Home | Emergency Stories by Tammy | Send Stories | Fun Page | Guest Writer's
Warning…This story contains two scenes with strong, descriptive violence.
It was four o’clock on a cool January evening and Joanne DeSoto checked her watch for the third time. “Roy…Johnny, let’s go. You’re gonna be late for your own awards.”
“Coming Honey…,” Her husband called back. A moment later she heard his footsteps on the stairs. Twenty seven year old Paramedic Roy DeSoto looked striking in his Dress Uniform as he stepped up to his wife to drop a conciliatory kiss on her nose. “Sorry babe…,” he said running his fingers through his reddish blonde hair… his blue eyes twinkled as he glanced around… “I guess I didn’t need to rush after all…,” he added, looking around for his young partner… “Where’s Johnny …?”
“He hasn’t come out yet,” she sighed glancing at her watch yet again.
“Hey Junior…let’s go,” Roy yelled.
“I’m comin…,” the younger half of the paramedic team groused as he came out of the guest room which had long since been dubbed ‘Johnny’s room,’ since he used it frequently. “I can’t get this…,” he groaned in frustration as he fought with his tie…
“Come here sweetheart..,” Joanne said, waving him over. Four years his partner’s junior, the dark haired twenty three year old moved to stand in front of Joanne while she tugged and straightened his tie. “There you go…”
“We ready then…?” Roy asked.
“As ready as I’m gonna get…,” Johnny said unhappily.
“Johnny… what’s wrong…? They’re giving you an award not putting you in front of a firing squad,” Joanne said.
The younger man shrugged uncomfortably… “I’m just not comfortable up there in front of all those people.”
“You both deserve it.”
“We were just doin our job…,” he argued.
“We’ll junior, there’s no way to get out of it and we don’t have to say anything but thank you, besides, I’ll be right there…if you get stuck.”
“Thanks…,” he said wryly.
Across town at the California State Penitentiary a dozen men were gathered in the communal Dayroom, idly watching the television, reading books or playing cards. There was a general air of boredom and few were paying close attention to the news cast that was currently on the TV.
The scene shifted as the anchorman began speaking of an awards ceremony taking place in downtown Los Angeles to honor several of the county’s Fire Fighters. The clip showed two young Paramedics, one tall, slender and dark haired and the other stood as tall but a bit stockier and his blonde hair glinted in the lights overhead.
One prisoner sat up straighter, his hazel eyes narrowed angrily and his teeth clenched in rage as he watched. Damn it…He couldn’t believe it was them and being honored to boot…He slapped his hand over the power switch in a fury drawing a few annoyed protests from a couple of the others but his ominous glare silenced them fairly quickly. Few of the inmates tangled with this man…while some thought he was plain mean…most thought he was crazy.
“GUARD…,” he railed heatedly.
One of the officers appeared at the door… “What do ya need?”
“I wanna go back to my cell…,” he growled.
“Let’s go…,” the guard directed with a nod of his head.
The prison cell door slammed with a loud clang reminding the blonde man within it that after tomorrow he’d never hear that sound again. He threw himself down on his bunk…his mind on the past…He been sent here for five years…he’d served twenty months of that in this hell hole. Two of his friends who’d been sent here as well, had gotten out four months ago another only a week before. They’d all been paroled for good behavior...he grinned sardonically. His good behavior ended tomorrow.
The two men most responsible for his being here were gonna pay. It wouldn’t go well for the one who had testified against him…he’d learn just how it felt to be locked up in a pit like this one but he was also looking forward to seeing the anguished look on the others face as he snatched his partner and best friend from under his nose.
He’d thought about killing them outright but then he decided that would be too quick…he suffered for almost two years…their punishment wouldn’t take as long but they’d suffer just as much…he almost giggled at the thought…of course killing them was always an option.
Applause broke out around the room as Chief McDaniel’s congratulated Paramedic Roy DeSoto and Paramedic John Gage for meritorious service above and beyond the call of duty…both men looking thoroughly embarrassed by the attention for what they considered to be just doing their job. The commendation given for their single handed rescue of a family from their burning home…
They’d been on their way back from a false alarm on a quiet canyon road when they’d spotted the home blazing out of control. They’d called in the alarm and grabbed the family’s garden hose clearing a path ahead of them and pulling the Mother, Father and two children from the burning structure before the first engine had arrived.
Roy and John had both suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation during the rescue. Roy had taken a couple of minor injuries and Johnny a minor concussion as both men had shielded their victims when part of a wall came down.
They returned to their table as the ceremony continued and other Fire Fighters were given their own awards.
“Man…,” griped Chet in annoyance. “Gage’ll be impossible to live with now…”
“I wouldna lived with ya before…,” Johnny shot back.
“I just can’t believe they gave you an award…,”
“Oh shut up Chet…I didn’t ask for this ya know…”
“Besides…,” offered Captain Hank Stanley. “You’d have to agree, they deserve it…wouldn’t you Chet?”
“Oh…well sure…sure Cap. Well at least Roy does,” Chet amended, glancing at Gage to see if he’d hit his target.
“How do you figure that Chet…?” Roy questioned with a raised eyebrow. Johnny looked curiously at the Irishman as well, trying to figure his reasoning.
“Well Gage went down…Roy had to go get him out too.” Johnny frowned…the easy mood around the table broken.
“Chet…,” Roy barked as he leaned across the table, pointing at the curly haired Irishman. “I had to get him out cuz he pushed me outta the way…again. Johnny took the full brunt of that wall comin down. I should be giving him my commendation for saving my life.”
“Aw c’mon Roy…Gage survived it. Your head’s just as hard as his is.”
Marco and Mike shook their heads while Hank, Mike and Roy’s wives Emily, Melissa and Joanne rolled their eyes in exasperation at Chet’s needling.
“He for once…,” Roy said, glancing at his partner. “Was wearing his helmet and I’d lost mine…that wall would have killed me.”
“Okay guys, that’s enough…,” Cap said realizing that the teasing was turning serious. As usual Kelly didn’t know when to quit and Roy was getting angry and Johnny was way too sensitive and insecure to take this for too long. He glanced at his junior paramedic and was surprised to see a look of amusement rather than annoyance. In fact…he was positively beaming in smug glee as his partner defended him to Chet.
Mike and Marco were glaring at Chet for trying to ruin John’s night. They were well aware how seriously Johnny took his cracks about not being able to take care of himself. Johnny stood up patting Roy on the shoulders briskly… “Thanks pally,” he said with a broad grin. “Can I get you a drink Roy…Jo?”
“Yeah Junior…whatever you’re havin is fine.”
“Anyone else…?” The young paramedic asked. Getting no takers, he turned and walked away with a bounce to his step and a Cheshire cat grin.
The others turned incredulous eyes to Roy. Something had changed…a couple of months ago after another crack about John’s inability to take care of himself had set Johnny off…Roy and his young friend had had this out. While Johnny had laid deathly ill with a virulent form of Malaria…Roy had enjoyed a captive audience.
He’d laid his feelings on the line with his partner once and for all…reassuring him that he was not only cared for but worth caring about. He’d pleaded with him to just accept the love and concern that his new family had offered him and to give it back. John had listened…and while a few months ago Johnny would have bristled in outrage at the comment Kelly had made…now he was content to sit back and let his friend fight the battle. Not that he couldn’t or wouldn’t defend himself…just willing to accept that he didn’t always have to and it was okay to need someone else sometimes.
Roy grinned at the confusion in his crewmates eyes.
The next morning Roy and John arrived almost at the same time…a rare thing for Johnny as he was usually sliding in just under the wire while Roy consistently avoided latrine duty by being early. Roy stopped and waited for his young friend to join him and they both headed for the locker room. Roy noted the bruising from John’s car accident a couple weeks ago was almost gone.
Johnny was talking with Roy and whipped open his locker…the familiar sproing left the younger paramedic gasping as icy water soaked his face and chest. “I’m gonna kill him…,” He ground out. Roy just grinned and handed him a towel. “Thanks…,” Johnny said in disgust but a rueful smile played around his mouth.
A short time later John stood in the apparatus bay with the rest of the crew for roll call. He shot occasional dagger looks at the curly haired Irish Fire Fighter Chet Kelly who stood smirking at the end of the line as he contemplated his revenge.
Chet could barely contain the snicker as he noted the looks and the younger man’s damp hair.
Roy stood in resignation, knowing Johnny would obsess the rest of the day on getting even. Marco and Mike exchanged grins, wondering where and when Johnny would strike back.
The Station Control Unit tones sounded…Squad 51…man injured in a bar. 5917 Pine…5-9-1-7- Pine…Cross street Aspen…Time out 8:08…”
“Station 51…KMG365…,” Cap responded. He handed the slip of paper with the address on it to Roy who passed it to Johnny… Chet stood at the passenger side window next to the younger paramedic. “Do try and stay out of trouble, okay Gage? Roy can only save you so many times…,” he finished with a yell as Roy pulled out of the station.
“Chet…,” Cap barked out… “Would you lay off John for a while…it’s even startin to bug me…”
“Ahh but Cap…the phantom can’t let his pigeon feel neglected…”
“NO…but the phantom’s CAPTAIN…can give him permanent latrine duty…”
“Uh…oh…um…sure cap…I guess my pigeon could use a break.”
“Injured in a bar…?” Johnny questioned his older partner as they drove along… “At this time of the morning…?
“Maybe they never left…,” Roy said with a chuckle as they pulled up in front of the bar.
“What a dive…,” Johnny muttered as they climbed from the squad…
“Yeah…,” Roy agreed under his breath.
They entered the bar…one man sat slumped against the wall…blood dripped from his forehead and a half of a broken beer bottle lay on the floor. Several others lay scattered about him along with a deck of cards…the other combatant stood swaying over him with the other end of the bottle still clutched in his hand. They glanced at the bar tender… “Been playin cards all night…one accused the other of cheating and the fight was on…” Roy nodded and the two paramedics moved slowly toward them.
He turned a belligerent stare on the two firemen… “What do you want…?” He growled.
“We got a call that someone was injured…we’d ah…like to take a look at your friend there…” Roy replied.
“Ain’t no friend of mine…rotten cheat…,” he mumbled as he swayed precariously. He shook the bottle at Roy and Johnny. “And you ain’t friends of mine either.”
Johnny held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Okay, okay…simmer down. We’re not gonna bother ya…we just wanna take a look at your…ah…ah…at him…,” he finished lamely, pointing at the other man.
The door opened behind them and an officer walked through the door. John and Roy heaved a sigh of relief as Scott Hanson came inside. “Hey Roy…John… What have we got?”
“Couple of guy’s fighting is all Scotty…”
The young blonde officer nodded as he moved over to the man with the bottle… “Drop the bottle mister…,” he warned.
The man looked blearily at his hand as if realizing for the first time that he still had the bottle in it. He let go and it dropped to the floor, shattering on impact. Johnny jumped back to avoid the flying glass shards, looking at the drunk in annoyance.
Scotty shook his head at the man as he stood wobbling from side to side. He couldn’t believe he was still on his feet. He seemed pretty harmless at this point and he turned his head to see Johnny squatting next to other combatant. “How is he…?”
“Superficial cut…not even a bump…I don’t think he got knocked out…I think he just passed out…,” Johnny said with a grin… “Got a 4 X 4…?” He asked his partner. Roy turned to get it.
