, I don’t think I can make it ...much farther. I need to rest.”
Johnny was leaning heavily on Roy, weak and exhausted. He could tell he was starting to bleed again from his wound but Roy wanted to try to get a little farther from the house before he examined him.
“Just a little more Junior.” Roy could tell Johnny was beginning to run a fever. He could feel the warmth radiating from him as he tried to support his weight.
The men had traveled a mile or so down the dusty road leading away from the house, towards the main road. They were keeping a keen ear out for any vehicles coming from behind them, knowing Ned would probably come after them.
“Ok Junior, let’s rest for a bit. Let’s go in the woods some so that no one can see us from the road.” Roy half carried Johnny into the woods until he came upon a moss covered clearing near a big oak tree.
“Ok, I’m going to put you down here.” Roy gently guided Johnny so that he could rest with his back against the tree.
“Here, have some more water.” He allowed Johnny a few more sips and took a couple for himself, then set the canteen next to him.
“I need to look at the wound now Junior.”
Johnny nodded weakly.
Roy unpacked the rags from the wound and ripped away part of the bloody shirt and t-shirt to expose the wound. He frowned when he saw the jagged 3 inch cut, oozing slightly with blood, the edges bright red and swollen.
“Looks like it might be getting infected. How do you feel?”
“I’m ok...I’ll be ok...Hurst some...don’t worry.” Johnny replied.
“ Ok, now for an honest answer Junior? How do you feel?”
“Well,” Johnny began,“to be honest, it hurts like hell. Wasn’t too bad before we started... moving around. I also feel really sick... like I have the flu or something. Probably from the infection...huh?”
“ I’m afraid so.” Roy replied glumly. “I am going to rip part of my t-shirt and try to bandage the wound as much as I can. Then we need to move. The longer we stay here the more chance Ned will find us. Once we get out to the main road we might have a chance of a passing car helping us.”
“Sounds good...Pally…” Johnny tried to smile, but it was probably more like a smirk. His head throbbed, his side burned and he was exhausted but he couldn’t let Roy down.
“What do you mean you untied them?! Are you an idiot?! Don’t you know what they did to Mom and Dad? They deserve all of the pain that we can give them!”
Jim nodded weakly, gingerly touching his swollen black eye.
“I should punch you myself for being such a sissy! Get in the car. They couldn’t have gotten that far… we need to go find them and this time do as I say!”
Jim nodded again and glumly made his way to the car, hoping Roy and Johnny had enough sense to hide.
Roy and Johnny had staggered another half mile or so down the road. Johnny was trying to support his own weight, but he was finding it harder and harder to do so.
Suddenly, he knew he was going to be sick.
“Roy!” Johnny doubled over and vomited on the dusty road as Roy supported him. There wasn’t much to come up, just a few sips of water. Then he began to dry heave.
The pain was immense. He panted, trying to catch his breath. The wound in his side feeling like it was being torn apart with each convulsion of his stomach.
“Oh God,” he panted.
“Easy Junior, maybe we should rest again,” Roy suggested, but just then they heard a vehicle coming from the direction of the main road.
“Someone is coming!” Roy stated hopefully. “We can flag them down and they can help us!”
Coming down the road, leaving a dust cloud behind them, was an old pickup truck.
“Thank God,” Roy said as he began to wave at the truck.
The truck slowed to a stop and the men were greeted by a blonde man in his mid 20’s wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. He eyed them suspiciously.
“What’s going on? What are you doing way out here? What’s wrong with him?” He asked eyeing Johnny.
“Please, you have to help us,” Roy began, still supporting Johnny. “We are LA paramedics and were taken hostage by a couple of young men. My partner is hurt. We need to get him medical help right away.”
“Ok, get in,” he said matter of factly.
Roy was unsure of the lack of emotion or concern from the man but he didn’t have any choice but to trust him.
“Thank-you...if you can turn around and go to the main road maybe we can find a place with a phone and call a squad to meet us,” Roy suggested once Johnny was propped up between them.
Johnny moaned and held his side weakly. He ached all over. He hoped he wouldn’t have to vomit again in the small confines of the truck.
“Don’t worry, I know where I’m going.” The driver stated dryly as he began driving back to the house.
“Dammit! What did you do to the car Jim?” Ned cussed as he tried to start the car. It sputtered and shook but did not start.
“Nothing…I swear Ned.” It was true. By some miracle the car was not starting. ‘Thank God,’ Jim thought to himself, ‘Someone up there is looking out for those paramedics.’
“Son of a bitch! Now what do we do? All of this hard work and we lose them!” Ned slammed his hand against the steering wheel in anger.
In the truck Roy realized they were driving back in the direction of the house. “Where are you going? You are going the wrong way!”
At that moment Johnny began dry heaving once again.