The other man suddenly realized that they were helping his enemy and took exception. “Hey…,” he bellowed angrily as his hand closed over another beer bottle standing on the pool table. He swung the bottle at the back of Roy’s unprotected head.
Johnny saw the motion out of the corner of his eye…“Look out…,” he yelled as he leaped to push his partner out of the way… the bottle connected solidly with Johnny’s forehead. Pain exploded in the young paramedic’s head and his vision dimmed briefly as he dropped to his knees, his hands pressed over the injured area…
Roy fell to the ground uninjured but rolled quickly onto his back as Scotty darted past him to grab the drunk before he could do any further damage. Roy saw John fall... “Johnny…,” he gasped breathlessly as he pushed himself to his feet and grabbed his young partner’s shoulders to steady him as John struggled to get up.
Scotty slammed the drunkard face down on the pool table and handcuffed him before he turned back to the two firemen. “Is he alright…?” He demanded.
“I don’t know yet…,” Roy shot back. “Johnny look at me…are you okay?” Roy asked urgently as he took John’s elbow to steady him.
“Yeah…,” he gasped. “Yeah…I think so.”
“Let me see…,” Roy said lifting his partners chin and tilting his head up to look at the injury. A trickle of blood from a one inch gash ran between John’s eyes and down his nose. John blinked rapidly trying to focus on his partners face and then his vision seemed to shrink to a pin point…
“Roy…,” he gasped as his knees buckled and he collapsed against his friend’s chest…
Roy caught him as he fell…lowering him carefully to the floor. He grabbed the Biophone and the drug box pulling them toward him. “Scotty can you check my other victim…he’s comin around…” Roy said as the man on the floor raised his head to look around him blearily.
“Sure Roy…,” he said as pushed his handcuffed prisoner to the floor and moved to the other man.
“Wha…hap…pened?” He hiccupped drunkenly.
Scotty turned his face away from the alcoholic blast from the man’s breath. “You’ll be fine…just got a cut on the head…just relax till the ambulance get’s here,” he replied as his concerned blue eyes watched Roy.
“Please Johnny…open your eyes,” Roy called to his partner. “I need you to talk to me junior…”Roy checked John’s eyes, eliciting a groan from his friend as the light hit them but he didn’t wake up. He laid his hand on John’s stomach to count respirations before wrapping a BP cuff around his arm.
“How is he…?” Scotty asked again.
“I don’t know, he’s unconscious…,” he replied…shooting an ugly look at the drunk in handcuffs…he picked up the phone. “Rampart base…this is squad 51…”
The voice of Doctor Kelly Brackett came back over the line… “Go ahead 51…”
“Rampart…I have a twenty three year old male. He’s been hit on the head with a beer bottle just over his right eye…He’s unconscious…his pupil’s are equal and reactive…his BP is 110/70, his respirations are 20…his pulse his 60…Rampart be advised…the victim is John Gage…”
At the base station at Rampart…Kel shook his head and then keyed the transmitter… “51…Start an IV…D5W TKO and transport…”
“10-4…,” Roy replied.
The ambulance attendants ran in towing a gurney…they helped Roy lift his injured partner onto the stretcher. “Roy…man I’m really sorry…,” Scotty said. “I shoulda handcuffed him immediately but I thought he was too drunk to be dangerous…”
“It’s okay Scotty… John’s got a pretty hard head…I think he’ll be alright,” Roy said reassuringly but the worry for his friend was still written clearly on his face.
“I’m gonna turn this clown over to another unit and follow you in…I wanna be sure John’s okay.”
“I’m gonna lock up the squad…I need to go with Johnny.”
“I’ll give you a lift back when you’re ready.”
Dixie put her hand on Roy’s chest and pressed him gently back from the door as the attendants wheeled Johnny inside. “Roy c’mon…let’s go to the base station for coffee and you can call your captain… Johnny’s in good hands.”
“Not a chance Dix…I’m stayin with Johnny…”
“Damn it Dix…he did it again,” Roy said in frustration…
“What’s that Roy?”
“Pushed me outta the way…That bottle was aimed at me but Johnny saved me and took the hit himself… I want…no…I need to be with him, okay?”
Dixie dropped her hands in defeat…she knew short of calling security that Roy wasn’t going to budge from John’s side until he sure his friend was alright. She nodded… “Go ahead…,” she said tipping her head towards Johnny.
Roy moved to his partner’s side as they finished loosening the straps and helped them to make the transfer. He watched anxiously as Kel checked the darkening bruise around the cut… “How is he Doc…?” Roy asked as the Dark haired Doctor straightened up.
“I’m not sure yet…he’s still out of it… How’d this happen anyway…?”
“Couple of drunks…we were workin on em and one of them decided to crown me with a beer bottle… next thing I know, I’m being shoved out of the way and Johnny’s on his knee’s bleeding. He got back up but then he passed out…”
“Did he hit his head again when he fell…?”
“No…I caught him before he hit the ground.” Brackett nodded.
Johnny suddenly groaned softly on the table…the slight panting breaths warning both men that he was about to be sick. Roy quickly rolled him on his side while Kel shoved the emesis basin under Johnny’s cheek. The young paramedic began to cough, followed quickly by a gag as his stomach rebelled and he began to retch. Roy held his head, speaking soothingly until the spasms stopped. “Okay now…?” He got a slight nod from his partner and Roy rolled him onto his back.
“Dix…X-ray’s on their way down…I want a shot of the frontal lobe.” Dixie nodded as Kel turned back to Roy and Johnny…he watched the two younger men for a moment, touched as always by the close relationship between the two friends. He watched Roy rest his hand over Johnny’s soothingly, speaking quietly as he leaned over him…maintaining eye contact as he talked…the other hand rested on the top of John’s dark head. The younger man nodded slightly as his partner spoke.
Johnny’s dark eyes were focused on Roy’s light blue as his stomach continued a slow roll. His head alternately throbbed or swam dizzily but he tried to listen as Roy talked softly to him. “John, you’ve got to stop putting yourself in danger to protect me…understand?”
“Doan yell at me Roy…my head hurs…,” he whispered.
Roy knew that Johnny’s worries were compounded by the loss of his only other really close friend…Drew Burke, A young police officer who’d been killed in a traffic accident just two months ago…“Johnny …I’m not yelling at you… but you can’t keep putting yourself in danger to protect me….Look I know you’re still getting over losing Drew but please partner. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to stand here and see you lying there…because of me…,” Roy asked resting his hand on the dark head.
“Could…couldn’t… let… him…hit you.”
“Maybe you could just yell at me to duck next time…huh?”
Johnny grinned crookedly and nodded… “Kay…,” he slurred.
Having established that Johnny had a minor concussion and thankfully no skull fracture, Kel put in a couple of stitches to close the wound and then got him settled in a room for the night. Barring any complication’s Brackett would release him in the morning. They had two days off after that and the doctor felt sure he could release him for duty as long as there were no lingering headaches or dizziness.
Roy returned to the station alone and went to tell Cap what had happened. “How bad is it Roy…?” He asked worriedly as he noted the smear of blood on Roy’s shirt from Johnny’s head wound.
“He’s gonna be fine Cap but I’ve got to stop him from trying to protect me all the time…”
“Look who’s talkin…,” Cap teased.
Roy grinned wryly but shook his head… “I’ve gotta make him understand…”
“That’s not gonna happen pal…anymore than you’d have stood by and let something happen to John… I’ve seen you both put your life on the line for the other too many times to believe any amount of talking could change it.”
“No buts Roy…I don’t like it any more than you do…from either of you, but I’ve accepted the fact that I can talk myself blue in the face and it won’t change the way you two operate. I know you Roy…you’d do anything for John and I can understand that…he’s kinda special to all of us.” Roy grinned as Hank continued... “And if you tell him I said so I’ll deny it,” The dark, haired man said with a chuckle but it’s a two way street pal… “John would do anything for you as well and I can’t change him either…so I’ve resigned myself to just trying to keep you both out of trouble as much as I can and hope for the best.”
“Okay Cap…,” Roy said with a sigh. “I guess you’re right.”
“I know I am…that’s why I’m the Captain…”
“That’s just a title…,” Roy mumbled as he turned to leave…
“What was that DeSoto…?”
“Just agreeing with ya Cap…,” Roy called back with a chuckle.
“I’m calling in a replacement…why don’t you get some coffee till he gets here?” Roy nodded.
The blonde paramedic walked into the rec room and headed for the coffee pot. Chet was reading at the table… “Where’s Gage…?” He asked without looking up. Marco turned from chopping vegetables at the counter and Mike looked up from the couch where he was reading a newspaper. Their eye’s fell on the blood stain on Roy’s shirt as he turned toward the Irishman but neither had a chance to comment as Chet went on… “No wait…don’t tell me. He slipped in a puddle of beer and broke his ankle…,” he finished with a chuckle at his own joke.
Roy’s usual even temper snapped and Mike and Marco could tell from the worried look on his face that something had happened to Johnny… “No Chet…,” Roy said angrily. “There was no beer involved…just the bottle.” Chet looked up in surprise at the tone and saw the blood on Roy’s shirt. “He pushed me outta the way…again…and took a beer bottle to the forehead.”
Mike came to his feet, while Marco set down the knife. Both men moved toward Roy as Chet sat in open mouthed shock. “What…? Is he okay…?” Mike asked in concern.
“No…he’s not okay…He’s at Rampart with an inch long gash and a concussion. That should keep you amused for a couple of weeks, huh Chet?” Roy said snidely.
“Ah c’mon Roy…Ya know I wouldn’t want Johnny to get hurt.”
“Maybe not, but you sure get your laughs at his expense when he does…,” the blonde man growled as he pointed his finger at his crew mate. Roy moved to the table and slumped into a chair as the vision of Johnny falling unconscious into his arms replayed itself. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes in frustration. “Sorry Chet…I know you don’t mean any harm but he’s my best friend and it scares the hell outta me when he gets hurt.”
“I know Roy…I’m sorry.” Chet said softly, remembering the conversation he’d had with Roy not long ago.
Two men sat across the street watching the station. The smaller blonde man, fresh out of prison stared at the building with a feral look in his hazel eyes. The other man shuddered a bit…prison hadn’t been good for his friend…His smaller companion had been hurt pretty badly his first few weeks…The big man suspected it had been more than just a few beatings that had driven him over the edge but his friend had never admitted it. Quite frankly…he was a little afraid the younger man had lost his mind from what he’d been forced to endure.
He’d finally been moved to the same cell block as his friend’s and things had changed…The large size of the others as well as their well known aggressive tendencies kept the other inmates away. He’d spent the rest of his time in prison plotting his revenge. The two young paramedics they were watching weren’t going to fare very well. Not that he minded…he’d had it in for Tonto since the day they’d first met …had even tried to kill him once himself. He glanced at the obsessed man sitting next to him…and he was more than a little nervous at the psychotic gleam in his eyes. He was afraid of what would happen if his friend’s plan failed and where the pent up rage would expend itself.
“Damn it…where’s Gage…?” The larger, dark haired man said as he hit the dashboard in frustration. They’d seen the squad return earlier but the blonde paramedic had been alone.
“He’ll show up…we just have to wait…he’ll show up…,” the other muttered. But a few minutes later they saw a car pull into the back lot of the station. When the squad was toned out forty five minutes later, the driver of the vehicle was in the passenger seat. “Damn it…Damn it…,” he mumbled. “Okay…,” He said taking a frustrated breath…”He isn’t here…we’ll have to try again later…next shift…or I’ll get him at his home.”
Kel released Johnny the next morning and Roy was there to pick him up. He assisted his young partner into his small Porsche and Johnny glanced up at him batting his dark eyes… “Your place or mine…?” He asked teasingly.
Roy laughed and gave his friend a gentle shove inside the car before slamming the door. He came around and climbed into the driver’s seat next to him… Roy glanced at his still snickering partner. “Mine…Jo’s making breakfast for us…she’s worried about you.”
“Far out…I’m starved…”
Roy rolled his eyes… “So why am I not surprised?”
Two days later Johnny returned to work…a dark bruise around the stitches were the only remaining evidence that he’d been hit. “Geez Johnny, you just got rid of the other bruise and now you’ve got another one…”
John sighed as they headed for the rec room… “Good thing I’ve got a really hard head huh?” Roy grinned. The others glanced up as they came in making several sympathetic comments on the younger man’s injuries…Chet remained silent, being careful not to rouse Roy’s temper and goad the younger man with his taunts. Johnny cast him an almost suspicious glance…then carefully stepped out of the line of fire and opened the cabinet where they kept the coffee mugs but nothing happened.
He glanced at his Partner and picked up the coffee pot, sniffing the contents suspiciously… It seemed okay. Chet giggled…this was almost better than setting a booby trap…leaving his pigeon worrying over why there wasn’t one would drive him nuts.
John only got a couple of sips in before the Station Control Unit toned them out… Station 51…man down…” Roy and John ran for the squad, neither of them noticed the two men watching from across the street. They both smiled in anticipation when they saw John Gage once again riding shotgun with his partner.
“Do we risk taking the others out now or wait a while…?” The larger man asked.
“Wait…I don’t want to chance someone showing up too soon if they don’t respond to a call.” They waited anxiously for a half an hour but the SCU remained silent. “Alright…they didn’t call out an engine company so it’s probably nothing serious. My guess is they’ll be back any time…let’s do it…,” The smaller man instructed. Finally…after almost two years, he’d have Gage and his revenge. They pulled out and circled around the building, pulling into the parking lot. One nodded…they climbed out and carefully made their way inside the station.
Chet was mopping the floor in the apparatus bay. He was whistling softly and didn’t hear a thing until a distinctive clicking sound intruded on his music. His eyes grew wide and the whistle trailed off. “Let’s take a walk…,” a gruff voice murmured close to his ear. He pushed Kelly toward the rec room where another smaller, blonde man stood just outside it. He heard their approach and turned to face them.
Chet’s mouth dropped open in shock… “Jackson…?” He gasped.
“Glad you remember me…I’m touched,” he sneered as he slapped a piece of duct tape over the Irishman’s mouth. He turned and moved quietly into the kitchen.
Mike Stoker’s head was halfway in the oven when something hard poked the back of his head. “Hey…,” he snapped backing up…his hand halted halfway to the injured area as he turned and saw the business end of a pistol pointed straight at his nose. “Real quiet now…let’s come over and join your friend,” he directed nodding at Kelly who was sitting at the table where another man was duct taping the curly haired fireman’s hands behind his back.”
“Kimmerlin…Jackson…” How’d you get out…?” Stoker asked curtly as he was shoved toward the table…
“Good behavior…,” Jackson snarled back as he slapped a piece of tape over Stoker’s mouth. Kimmerlin began to tape his wrists. “I’ll get the one in the dorm…you take care of their Captain,” Scott ordered. Brad nodded.
Marco was changing the sheets on the beds in the dorm. He heard footsteps come up behind him. “Hand me those pillowcases would ya…?” He called. Someone reached over his shoulder with the requested linens in hand. “Thanks…”
It took about three seconds for Marco to realize he didn’t recognize the voice. He turned to find Scott Jackson smirking back at him. Marco took a step toward him but stopped as Jackson raised a gun…he gestured toward the door.
Cap was working at his desk when he finally noticed the silence. “Man it’s awful quiet out there…,” he muttered to himself. Gage and DeSoto should be back anytime and knowing John it wouldn’t take long before an argument broke out between him and Chet. Better enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts.
Hank suddenly sensed that he wasn’t alone. He glanced toward the doorway where a large man stood watching him. He looked vaguely familiar but Hank couldn’t remember where he’d seen him before. “Can I help you…?” He questioned the man.
“Yeah Captain Stanley…you can come out here and help your men. They ah…seem to have gotten themselves into a sticky situation…” he replied, grinning at his own joke.
“Is that right…?” Cap questioned curiously as he stood up. “Do I know you?” He asked.
“We’ve never met Captain but I know who you are…I met your predecessor a couple of years ago. You were still an Engineer at 43’s then.”
“I’ve seen you before…,” Cap stated with certainty as he walked closer. He stopped and snapped his fingers… “You’re a fireman…you were with 88’s back then.”
“Were is correct Captain…Until Gage testified against me and got me sent to prison along with the rest of my crew…”
Cap’s mouth dropped open in shock. He’d heard about all of this back when it had first happened but he’d had no idea John was the one responsible for turning the whole crew in or for their conviction.
“But I’m really impressed that you remembered. That’s a mark of a really good captain…,” the man said sincerely. “I’m really sorry you’re involved with this Cap…all we really want is Gage.” Cap took a step forward…there was no way he was gonna let this guy hurt one his men…especially not their youngest crew member. Hank stopped abruptly as Kimmerlin pulled a gun from his waistband. “Let’s go see your men…”
The four members of the engine crew were tightly bound. Their mouths covered in duct tape. Jackson and Kimmerlin poured themselves a cup of coffee. “Now we wait for our good friend Johnny and his pal Roy…,” Jackson taunted.
“You gonna kill DeSoto…?” Kimmerlin asked. Four sets of eyes widened in fear.
“I’m not sure yet…I want to watch his face when I take Gage…they’re real close…it’ll be worse than killing him…let him wonder what I’m doin to him.”
“He’ll come after you Scott…He’s not gonna let you have his friend without tryin to get him back.”
“Let him try…there’s only the four of us that know where we’re takin him…but like I said…I’m not sure yet…depends on how things go…now go watch the door.”
Kimmerlin came back about ten minutes later… “Squads comin up the street,” he said. The crew looked at each other in alarm.
“You take whoever closes the door… I’ll wait for the other one here.”
“What if he don’t come in here?”
“Then I’ll go get him…,” Scott said exasperation. Sometimes he hated working with stupid people. “You just keep the other one quiet.” Kimmerlin nodded and went to wait in Cap’s office.
Cap and the others heard the squad back into the bay. Jackson put his finger to his lips. “Shhh…don’t spoil the surprise,” he whispered conspiratorially.
Roy and Johnny were laughing over Dixie’s account of a New Years Eve fiasco in the Emergency Room from the week before. They were trying to picture fifteen drunken senior citizens from the retirement home…apparently one of them had secretly spiked the punch.
“Man…I need some coffee,” Johnny said, still grinning.
“Yeah me too junior… It’s freezing out there. You get the door…I’ll pour us some coffee.”
“Kay…,” the younger man agreed as he headed for the door. He hit the switch and the doors began to roll down. John started to turn but felt a strong arm wrap tightly about his throat cutting off his air supply and jerking him backwards against a hard chest. Fearing for his friends, John opened his mouth to try and yell a warning but the other hand clapped across his mouth silencing the shout.
Johnny struggled frantically against the choke hold…reaching up and desperately pulling at the arm across his windpipe. He couldn’t breathe and there was a roaring in his ears as vision began to waver and dim. John’s hands fell away and his knee’s began to buckle.
Kimmerlin loosened the hold as soon as he felt Gage sag against him, knowing he had the young man subdued. He let John gasp air into his starving lungs and the blackness began to recede from his brain.
“Let’s you and I go find your partner…junior…,” he whispered against John’s ear. He jerked the half conscious paramedic around and headed for the day room.
Roy walked into the Rec room with a whistle dying on his lips as he saw his crewmates bound and gagged. “What the…?” He trailed off as he saw them nodding frantically at something behind him. Roy started to turn when he felt a sharp shove between his shoulder blades, propelling him forward towards the table. Caught off balance, he stumbled forward, using the table to catch himself. He whirled around to face his attacker…his breath caught in his throat… “Jackson…,” he gasped out in shock…then without hesitation… “JOHNNY RUN…,” he yelled.
Scott glanced at the door before turning back to Roy with a sneer… “How touching but unfortunately…too late,” he taunted as Kimmerlin dragged the gasping, struggling younger paramedic through the door. Johnny could barely stand but he still pulled weakly at the arm around his throat…his face was a pale shade of blue. Roy took a step toward his injured partner. Kimmerlin put his gun to John’s head… “Stop right there.”
Roy froze as John’s eyes widened in fear. “He can’t breathe…,” Roy shouted at them.
Jackson nodded at Kimmerlin who once again loosened his hold and allowed the younger man to take a breath. John choked and drooped weakly. Scott grinned and directed Roy to the empty chair. He taped Roy’s hands and moved back to face the man he blamed for his losing everything…including his dignity.
Grabbing Johnny by the chin and jerking his head up. “You cost me everything Gage…ya know that? I spent almost two years in that pigsty cause of you.”
John’s dark eyes looked him square on… “I didn’t steal from those people Jackson…you did,” Johnny croaked out through his bruised windpipe.
Jackson caressed John’s cheek with the barrel of the gun. John twisted his head away. The older man swung…the back of his hand connecting solidly across Johnny’s face…Gage’s head reeled to the side but Jackson’s second swing snapped it back around the other way. He slammed his fist into the younger man’s stomach. Kimmerlin let go allowing the weakened paramedic to drop to his knees.
Johnny wrapped his arms protectively around his mid section, his forehead pressed against the floor as he gagged, trying to draw air into his lungs as his friends were forced to watch, sitting helpless and horrified. Jackson’s foot lashed out catching the fallen younger man in the ribs. John flipped onto his side rolling into a ball and covering his head. He lay on the floor gasping.
Roy shot to his feet… “Leave him alone…,” he yelled.
Jackson pointed the gun at Gage’s head. “Sit…or I’ll finish him now…” Roy slowly sat down his eyes on his friend. Jackson leaned over the table to look into Roy’s eyes and almost flinched from the icy blue orbs that were promising retribution. Getting himself under control he continued. “You and your friend cost me everything…my wife, my job, my pension, my freedom.”
“You cost yourself that…,” Roy snapped back in a rage. “Johnny didn’t make you a thief, he didn’t ask you to hurt him or to try and kill him…” He growled nodding at his partner. “That was your decision.”
There was a groan from Johnny as he tried to struggle to his knees. All eyes turned to the young paramedic as he raised his head to look at his partner. Roy’s stomach sank at the sight of his friend’s face. Pain filled dark eyes met Roy’s as blood dripped from his nose, mixing with the trickle that ran from his split lip and the corner of his mouth. His cheek was already turning a deep purple and he was struggling to breathe as he held his arms over his ribs and stomach.