“What’s he doing?!” The driver demanded. “He better not puke in my truck!” Then he shoved Johnny hard towards Roy. Roy held his back as Johnny continued to dry heave.
“Roy…” he said weakly when it finally stopped. He squeezed his eyes shut in pain. The bumpy ride was not helping his nausea in the least.
“Hang on Johnny…” Roy said softly. “We need to figure out what this guy is up to.”
“Why are you going this way?” Roy asked in a panic, his stomach doing a flip when he realized they were getting closer to the house by the minute.
“I know what I’m doing. There is a neighbor up the road a ways from where you were at. They have a phone. Figured it would be quicker than trying to find one on the main road.”
“Oh, ok but it seems like we are back tracking.” Roy relaxed a little, knowing they would be getting help soon.
Suddenly, to his horror, they pulled into the driveway where they had been held hostage.
Just as Ned struck the steering wheel with his hand, his cousin, Doug, drove in the driveway with his truck and in the front seat with him sat Roy and Johnny.
“What the hell?” He pondered as he started to open the car door to get out.
Jim noticed Ned had left the pistol on the front seat of the car. He snatched it up and tucked it in his pants, covered by his shirt.
Roy sat frozen, not sure what to do. He saw the look of confusion and then happiness on Ned’s face as he got out of the car. He also noticed Jim getting out, tucking something behind his back.
Johnny, who was slumped onto Roy, was barely conscious. Roy could feel the heat radiating off of him. He gently laid Johnny on the seat once Doug got out of the truck. Then he also got out, not sure what to do next.
“Doug! Thank God! At least someone in this family has half a brain!” He glared at Jim. “Where did you find them?”
“Down the road a ways. They were trying to go get help. When you told me about your plan last week I figured I would stop by to see how things were going. I guess it’s a good thing that I did.”
“Yeah, this idiot untied them this morning and they slugged him and got away. Guess that won’t be happening again. Hey, where’s the other one?” He questioned since he didn’t see Johnny come out of the truck.
“He is in the truck. He is very sick and needs medical help. Look why don’t you just keep me and then your relative here can bring him to the hospital?” Roy suggested.
“WHAT?! That is NOT happening! You escaped once but it won’t happen again. I will make SURE of that. If he’s dying, then good. I hope it is slow and painful like he deserves.”
Ned made his way towards Roy and grabbed his arm roughly. “Back to the basement with you. We’ll be back for your friend later, IF he’s still alive.”
Roy was furious. In what little strength he had left, he swung at Ned, catching him by surprise in the stomach. Ned doubled over, the wind knocked out of him. At that moment, Jim pulled the gun and aimed it at his brother.
With shaking hands he said, “Ned, this needs to stop. We can’t kill them. Yes, Mom and Dad are gone but it was an accident. We have to move on. This is not right.”
“You WIMP!” Ned panted.
Doug made a move towards Jim but Jim backed up, also pointing the gun at him, who was standing beside Ned.
“Stay there. I don’t want to hurt you. You are family, but I will if I have to.”
“You don’t have the guts you little COWARD!” At that, Ned lunged at Jim. Jim pulled the trigger, shooting Ned in the center of the chest. A look of shock and surprise clouded his features before he collapsed to the ground, dead.
“What the hell did you just do?” Doug demanded.
Jim, shaking and teary aimed the gun at Doug.
“We need to get help for the man in that truck. If you try to stop us, I will kill you. There has been enough death. What do you want to do?”
Doug looked in disbelief at his cousin but figured if he could shoot his own brother, he could shoot him too. He agreed to cooperate.
“I don’t trust you to ride with us,” Jim began. “I am going to leave you here and take the truck with the paramedics. Don’t try to stop us or I WILL kill you, clear?”
Doug nodded and put up his hands in defeat, “Ok, ok.”
It was a long, hot dusty ride down the dirt road with Jim driving and Johnny slumped over unconscious, his head in Roy’s lap. By now it was late in the afternoon, over 24 hours from when they had been taken.
Roy gently placed his hand on Johnny’s forehead. It was dry and very hot. Roy knew he was dehydrated and the infection was getting worse by the minute. Johnny needed help fast. Roy also felt weak and dizzy but his first priority was Johnny.
“How much longer until we can reach a phone?” Roy asked Jim, who was grasping the wheel tightly with both hands, his teeth clenched.
“We will be there soon. How is he doing?” He asked, gazing quickly at Johnny.
“Not good, the infection is spreading. He needs help fast.”
“You know,” Roy began, “what you did took a lot of courage. You saved our lives and I don’t know how to thank you.”
“It had to be done. I don’t want to talk about it.” Jim replied flatly. “I am going to drop you at the nearest phone and once he gets help, you are on your own. But if you want to press charges I will understand.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. I know it was your brother who had it all planned and you were just following his lead. If it wasn’t for you, we’d probably be dead right now.”