Jackson grinned and grabbed Johnny by the hair…the chilling look in the hazel eyes was terrifying. “I’ve waited two years Gage…” He tried hauling him up but Johnny couldn’t stand on his own power. Scott drew back his hand…
“Please…,” Roy shouted. Jackson stopped and looked at him. Having gained Scott’s attention Roy dropped his voice. “Please…please don’t hurt him anymore…please just let him go…,” Roy begged. “You’ve hurt him enough.”
“Enough…?” Jackson scoffed…he let go of Gage, letting the younger man sink to the floor. “I sat in that hole for two years…Do you have any idea what happens to a man in that place…?” Scott whispered. His eyes glittered insanely. “Two years DeSoto…because of you and your friend.”
“Look…I’m sorry you went through that but it wasn’t Johnny’s fault…Can’t you still be man enough to take responsibility for what you did…?” Jackson raised his hand to swing at Roy but they heard Kimmerlin give a grunt of surprise as Johnny’s foot connected solidly with his knee. John launched himself from his crouched position, slamming full force into Jackson and knocking him to the floor. Johnny’s fist managed to connect with Scott’s face before Kimmerlin recovered and rejoined the fray.
“Johnny…look out…,” Roy shouted the warning. The young paramedic tried to twist away but his injuries had drastically slowed his reflexes. Kimmerlin’s gun butt connected with the back of John’s head with a sickening thud. Johnny collapsed to lay on the floor semi conscious.
Cap turned his face away in distress as Chet, Mike and Marco looked sick. Roy’s blue eyes were glassy with tears at the torture being inflicted on his best friend.
John looked up with dazed eyes as Jackson approached him…it seemed he saw everything in slow motion. The other man’s foot swung back…he heard Roy’s desperate scream… “NOOO…” before a dull pain and then nothing…he was numb…his dark eyes were barely open and his mind wasn’t able to focus.
Jackson drew back his foot again… "No…please…God stop it… please…,” Roy was desperate…begging.
The SCU tones sounded… “Station 51…Vehicle accident with injuries…1504 Market Street… 1-5-0-4 Market Street…cross street Jeffrey… Time out 11:52…”
“Oops…that’s our cue…,” Jackson said. “It’s been fun gentlemen, but we really must be going.” Jackson snapped at Kimmerlin and pointed at the semi conscious paramedic. “Bring him along.”
“No…,” Roy protested. “He could be badly injured. He needs to be treated…He could die…you want a murder rap too.”
The radio crackled to life again. “Station 51 do you copy…?”
“I’ll take my chances…,” Scott chuckled as Kimmerlin hauled Johnny to his feet and slung the young man over his shoulder. “Time for us to run along…” He gave Roy a pat on the cheek and then grasped a handful of John’s shaggy sable hair… lifting his limp head…the dark eyes were barely open and unfocused. “I might even let you have what’s left of him back when I’m done…,” he laughed as he let John’s head drop. They headed for the door and Scott looked back. Seeing what he’d hoped for…the look of anguish in Roy’s eyes was unmistakable.
“No….,” He gasped out as he stood up…
Scott pointed his gun at Roy with a grin…Roy leaped to the side as the gunshot exploded… feeling a burning pain in his arm. John’s body jerked at the loud explosion but he was too weak to lift his head as they ducked out the door…
Roy rolled to his back as the door swung closed… “JOHNNY…,”
Roy struggled desperately against his bonds, succeeding only in twisting the tape tighter. He finally managed to roll to his knees and push himself to his feet. Roy moved to the counter and turned around…he used his bound hands to open the drawer. He fumbled awkwardly behind his back until he managed to grasp a knife.
Roy carefully turned it in his rapidly numbing hands and cut at the tape. After a moment it separated and Roy raced for the door, he ripped it open and ran outside but it was too late…they’d already gone, taking his partner with them. Reason returned and Roy turned back to help his crewmates at the table.
He cut the tape on Cap’s hands freeing him and then carefully peeled the tape from Cap’s mouth. “I’ll call for help pal…you finish with them…,” Hank instructed. Roy began to cut away the tape that held the others. He could hear Cap at the radio. “L.A. this is station 51…we need the police dispatched to our location…one of my men has been abducted…”
“Station 51…LA…police have already been dispatched…,” Sam Lanier’s voice responded.
Roy had finished freeing the others when Hank returned… they could hear sirens in the distance… Roy glanced at his Captain in surprise at how quickly they’d arrived. “Must have called them when they couldn’t raise us…,” Cap surmised.
The station was soon crawling with detectives as well as patrol officers and most were equally upset as they knew Johnny and Roy very well. Detective Ron Crockett stepped into the rec room…his dark eyes sweeping the men seated there at the table. He pulled out his notebook and prepared to take the statements of four upset crewman and one very agitated paramedic.
The group tried to stay calm but Roy was getting frustrated at the lack of action. “Well what’re ya waitin for? You gonna call this in or not? Why aren’t you out there…?” He snapped at Crockett as he waved toward the door…upsetting Chet as he tried to wrap a bandage around the irate paramedics arm.
“Look Roy…I know you’re upset…”
“UPSET…?” He bellowed angrily.
“Okay…okay…,” Crockett gestured for Roy to calm down. “What were they driving?”
“I don’t know…”
“What color was the car…?”
“I don’t know…,” he ground out in frustration, beginning to understand Crockett’s problem. He slumped into a chair in defeat. Cap rested his hand on his senior paramedics shoulder.
“Try and take it easy Roy…we’ll get him back…,” Hank promised.
“Roy…I know you’re scared and worried but we’re gonna do our best to find your partner,” Crockett assured him.
“I know…I’m sorry…I…”
“It’s okay…I understand. Do you have a photo of John?” Roy nodded as he reached for his wallet. “We’ll get Kimmerlin and Jackson’s mug shots out as well as this one of Gage…,” he added taking the photo from Roy. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and someone will have seen them.” Roy stood and began pacing the room like a caged animal. Crockett and the others watched him in concern as the Detective continued. “Did they say anything else that might give us a clue as to where they might have taken him…?”
Four heads shook in the negative but then Cap paused… “Well…they did say something like…only the four of us know where we’re takin him…,”
The others nodded… “Yeah I heard him say that too…”
“Any idea who the other two are…?”
“No…,” four voices answered in unison.
“Were there possibly others here that you heard but didn’t see…?”
“No…just the two…,” Cap replied.
“Okay…I’ll give you a break but call me if you think of anything…no matter how small.”
He left the five despondent men staring at the table in silence.
“He’s gonna kill him…,” Roy whispered with a crack in his voice.
“He coulda done that right here if that’s all he wanted…,” Hank assured him. “He wants revenge and that means he wants him alive…”
“Yeah pal…,” Chet piped in. “Kimmerlin wanted him to kill you…,” the Irishman began but trailed off remembering what Jackson had said.
“But…?” Roy prompted.
Chet looked at the others questioningly…unsure of whether or not to continue. Cap nodded… “He said he wanted to see your face when they took Johnny.”
Roy closed his eyes… “He’s gonna see my face…he can count on it…”
Roy hung his head… rubbing at his eyes in frustration. He was very worried…Jackson may want the younger man alive but Johnny had a condition that Scott Jackson was unaware of…What would the man do if his captive suddenly dropped into withdrawal from the stress of what was happening to him.
Roy was concerned about his partner and a neurological condition called Aspergers Syndrome. They’d discovered Johnny had the disorder two years ago when he’d been temporarily transferred to Station 88 where he’d first encountered Scott Jackson and his crew of miscreants.
Johnny had discovered that the crew was stealing from their victims and destroying the evidence of their pilfering in the flames. Johnny had become a threat to them and they’d abused and tormented the younger man into withdrawal. Roy had been able to talk him back from wherever he’d gone but now Kimmerlin and Jackson had him again. How long could John hold out against whatever they planned to put him through…They’d been unaware of his condition…what would they do if it manifested once again…? They wouldn’t have a clue what was happening.
“There’s something you don’t know about Johnny but it’s something that’s worrying me a lot.”
“What’s that Roy…?” Cap asked curiously. The rest of the crew looked at Roy in concern. They were well aware of John’s ASD and their former Captain had known about it as well but they’d never had a chance or a reason to tell Hank and now…if he chose to report it…it could cost Johnny his career.
Roy hesitated…his lips pursed in indecision… “Cap…Johnny has something called Aspergers Syndrome…”
“What is that?”
“It’s a neurological disorder…He’s had it since he was a child but he didn’t even know he did until a couple of years ago…when he was at Station 88’s the first time…that’s how we all found out about it…”
“Does Headquarters know about this? “ Cap asked.
“No Cap…,” Roy answered honestly.
“But you apparently all knew…” Cap stated a bit huffily, a little hurt that he hadn’t been let in on the secret… “And you’ve kept it to yourselves …?” They all nodded guiltily.
“Did Captain Hammer know about this…?”
“Yes sir…,” Roy answered quietly.
“Who else knows?”
“Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early and Dixie McCall at Rampart and my wife,” Roy replied.
That explained a lot…especially Roy’s overprotective, big brother attitude with Johnny as well as the way the other’s tended to watch out for their youngest crew member even though they harassed him terribly. “I see…what exactly is it…?”
Roy explained…including what had happened that night in the elevator shaft and the emergency room finishing with… “Are you gonna tell anyone Cap…?”
Cap pursed his lips in thought while the others waited anxiously. “Wow…you’ve really given me a dilemma here Roy…,” He looked at the faces watching him hopefully…these guys were a family…and he was a part of it…how could he let them down and betray one of their own. “I’ve never seen John perform with anything less than excellence…I guess it’s worth the risk to keep his secret.” The others exhaled the breaths they hadn’t even realized they’d been holding in relief.
“Cap…what if he slips into withdrawal again…?” Roy asked as he ran his hands tiredly through his hair in frustration. He was afraid if Johnny pulled back into himself again, he wouldn’t be there to talk him back and Jackson would be enraged…he’d kill him…
“I don’t know…Jackson’s obsessed and I’m sorry Roy I’m not a psychologist…I don’t what his reaction would be.”
Cap’s pronouncement that Jackson was obsessed terrified Roy…obsession bred violence and Johnny was his obsession. “Cap…I can’t stay here…I need to talk to someone who can help me with an answer…”
Cap looked at him… “Who would that be…?”
“I need to talk to Dr. Brackett…Maybe he can give me the answer I’m looking for…”
“Roy the station has been stood down for a couple of hours pal…They’re sending in replacements for the rest of the shift as well as a Doctor to talk to us…”
“I don’t need one …”
“Look Roy…,” Cap began.
But the younger man interrupted… “No Cap…the only therapy I need is Scott Jackson’s face breaking under my fist and my partner sitting next to me where he belongs…”
Hank sighed… “Okay Roy, go talk to Brackett but I want you back here in an hour…,” Cap instructed, holding up a finger to stress the point.
Jackson and Kimmerlin pulled into the yard of a dilapidated farm. The grass was overgrown, the house had holes in the roof and the barn’s paint was peeling from the weathered wood. Several slats were missing and the door was half hanging from its hinges.
They stopped the car with a jerk causing the semi-conscious man lying in the backseat to roll onto the floor with a groan. The grunt of pain eliciting a smirk from the driver…
“Brad…why don’t you show Gage his new home…,” Scott said with a sneer.
Jackson climbed from the driver’s seat, watching as Brad grabbed the bound man by the ankles and yanked him from the backseat to slam hard into the ground. Johnny moaned as pain flared into his awareness. The big man hauled Gage to his feet, supporting him as his knees buckled. He shoved him toward the barn.
Johnny stumbled and fell to his knees… “Get up…,” Kimmerlin snarled, yanking the younger man to his feet once again. Johnny was half dragged and half pushed, stumbling and falling only to be hauled to his feet and shoved forward again.
Dizziness and nausea warred in him as his concussed brain tried to send signals to his feet to move but Kimmerlin never gave him enough time to gather his thoughts…pulling and pushing him. John could barely stay on his feet. They finally reached the barn and the older man left the young paramedic on his knees as he pulled the bar holding the doors in place.
They creaked so loudly that Kimmerlin didn’t hear the pitiful sound of retching until Johnny had lost the contents of his stomach on the big man’s feet. Jackson broke out laughing which only infuriated Kimmerlin even more. He lashed out at Johnny, clubbing the younger man across the side of the head. Johnny hit the ground…his vision swam and a single word choked out with a gasp… “Roy….”
Roy came through the emergency room doors. Dixie took one look and knew something was terribly wrong and she knew with whom… “Roy, where’s Johnny?”
He shook his head wordlessly… “Is Dr Brackett here?” He asked with a croak…
“Treatment room one… Roy, are you sick?”
“No…no…I’m fine…Can you ask him to speak to me when he’s free. I…it’s about Johnny….He’s…he’s…,” Roy stumbled on the words.
The door to treatment room one opened and Kelly Brackett stepped out. He took one look at Roy and Dixie’s face. “What’s wrong…?” He asked. He glanced around curiously and it finally clicked… “Where’s Johnny…?”
“Doc…I need to talk to you for a minute.”
“Let’s go to my office…” Roy nodded and took Dixie’s hand, pulling her along behind them.
Brackett closed the door behind them as they stepped into his office… “Have a seat.” The other two sat as Brackett took the chair behind his desk. “What’s the problem Roy…?”
“Scott Jackson and Brad Kimmerlin…”
“The goon squad from 88’s…? What about them…?”
“They’re still in prison aren’t they?” Dixie asked.
“They’re out…,” Roy said quietly.
“Does Johnny know? Is that why he’s not here?” Kel asked.
“He’s not here because they took him this morning. Right after we got back from our first run.”
“What…?” Kel and Dixie both shot from their chairs. Roy rubbed his face in frustration as he explained what had happened.
He was hurt pretty bad. The thing is Doc…I’m afraid…”
“Of course you are Roy…”
“No…I mean… I’m afraid that Johnny will pull into himself…What’ll Jackson do if that happens?”
“I’m afraid I can’t answer that Roy…”
“Well then… what are the chances that Johnny will retreat…withdraw…?”
Brackett shook his head… “Roy…this isn’t my field…Let me call someone who might be able to answer that better than me…”
“Dr. Hightower…?” Kel nodded.
Dr. Brackett picked up the phone and within moments had the therapist on the line. “Martha this is Kelly Brackett…” He put her on speaker phone and explained the situation. Roy and Dixie listened… “What we want to know is whether it’s likely that Johnny will…ah…withdraw…?”
“Given the physical abuse and the stress level’s he’s most likely under…I say it wouldn’t be a matter of if but a matter of when… It would be a miracle if he didn’t.”
“He’s got it pretty well under control now…,” Roy added hopefully.
“Under normal physical stress that he’s accustomed to dealing with…this isn’t the same thing at all…It’s abuse…something he dealt with as a child by retreating from the world. He did it two years ago…it’s not something he can always control Roy…It’s a defense mechanism to keep from being hurt…understand?”
“God…I know you don’t know Scott Jackson but what so you think he’ll do if John does withdraw?”
“Roy, from what you’ve told me…this guy is hell bent on revenge…I don’t know that it would slow him down any or not…it might just make him frustrated enough to let him go or…,” she hesitated.
“Mad enough to kill him…,” Roy finished quietly.
“I’m afraid so…Can’t the police help?”
“No…not much …they have no leads.”
“Roy…Kel…please keep me informed.”
When Johnny next woke, he was laying in his side in a pile of musty hay. Pain flared in his awareness… Man, everything hurt…he groaned miserably but he forced his aching body to an upright position, a low moan escaped his lips as his bruised body screamed in protest. Stabbing pains knifed through his rib cage sending shockwaves through his confused brain. His head was pounding like a snare drum. Kimmerlin’s gun had left a knot on the back of his head, leaving it throbbing miserably and causing dizziness and nausea to roll through him.
He leaned against the wall struggling to keep his stomach under control and finally realized his hands were bound… His heart raced in panic and he twisted his numb hands frantically but only succeeded in tightening the tape. He finally gave up…He calmed himself and began to look around at his surroundings, trying to take stock of his situation.
He appeared to be in a horse stall…maybe eight by eight with steel bars running all the way around the top. Dirty sawdust and musty hay covered the floor. A single bucket of water hung from a hook on the wall and an empty one sat in the corner. Johnny shuddered to think what he needed that for.
Finally getting his surroundings clear he turned his attention to himself…Concussion was obvious, cracked ribs at the very least and dozens of painful bruises. His lip was split and his shirt was spotted with dried blood that had dripped from his nose and mouth. His cheek was swollen and bruised and his stomach throbbed from the blows Jackson had landed. His shoulder muscles were in spasms from his hands being bound behind him.
John was desperate for water and his dark eyes once again turned toward the bucket hanging on the hook. His eyes lit up…he had an idea. It took ten minutes of crawling on his knees and having to stop repeatedly to wait out the muscle spasms. Curling into a ball in agony as they seized into angry knots and pushing himself upright as soon as they would ease to move another few feet. He finally used the wall and pushed himself to his feet. He turned and used the hook to cut through the duct tape holding his wrists. It parted with a snap and Johnny almost screamed in pain as his shoulders were suddenly freed.
Roy thought about calling Joanne but decided that this was something he needed to tell her in person. She loved Johnny as much as he did and it would be too much to hear this over the phone, he needed to be with her.
He returned to the Station as ordered before his hour was up. Chief Houts was there along with a Department psychologist. They had already spoken with the others individually and as a group and were waiting for Roy to return. Knowing how close this particular team was…Houts was insistent that he speak with Roy.
Johnny rubbed the feeling back into his wrists…his abused body still locking in muscle spasms periodically. He prowled the entire area of the stall and rattled every bar before giving up and settling down with his back to the wall to wait for whatever Jackson and Kimmerlin had in mind. He knew that Roy would be looking for him. His partner was as tenacious as a bulldog. Johnny could only hope Roy would find him in time.
Dr. Sundquist sat across from Roy. "Chief Houts and your Captain tell me you’re very close to Gage…More so than most partners.”
“That’s right…we’re also close friends.”
“More like brothers I guess…call it what you want.”
“Captain Stanley told me you were extremely distraught this morning.” Roy’s eyebrow arced in disbelief. “Can you tell me about it?”
“What exactly would you like me to tell you? That two insane people came into our station and tied us up…beat the crap outta my partner and then kidnapped him…I guess that about covers it…but you already knew all of that…I guess all there is left is my desire to break Scott Jackson’s face…,” Roy snarled.
“I’m not the enemy here Roy…I’m trying to help you…”
“I’m not the one who needs help right now…Johnny is.”
“I’ll help him when I can…Roy…? Captain Stanley mentioned that John had an added problem but he wouldn’t go into detail…he said he didn’t understand it that much himself…can you tell me what it is?”
Roy took a deep breath… “Does what I say to you get reported back to headquarters?”
“Only in a general sense of whether or not I think you’re fit for duty.”
“What about someone else…?”
“John…?” Roy shrugged, remaining non committal.
Sundquist picked up a manila folder that held John’s service record. “Since Gage has functioned in his job without a problem for five years both as a fireman and a paramedic…I have to assume that whatever his problem is…it doesn’t affect his performance.”
The Doctor pursed his lips thoughtfully. Gage’s Captain and his crew along with his partner obviously thought highly of John Gage’s abilities…they held their youngest crew member in a great deal of admiration and respect. “I’ll keep his secret…,” The doctor promised.
Roy’s blue eyes locked with the Doctor’s gray. He bit his lip for a moment before making his decision. “John has a mild case of Aspergers Syndrome Disorder,” he finally said. “He was also a battered child.”
“Oh God…,” the doctor said quietly.
“Like I said it’s mild…He didn’t even know he had it…I’ve only seen it seriously manifest once and that was two years ago when this first started. He was transferred to Station 88 and that’s where he had his first run in with Jackson and his crew. We got through that and it’s never resurfaced and according to his doctor…he’s most likely outgrown the worst of it…unless…”
“He’s under a great deal of stress…”
“Being a paramedic and a fire fighter is pretty stressful DeSoto…,” the Doctor pointed out.
“That’s nothing that Johnny can’t handle… He’s been doin it for years.” The doctor nodded, remembering John’s record. “But it’s the physical and emotional trauma that could be what sends him over the edge… I have to find him…”
“You’re not responsible for your partner…”
“Yeah…yeah I am, because I choose to be…he’s not just my partner…he’s closer than that…he’s my kid brother…can you understand that?” The doctor nodded. “When I find him…and I will find him…I may need some help. He has an unofficial therapist who I talk to once in a while and Dr. Brackett is aware of his condition.” Sundquist’s eyes widened in surprise… “But he may need to talk to someone…”
“I’ll help him anyway I can unofficially.”
Roy nodded, touched by how many people were willing to go out on a limb for his partner…many of them impressed by John’s ability to keep meeting and beating every challenge.
Several hours passed and the muscle spasms had eased enough for John to push himself to his feet. He waited for the dizziness and nausea to pass and then made his way to the bucket of water…It had a slightly brackish taste but it was drinkable. He used some to clean the blood from his face and made his way back to the corner and sat down. The barn was stifling but Johnny knew once the sun set, the temperature would begin to drop…It would be a long uncomfortable night.
Roy arrived home in the early afternoon. Joanne heard the car pull into the driveway and came to the door to meet her husband as he climbed from his vehicle. Jo knew from the look on his face and the slow, dejected walk that something was terribly wrong. She ran to meet him… “Roy…what is it?”
Distressed blue eyes met hers… “Johnny…,” he choked out…”
“Oh Roy…he’s not…?” She couldn’t finish the sentence. Her voice hitched and fear filled her eyes.
“He’s not dead Jo…but I’m not sure he’s okay either…” He held his wife close as he rested his cheek on the top of his wife’s head. The tears fell for both of them as he told her about the morning’s events.
The temperature in the barn began to drop as the sun slipped behind the mountains and dropped out of sight. Johnny huddled in the corner of the stall, arms wrapped protectively around his aching ribs. His teeth had begun to chatter and his body shook with chills. The young man began to wonder if he’d been left here to die. “Where are you Roy…,” he whispered. He finally slipped into a restless sleep.