Jim nodded, his teary eyes trying to focus on the road.
“What?! That is great news! Thank you so much for calling Dix!” Cap hung up the phone at his house with a huge smile on his face. The rest of the crew were there, each trying to support each other in their time of sorrow of missing Roy and Johnny.
“That was Dixie,” he began as the men stood and gathered around hopefully, “Roy called in to dispatch from a pay phone! Johnny is hurt, but alive! There was a squad and an ambulance sent out to meet them. They should be at Rampart soon!”
The men cheered and exchanged hugs and a few tears then they quickly made their way to the hospital.
In the treatment room Roy hovered over Johnny swaying slightly but he refused to leave. He had to know if he was going to be ok.
Dr. Early eyed him with concern while listening to Johnny’s heart and lungs.
Roy was covered in dust and dirt. His cheek and eye swollen and purple. His uniform tattered and splashed with blood and vomit. His wrists red and raw.
“Roy, you need to get yourself cleaned up and get into a bed. Dix, call Dr. Morton and have him look at Roy.”
“NO!” Roy demanded, swaying, his eyes glazed. “I am NOT leaving him! I need to know if he will be ok.”
Dr. Early’s eyebrow lifted in surprise as he listened to Roy’s reaction. The normally quiet and submissive Roy was being very stubborn.
“Ok I will let you stay for awhile but at least sit down.” He nodded towards Dix who scooted a stool near Roy. She gently took his elbow and guided him to it.
“Here you go Roy...don’t worry, we will take care of Johnny,” she said softly.
Roy sat heavily, his hand lightly resting on Johnny’s arm.
Dixie and the other nurses had removed Johnny’s uniform and other clothes. A thin sheet was draped over him from his hips down, allowing him some privacy. Dr. Early was gently probing the wound. IVs and antibiotics had already been started.
Roy watched, trying to keep his head clear. The room seemed to be swaying, almost like he was in a boat on the ocean. He knew Johnny was very sick and hadn’t been conscious since he was in the truck hours ago. Roy refused treatment by the paramedics earlier. He wanted all of their attention on Johnny and said that he was fine.
Roy said a silent prayer as he watched Dr. Early order tests and Dixie monitor Johnny’s vitals.
“We need to get him to the OR to clean out this wound and stitch it up. His vitals aren’t great but the longer we wait the more the infection will spread,” Dr. Early stated.
Dix nodded and made her way to the phone to notify the OR.
“So is he going to be ok doc?” Roy croaked from the stool.
“I think so Roy. Once we get the wound cleaned and keep him on antibiotics he should be fine.”
Before Roy could respond, his eyes rolled back in his head, he fell off the stool, and collapsed onto the treatment room floor.
In the waiting room the rest of the crew waited to hear of the condition of their men, along with Joanne.
“When is someone going to tell us something?” Chet paced as he ran a hand through his curly hair.
Joanne dabbed at her teary eyes with a tissue. She knew Roy was going to be alright but the past 24 hours of not knowing had been torture.
Mike chewed on a stubborn hangnail on his thumb, trying to pass the time.
Marco sat on a plastic chair bouncing his knee nervously.
“Will you cut that out?” Cap glared at him, his patience short, worried about Johnny and Roy.
“Sorry Cap,” Marco replied sheepishly.
At last, Dr. Early emerged and approached the group.
“Roy just collapsed but should be ok. We are treating him now. I am sure he is exhausted and dehydrated. He refused to leave Johnny.”
They all nodded, knowing the bond that they shared.
“Johnny is being taken to surgery. I think he will be ok, as long as the knife did not hit anything vital. I will find that out when I open him up. The antibiotics should treat any infection. You should be able to see Roy soon.”
Joanne smiled slightly, tears still in her eyes. The men sighed with relief.
“Thanks Doc,” Cap said. He was grateful his men were going to be ok and that they were finally home where they belonged.
Johnny cracked open his eyes. “Roy... is that you?”
He was exhausted and his side burned. Where was he?
“Yeah Junior I’m here...good to see you awake.” Roy grinned at him as he scooted the chair he was sitting in closer to Johnny’s bedside.
“Are we at Rampart?” Johnny glanced around, seeing the familiar surroundings.
“Yeah, you’ve been here for a couple of days. You had surgery and your wound is infected but your fever is down. The antibiotics seem to be working.”
“The last thing I remember... was being in that truck...what happened with Ned and Jim? Are you ok?” Johnny took in Roy’s purple eye and cheek and bandaged wrists.
“I’m fine and you will be too. I will fill you in on what happened later. Right now you need to rest.” Roy grinned, seeing Johnny’s eyes already beginning to droop.
“Pally?” Johnny murmured as his eyes began to close,
“When... can we get…that burger?”
Posted to Site 5/6/17
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