A torrent of water hit Johnny in the face as Scott Jackson tipped the bucket on the sleeping paramedic. Johnny came awake sputtering and coughing…the rapid motion causing pain to shoot through his side and stomach as he struggled to sit up. He was hit by a wave of dizziness and nausea and he began to retch as dry heaves racked his body.
Jackson and Kimmerlin stood watching dispassionately until the spasms stopped. Johnny managed to push himself weakly to his feet, facing the two men. The paramedic had a clear view of the open door behind them. “Well Gage…how do you like your new home?” Johnny didn’t answer and Jackson’s hand flashed out with a backhanded thwack that nearly knocked John off his feet. “I’m talkin to you…,”
Without warning Johnny suddenly lurched forward…he threw himself at Jackson, knocking the man backward into his friend. Kimmerlin managed to catch Scott and keep him from falling…“Stop him…,” Jackson bellowed… but Johnny never hesitated...he ducked around the two tangled men and out through the door, slamming it shut and ramming the bolt home.
He breathed a sigh of relief and turned to run only to plow into another man. Johnny recoiled from the collision with a cry of surprise escaping his lips as he looked into the face of Dave Pierro and behind him, the fourth former crewman of Station 88 Ken Foster. Johnny’s heart sank.
John whirled back the other way…his eyes searching for a weapon. His eyes fell on the tool bench with its assortment of rusted tools but before he could move Pierro grabbed him from behind. Foster moved up to help him. John slammed his elbow into Pierro’s rib cage…the bigger man grunted in surprise and loosened his grip. John swung around his fist connecting with Foster’s stomach. The larger man doubled over and sank to his knees. John lashed out with his foot catching Pierro in the knee. Johnny started to run only to have Foster catch his ankle. The younger man tripped, hitting the floor hard. He groaned in pain as his body protested this new abuse.
Pierro grasped John’s shoulder, rolling the young paramedic onto his back…His fist flashed out clipping Johnny in the mouth. Pain exploded in his face as the punch drove his teeth into his lip. Blood began to flow.
Foster reached up and unlocked the stall door and then he and Pierro pulled the younger man to his feet. Kimmerlin came out raging…his fists connected again and again with John’s body as Pierro and Foster held his arms. “Still got some fight huh Gage…but you’ll learn to behave…just like we did.”
Johnny was barely able to stand and his head hung limply…he struggled to draw a breath. “Bring him here…,” Jackson ordered… The three men dragged the smaller man into the stall where Jackson stood waiting. He reached out to tip John’s head up by the chin…dark eyes regarded him blearily. “You’ve been a bad boy Johnny…you need to be punished. Do you know what they do to you in prison when you’re bad?” John’s eyes struggled to stay open he fought to remain conscious. “Well you’re already in solitary confinement so we’ll have to think of something else.” John sagged between the two men… “John…John…John…," he taunted... "You have to learn to do what you’re told.”
John recognized the warning signs… as if the world around him was being pushed back by a gray wall. He knew he was pulling into himself and he fought for control.
“Let him go…,” Jackson growled. Pierro and Foster let him go and John dropped to his knee’s…his arms wrapped about himself as if to hold everything in place. He raised his head to look at the four men towering over him. Pain filled brown eyes flicked from one to the other and blood dripped from his chin. His eyes widened in fear as Jackson removed his belt…doubling it and slapping it menacingly against his own leg.
John remembered his childhood and a vicious teacher who tried to make him cry out…A defiant look crossed the younger man’s features.
The belt whistled through the air and John clenched his teeth against the pain that laced through him, refusing to make a sound… He twisted away and scrambled backwards but the other man followed relentlessly. Johnny managed to turn his body to protect his face as the man continued to rain blow after painful blow. Taking out two years of pent up rage on the helpless paramedic. His eyes glittered maliciously...Foster closed his eyes and turned away…unable to watch. A soft cry of pain finally escaped Johnny’s lips and Scott smiled in glee.
John felt searing pain…his body burned under the rain of blows…, a low cry finally escaped his lips…It seemed to please his tormentor and the beating finally stopped. The blood stained belt dropped in front of him…he only vaguely felt his head snapped backwards…he glared defiantly back…
“There’s plenty more where that came from Gage…” He slammed the younger man back against the wall and Johnny mercifully blacked out.
Johnny woke the next morning…gray was settling around his vision but he pushed it back…He had to get away…He’d be okay if he could get away…Roy would look for him…His friend would help him.
He heard the creek of the barn door and his heart sank…he was afraid he couldn’t take much more. The stall door creaked and the four men stepped inside. John hitched himself back against the wall, drawing his knees up against his chest. He looked up… saw the belt in Jackson’s hand and the promise in his eyes…“God Roy …help me…,” he whispered.
Scott laughed mirthlessly… “DeSoto can’t help you…he’s dead…”
John shook his head in horror… “No…no…that’s a lie…”
“I shot him…,” he said with a chuckle.
John vaguely remembered the sound of a gunshot…tears welled in his dark eyes…God…Roy was dead…and it was his fault…Jackson had killed his best friend…because of him. Pain flooded his soul…first Drew and now Roy…his heart felt like it was breaking and the gray moved in…but this time he didn’t fight it.
Jackson moved forward…the belt tapped his leg but thankfully John barely felt the blows that began to rain down on him…he’d already slipped away.
“Three Days”…Roy punched his locker as he stood with Mike, Marco and Chet in the Locker room. “God…what he must be going through…,” The blonde paramedic raged. He slumped onto the bench.
Mike put his hand on Roy’s shoulder. “They’re doin all they can Roy…,” he said softly. Their faces are on the news every night. Someone will eventually see them and call…”
“Well I’m gonna call Crockett…I wanna know what’s goin on.” He made the call from the Rec-room a few minutes later…
“Roy…we’re doing all we can…we haven’t got any new leads I’m afraid…”
“So you’re gonna do nothing…?”
“We’ve been here before Roy…we simply have nothing to go on. I’m sorry…we haven’t dropped the case believe me…”
“Yeah…tell it to Johnny…” Roy slammed the phone down. The other’s had gathered around to listen…They waited impatiently.
Roy shook his head… “They still have nothing to go on…,” he looked at the others. “God where is he…?”
An attractive blonde sat in her apartment sipping coffee and thumbing through a magazine…the morning news was on. She was only half listening until one story caught her attention. “Police are still looking for kidnapped paramedic John Gage. The twenty four year old fireman was taken from his workplace at Station 51 by these two men…Brad Kimmerlin and Scott Jackson.” Her head snapped up at the names…the magazine dropped from her fingers as her hand flew to her mouth in shock.
Rebecca Jackson watched in horror… “Oh God Scott…what have you done…?” She whispered as the photo of the handsome young fire fighter was flashed on the screen. She’d met him only once but she’d liked the young man…she decided she needed to help. She didn’t know for sure where Scott had taken the young man but she had a guess…What was his partner’s name…?
She remembered the man from Scott’s trial…he’d hovered protectively around his young friend throughout the whole ordeal. DeSoto…yes that was it…she picked up the phone…
The phone rang and Cap walked over to pick it up. “Station 51…Captain Stanley speaking…Yes Ma’am he is…can you hold? Roy it’s for you…A woman…”
Roy took the phone… “Hello? Yes, this is Roy DeSoto…” Roy’s face suddenly got a hopeful look… he listened in silence for a few moments… “Where…? Okay, I’ll meet you there in an hour...and thank you.”
Roy hung up and turned to look at Captain Stanley. “Well… what was that about?”
“That was Scott Jackson’s ex-wife…she thinks she might know where Jackson’s holed up. She wants to meet with me in an hour.”
“You gonna call Crockett?” Cap asked.
“No…she said she wouldn’t talk to the police…just me.”
“Roy…you need to call…”
“No Cap…,” Roy interrupted. “I’m goin alone…this could be my only chance to find Johnny…I’m not scarin her off… Cap…can you get a replacement for me for the rest of this shift?”
“Look Cap…I don’t know how long this’ll take…but I do know I can’t do my job right now…not safely anyway. My minds just not on it…”
Hank sighed… “Okay Roy…I’ll see what I can do.”
Scott looked up as Brad Kimmerlin and Dave Pierro came in from the barn…the bowl of rice from the night before untouched. “Is he still the same…?” Jackson growled out.
“Yup…he’s just sittin in the corner rocking…,” Kimmerlin muttered.
“You think it’s for real or is he faking us out…?”
“I don’t know…,” Brad replied with a shake of the head.
“Sure looks real to me…,” Pierro added, looking worried. Man he hadn’t signed up for this…
“Damn it…he’s not stealin my revenge with this…this…whatever this is he’s doin… make him eat…shove it down his throat if you have to.”
Kimmerlin and Pierro looked each other and shrugged… “Okay Scott…”
They went back to the barn…Foster was leaning on the door watching the young man inside. “Is he still doin it?” Kimmerlin asked.
“Scott thinks he’s fakin…,” Pierro added.
Foster shook his head… “Nah man…I’ve seen this before… “
“What are you talkin about…?” Kimmerlin asked…
“My cousins kid…he’s got autism…,” He nodded at Johnny. “He does that whenever he gets upset…”
Johnny sat huddled in the corner…his arms were folded around himself…his head was down and his eyes were fixed on a single spot on the floor as he rocked in a steady, slow rhythm.
The three men went inside. Pierro exchanged a look with Foster…both of them feeling remorse…neither of them had bargained for Scott’s insane rage…Kimmerlin caught the look… “Ah knock it off…Scott wants him to eat…so he’s gonna eat.” Brad reached out to grab a hold of what was left of John’s shirt, but the younger man flinched backwards, his hands slapped Kimmerlin’s away. His breath became labored.
Kimmerlin batted John’s hands aside…grabbing his arm and hauling him to his feet. John began to struggle and it was all Kimmerlin could do to hang onto him. Brad finally locked his arms around the younger man pinning his arms. Johnny threw himself backwards…his feet kicked out, desperate to break the larger man’s hold. Kimmerlin locked his arm around John’s throat, cutting off his air supply.
Somewhere deep in his mind where he’d retreated to , pain was intruding…his battered body was screaming in agony. His mouth was forced open and filled with something that tasted awful…he spit it out. His head snapped to the side as Kimmerlin cuffed the side of his head but he barely felt the pain. Another spoonful of… something … was forced into his mouth, this time followed by a swig of brackish water…John choked it down, gagging…only to have more water follow…nearly drowning him.
After a few minutes they seemed satisfied that they’d gotten enough into him to keep him from starving…Kimmerlin let him go…John slid down the wall, drawing his knees to his chin…the rocking motion began again… “Scott’s gonna kill him if he keeps this up…,” Pierro commented. The other’s nodded…none of them sure they wanted to go that far.
Roy met Jackson’s ex wife in a little café a couple of miles from the Station. She was pacing the parking lot as he pulled in. Roy climbed out and she moved forward to meet him. “Roy DeSoto…?”
“I’m Rebecca Jackson…”
“I’m sorry we have to meet again under these circumstances but if you can tell me anything that might lead me to Johnny…I’d sure be grateful,” Roy told her.
“I’m so sorry for what he’s done to your friend. I only met John once…It was during Scott’s trial…Can you believe he apologized to me for testifying against Scott? He seemed like such a nice kid…”
“He is…,” Roy agreed. “He’s the best.” She nodded... “What can you tell me…? Do you know where he might have taken my partner…?”
“I’m not sure of course but his dad died about a year ago…he left the old farm to Scott. No one lives there and it’s kind of remote. There’s a good chance he’s there…but the problem is, I was only there once a long time ago and I don’t know the address so I can only give you a rough idea of where it is…I’m sorry…”
“It’s a start…anything you can tell me is good enough.”
She began to give him rough directions… “The terrain’s pretty rugged…the road leading up to the house is unpaved. There’s an old abandoned ranger tower near it…that’s another clue.”
“This is great…thanks…”
“I hope you find your friend…,” she told him.
Roy went inside the restaurant to use the phone…He called Lieutenant Crockett but a stranger’s voice answered. “Detective Griffon, how can I help you?” the voice said.
“Uh…I’m tryin to reach Lieutenant Crockett…,” Roy said.
“He’s out chasing down a lead…I’m his partner, maybe I can help you?”
“This is Roy DeSoto…my partner is John Gage…”
“Oh yeah…the Jackson case. What’s up?”
“I spoke to Jackson’s ex wife…she gave me a rough idea of where they might be holding Johnny.”
“Where would that be…?”
“A farm up in Toner Canyon…”
“That’s all…that’s sort of vague Mr. DeSoto.”
“Well she gave me some clues as to how to find it but she didn’t have the address and…”
“Look Mr. DeSoto, I’m sorry about your partner and I’ll tell Ron to call you but that’s a large area and we simply don’t have the man power to go chasing around Toner Canyon without knowing exactly where he is…”
“You’re tellin me you’re not even gonna try…?” He growled angrily.
“Not without a better idea of his location, besides…if we send men and helicopter’s out, he’s apt to spot em. If he does…he could kill your partner and disappear. We’d never find him then.”
“Well thanks for nothin…” Roy slammed the phone down in frustration. He called Captain Stanley, explaining everything including the clues Rebecca had given him and his conversation with Detective Griffon. “Cap, if Crockett calls…tell him where I’ve gone.”
“WHAT…?” Cap yelled. “Roy…Don’t go up there alone. Let the police handle it…”
“I tried that…they can’t be bothered…It’s not their friend who’s missing. I’m sorry Cap, but if there’s even a chance that that’s where Johnny is…I’m takin it. I’ll talk to you later.”
“ROY…,” he heard Cap bellow as he hung up.
He climbed into his car and started the engine… “Hang in junior, I’m comin for ya…”
“You saw him this morning, he’s completely gone…just let him go Scott,” Ken Foster said in exasperation…not understanding what Jackson thought to gain from this cruelty.
“Not a chance…he’s gonna pay for what he did…he ruined my life and I’m gonna ruin his…”
“You already have…just go look at him…you killed his best friend, you’ve damn near beat him to death…he’s completely pulled into his own head…isn’t that enough?”
“It’s been two days and nothing’s changed…no one could fake it this long…”
“I’ll wait…he’s gotta come around sometime.”
“I don’t think so…”
“No one asked you…”
“Scott…when you killed DeSoto…you ruined your own plan…you drove him to this…”
Jackson slammed his foot into the wall in a rage… “Damn it…he’s ruining everything,” he snarled.
“He’s gonna freeze to death out there…or get pneumonia…then what…no revenge to be had in that is there…just let him go….”
“Then at least let me throw him a blanket…”
Jackson paced angrily for a moment… “Kimmerlin…,” Jackson snapped angrily… “Bring him in here…”
“Why not go out the barn and see him…,” Brad suggested in irritation.
“Too cold…it’s warmer in here.”
“Thanks a lot…,” Kimmerlin griped.
Scott gave him an ugly grin and Brad turned away…this whole thing had gotten out of control…it might behoove him to just drive away…Jackson had obviously lost his mind. He walked into the barn and into the stall…the younger man was in the corner, his arms wrapped tightly around his knees and his eyes focused on the floor before him.
“C’mon Gage…Scott wants to see you…” John began a slow rock at the sound of his voice… Kimmerlin sighed and reached out to grab Gage’s collar and hauled him to his feet. Johnny tried to knock his hands away but Kimmerlin shoved him toward the door. The young man stumbled unsteadily, until Kimmerlin once again grabbed a hold and pulled him toward the house. Brad dragged him inside and shoved his battered and bruised body forward to sprawl at Scott’s Feet. John drew himself back into a huddled position his eyes fixed steadily on Jackson’s swinging foot.
Roy had been up and down every dirt road in the canyon for the last four hours…He’d found several roads which had led to homes and camp grounds but not a rundown farm house. The dirt roads and pot holes had pounded his Porsche and the radiator had sprung a leak. He found a small creek and refilled his overflow. He was cruising slowly back towards town…The temperature Gauge was hovering dangerously high and he was preparing to give it up for the day and come back tomorrow with Johnny’s land rover, a vehicle more suited to these roads.
Roy rounded a corner and spotted a dilapidated Ranger tower. Excitement rose in him…it was one of Rebecca’s landmarks. A short way further down the street a dirt road led off into the woods…Roy turned up it. Even at the slow crawling pace of twenty miles an hour his car was being pounded. The small vehicle dropped into yet another pothole and Roy swore softly…every mile dragged on…ten miles seemed like twenty. The engine began to steam… “Damn it…,” Roy yelled as he hit the steering wheel. Roy pulled into a stand of trees and killed the engine.
Roy now had a choice…Keep walking or hike back to the main road and hitch a ride or go on…Johnny was close, he could almost feel it…John had to know he’d be searching for him…he was counting on Roy to find him…
He looked up the road…about a mile further on, the road curved. He looked at the sun and guessed he had another hour or two of daylight…Roy decided to go as far as the curve…if there was nothing he’d turn back and try again tomorrow. He grabbed a flashlight from the glove compartment and started walking.
John lay curled on the floor…Foster and Pierro looked sick at Scott’s latest assault on the younger man…even Kimmerlin looked disgusted. Why couldn’t Scott see this was useless…The poor kid curled on the floor was beyond understanding what was happening to him…or why.
None of them knew John’s background and his history of abuse or ASD…Johnny had frequently disappeared into his own mind to escape it…Foster was the only one who understood at all what was happening and even he didn’t fully comprehend it.
Foster and Pierro exchanged a look…they each saw the mutual disgust in the other’s eyes. They both knew they wanted out. Scott suddenly stood up and Johnny’s hands automatically flew up to cover his head protectively. Scott drew back his foot…If this was an act than self preservation would kick in but Gage didn’t react and Jackson was furious…he wanted to kill the young man in front of him for stealing his revenge.
Foster watched the foot draw back and he couldn’t take anymore… he stepped between them… “Scott, stop it…”
“What did you say…?” He growled dangerously.
“I said stop it…Look I’m no shrink but I told the guys before…I think this is some kind of withdrawal…like Autism…”
“So...if it is than this is a pointless waste…He’s not here…his body is but he’s not…get it…you’re doing this for nothing.”
“Take him back to the barn,” He ground out. “I’ll figure out what to do about this tomorrow. Maybe I’ll just cut my losses.”
Foster moved to help Johnny but Scott stopped him. “Not you…”
“You’re showing a little too much sympathy. Kimmerlin,” he snapped. “You take him to the barn…” Scott went to the drawer and pulled out a padlock…looking pointedly at Foster, he handed it to Brad and put the key in his own pocket. “Put that on the door.”
Kimmerlin yanked John to his feet and Foster could barely believe the younger man was still able to stand. John gave a weak attempt at fending off Brad’s hands. Foster snatched a blanket from the back of the sofa… “What’s that for?” Scott snapped.
Ken nodded toward Johnny as he swayed weakly in Kimmerlin’s hands. “It’s gonna be cold again tonight.”
“You’re goin soft Ken…but since it could be his last night…I guess I can give him that…,” he said snidely. Kimmerlin dragged John away and Ken Foster followed.
Roy rounded the curve and spotted the farmhouse. There were three vehicles parked in front of it. The door to the house opened and Roy ducked into a small stand of trees as Brad Kimmerlin came through the door. His heart rose in his chest when he saw Johnny and then sank into his stomach as the big man threw John down the stairs. Kimmerlin thumped down the stairs after him snatching the smaller man to his feet and shoving him ahead of him. Ken Foster stepped out behind them carrying a blanket. Roy recognized the man instantly. “Hey, Hey the gangs all here…,” he whispered.
Johnny staggered and fell. Roy almost burst from his hiding place to go and help his partner but he managed to stop himself…it wouldn’t do Johnny any good to get caught here himself. He stood shaking in rage and biting his lip to keep from crying out as the big man in front of him snatched Johnny off the ground and flung him yet again. Foster ran to Kimmerlin, Roy couldn’t hear what was said but he saw Kimmerlin shake his head a couple of times before he finally nodded.
Foster moved towards John…he leaned down to talk to the younger man. Roy’s heart thudded in his chest as his worst fears were realized. Johnny was pulling himself into a sitting position but his arms were wrapped tightly around his body…head down as he began to rock…
Foster reached to help him up and John feebly tried to knock his hands away. Foster ignored the weak attempt and grasped the smaller man under the arms and lifted him to his feet…letting him go immediately after he regained his feet. He gently but firmly pushed the young paramedic forward…he staggered slightly, hunched up in pain or withdrawal…Roy couldn’t tell from this distance but he was walking on his own.
Foster prodded him the rest of the way. A light push and the younger man would take a couple of steps and stop only to be prodded forward again. They finally made it to the barn and disappeared inside. Ken got him into the stall and allowed him to sink back into the corner, pulling his knees up to his chin. Foster shook his head at the pitiful sight and spread the blanket over John’s shaking shoulder’s…Even back when he’d worked with Gage at 88’s…he’d respected the younger man’s ability’s. The Kid had guts…and he’d never shied away from a rescue…no matter how dangerous…He wondered vaguely how long Johnny would have continued to defy Jackson with that spit in your eye attitude if Scott hadn’t killed his partner…it had been the final straw… He leaned down… “For what it’s worth…,” he whispered. “I’m sorry Gage.”
“Alright, let’s go…,” Kimmerlin snapped. “You’ve got him all tucked in for the night.” Foster shot Brad an ugly look but left the stall. Kimmerlin shot the bolt and pointedly snapped the padlock in place.
Roy watched the two men until they disappeared inside the house. The sun was beginning to set. He’d have to wait until dark to be sure no one would see him crossing the driveway. He settled down to wait.
About forty minutes later, Roy decided it was dark enough besides he simply couldn’t wait any longer. He carefully crossed the gravel drive wincing with every step. In the stillness of the evening, it sounded like thunder in Roy’s ears but no shouts of alarm were heard from the house.
He eased the barn door open, cringing at the loud creak. Roy slipped inside pulling the noisy door closed behind him. He flicked on the flashlight, hoping it wouldn’t be visible from the house as he made his way through the darkened barn. He shone it around and stopped as it fell on the padlocked door. He moved quickly to the stall and shined the light inside. His partner was huddled in the corner, shaking from cold and no doubt shock…His head lay on his knees and for the moment he was still.
“Johnny…,” Roy called softly. “Johnny…can you hear me?”
The only sign that his friend had heard him was the slow steady rocking motion that began at the sound of his voice. “Hold on junior…I’m gonna get you out.”
Roy began a hurried search of the barn… finally finding a rusty crowbar tucked in a corner with a group of old rakes and shovels. He quickly pried the hinge loose on the bolt holding the door. The whole locking mechanism finally snapped and hung free. He pulled the door open and quickly moved to Johnny dropping the crowbar beside him in the straw.
He reached carefully for his partner, remembering how he’d been in the emergency room and Brackett’s words from that time… “Don’t push him, don’t rush him…move at his speed.” “Johnny…it’s Roy,” he said…slowly reaching toward him. The rocking hesitated briefly then continued. The slender hands swung at Roy’s knocking them away with a small cry of fear.
Roy looked uneasily at the door. “Okay, okay…I won’t touch you but Johnny we’ve got to go right now…Can you help me out here junior?” Roy pleaded but then he froze as a different sound intruded.
John’s world was gray just as it had been when he’d lost his Mom and Dad…he’d zoned out to escape the pain and the hurt that was too much to bear and now he’d lost Roy too but this time it was his fault…If he’d kept his mouth shut about what he’d seen, none of this would have happened. His body was battered and bruised but his heart had been ripped from him as well. Jackson hadn’t just broken his body, this time he’d broken his spirit as well.
He vaguely felt a presence…heard a voice he couldn’t possibly have heard and thought he had finally lost it completely…Roy was dead…he’d heard the shot himself…This was just another cruel torture that Jackson was inflicting on him…he felt hands touch him, he slapped them way and withdrew into himself even further.
Kimmerlin approached the door with a bowl of rice in his hands…he’d been told by Scott to be sure Gage ate. He was contemplating the chore of cramming it down the stubborn, younger man’s throat…he may not like what Scott was doing but unlike Foster and Pierro, Scott was his best friend and he’d stand by him.
He stopped suddenly…the barn door was unbolted. Had Foster forgotten to lock it behind him? “Damn fool…,” he muttered to himself. Foster was going soft, so was Pierro and Kimmerlin was baffled by it…had they forgotten whose testimony had put them all away. He opened the barn door, the creaking of the hinges sounded thunderous in the quiet night. He heard Gage cry out and then a soft whisper.
Kimmerlin noticed the broken hinge…Unfortunately for him, he didn’t notice the blonde paramedic crouched behind the door as he ran in.
Roy swung the crowbar…it connected with a dull thud and Kimmerlin dropped to the ground. There was a brief moment when Roy almost hoped he’d killed him as he remembered the big man’s brutal handling of his young partner but then the paramedic part of him kicked in. He knelt next to the larger man and felt for a pulse. It beat steadily beneath his fingers. He ran a quick diagnostic in his mind of Kimmerlin’s potential injuries.
A head injury was always dangerous…but his pulse was strong and John had to come first right now…Johnny was in shock, cold and most likely badly injured. He had to get him out right now and he was out of time…they’d be looking for Kimmerlin soon but he knew Johnny was too far out of it to cooperate and he couldn’t wait him out.
“Okay Junior…I’m sorry it has to be this way…,” Roy reached for John and his young partner’s hands raised defensively as he tried to back even further into the corner. Roy grabbed Johnny’s hands and pulled the younger man to his feet…John’s cry of fear was abruptly cut off as Roy’s fist clipped his chin…John’s head reeled and his eyes rolled up. Roy leaned forward and allowed his partner to fall over his shoulder.
Roy carried him past the now semi conscious man on the floor. He saw Kimmerlin’s hand move and knew he was still alive…well that was good anyway…he hadn’t killed him outright. Roy slipped from the barn…his options now limited. His car wouldn’t run and Roy couldn’t carry his partner the whole way. They’d have to make it the ten miles down that dirt road on foot and try and hitch a ride back into town. With Johnny injured and in this severe case of withdrawal it wouldn’t be easy but he had no option now.
Roy slipped into the trees moving parallel with the road. He had to find a safe place to hole up with his friend until he was sure Johnny could travel. He had several obvious physical injuries as well as the emotional trauma…Roy just hoped he could reach him…
Kimmerlin had been gone about twenty minutes before Jackson sent Pierro to help him with Gage…he came back at a run. “Scott…Brad’s unconscious in the barn…Gage is gone.”
“I knew he was fakin…,” Jackson snarled. “Find him…”
“What about Brad?” Foster asked.
“What about him…?” He snapped. “I want Gage…he’s gonna pay…,” he promised as he ran out the door.
Foster knew Johnny wasn’t faking…he knew he had to have had help…he wondered who it was…
The cool night air carried sound clearly. Roy heard the yells behind them and knew they’d discovered Kimmerlin and that they’d be after them. He had to find a safe place for Johnny to rest.
Roy found a dense stand of brush and carefully laid his partner down and crawled inside, he turned and pulled his unconscious friend in behind him. Roy pulled his navy blue jacket off and then pulled John into an upright position…he draped the jacket over what was left of his pale blue uniform shirt. The area was tight and Roy had John practically in his lap. His partners head rested against his chest and shoulder.
Foster, Pierro and Jackson had spread out and were walking a straight line search pattern…stopping periodically to listen for the sound of someone moving through the brush. The injured paramedic couldn’t have gotten far.
Roy could hear them getting closer. Johnny’s head moved slightly against his shoulder and a loan moan escaped his lips. His eyes cracked open and for the first time in a long time Roy began to pray… “Please God don’t let him wake up now.” If Johnny woke and started to struggle or cried out they were done. “Roy placed his hand gently over John’s mouth. “Shhh junior…Please Johnny stay quiet…please it’s me…,” he reassured him. “It’s Roy…you’re safe now okay…? Don’t be afraid…”
Johnny heard the voice and somewhere in his fog he almost recognized the speaker…he felt a flare of fear as someone gently placed a hand over his mouth. He tilted his head back to look up at Roy…vague, lost dark eyes met his briefly…Roy was dead…he’d killed him…but he seemed real…Oh man…Jackson had done what his Uncle and the rest of his family had failed at…John thought he’d finally lost his mind…he retreated once more. “Shhh, go back to sleep Johnny…,” Roy whispered. “You’re safe.” John laid his head back against Roy’s shoulder…allowing the soothing sound of this apparition to lull him back to sleep…his eyes slid shut. “Thank you God…,” Roy whispered.
Foster moved into a small clearing…the moon threw eerie shadows through the trees and surrounding brush…he heard a quiet moan and knew the missing paramedic was close by and then he heard the soft whisper and he grinned, correctly guessing that Jackson had failed and Gage’s partner was with him somewhere close by.
He considered calling Scott but then he remembered Brad Kimmerlin…Scott had left his supposed best friend unconscious in the barn while he searched for Gage. He couldn’t help but note the difference in the two relationships…Foster made his decision and moved on.
Roy saw one of the men enter the clearing but was unable to tell which one it was. John groaned softly and Roy shifted him slightly in his arms in case he needed to move quickly… “Shhh…,” Roy whispered softly. He saw the man’s head turn quickly in their direction and knew he’d heard them…he tensed. Then Foster smiled and moved on. Roy breathed a sigh of relief.
He waited for what seemed like an eternity before he heard them heading back up towards the farmhouse, they were hardly quiet about it…he could hear Jackson’s angry ranting a mile away. He suddenly heard Jackson shout and knew they’d found his car. “Damn it…” Roy muttered.
After a moment he heard glass shatter and then a moment later Scott’s shriek of rage… “DeSoto…” Roy grinned. He’d love to have seen Jackson’s face when he’d realized who had taken John from him.
It finally grew quiet and Roy debated with himself…they needed distance between themselves and Jackson but it was dark. Roy knew Johnny was hurt but couldn’t see well enough to make an assessment on how bad… He did know his young partner was exhausted and traumatized. He decided to stay in their sheltered hideaway and let him sleep because unless John came out of this on his own …he was gonna put him through hell in the morning.
He readjusted Johnny to a more comfortable position. The dark head rested against his shoulder. Johnny was shaking from the cold night air. Roy worked at it until he managed to get John’s arms in the sleeves of his jacket…he pulled it securely around him and zipped it up, then pulled the younger man against him to try and keep him warm through the cold January night.
Roy woke the next morning to soft movement. John still leaned against his chest but the slight rocking motion had returned. He was awake but his dark eyes were fixed on his hands which were folded in his lap and they still held the vague and unfocused gaze as they’d had last night.
“Johnny…Look at me partner.” John’s head tipped slightly to the side as if listening but he didn’t respond.
John was tired…his body hurt all over…he thought he heard that voice again but couldn’t seem to find the strength in his battered body to fight his way back from where he’d gone… it was easier to stay in the grayness…he hurt too much to come back…
Roy slid out from behind the younger man and leaned him back against the tree he’d been using as a backrest all night. Roy turned in the confined space until he knelt facing his friend. John’s head was down…and Roy reached to raise his face… “Johnny, I need to look at you okay?” John flinched at his touch…knocking his hands away and drawing his knees up to his chin. Roy chewed his lip… “Johnny…we don’t have a lot of time for this…I need to check you out…can you let me do that?” He tried again and once more John fended off his hands.
Roy sighed…there were no words spoken but John had made it clear…don’t touch. Roy didn’t have time to talk him out of it…he’d have to resort to a different method. He remembered Johnny’s Aunt telling him she’d brought him out of withdrawal by holding him…Dr. Hightower had called it rage reduction. Roy sighed… “You’re gonna make me do this the hard way huh…?”
Roy reached out once more and John pushed at his hands but this time the older man grabbed hold…he pulled John into his arms and hung on. John reacted first in fear…he cried out…pushing backward, trying to break the hold…his fear quickly turned to anger when Roy wouldn’t let go… His feet lashed out as he twisted in Roy’s grip…His body bucked and it was all the blonde man could do to hang onto his wildly thrashing partner.
Roy could only hope that John wouldn’t hurt himself further with the frantic struggling but he had no option…they had to get out of here and he needed to be able to touch his partner to help him. John never spoke but several low moans of fear or pain or perhaps both escaped his lips. Roy prayed they were far enough away not to be heard. “C’mon Johnny…I’m gonna win this…I’m gonna hang onto you til ya come back junior…I not leavin ya, I promise… I need you to settle down…c’mon Johnny…c’mon back for me.”
Twenty minutes later they were both sweating and panting for air and in the end John gave up in sheer exhaustion, the fight suddenly went out of him and he collapsed in Roy’s arms…gasping for breath and rocking softly. Roy continued to hold him, unsure if it was over or just a breather.
John was hurting and bone tired…he knew someone was trying to force him back from his safe place but he didn’t want to…it hurt too much…the pain that hovered just outside the spot was bad enough but facing the loss of his best friend was worse…a loss he had caused. He just wanted to be left alone…but they wouldn’t let him be…he fought until his body simply couldn’t go on…his strength finally gave out… He couldn’t fight anymore and he sagged limply.
After a few minutes John laid his head against Roy’s shoulder…the older man released his hold on one wrist. He reached up to smooth the sweat dampened dark hair from his young friend’s forehead. “Okay now…?” Johnny didn’t answer but he didn’t pull away either. Roy sighed in disappointment at the still blank look in John’s eyes. “Let me take a look at you…” He leaned John back against the tree once more… He tilted his friends face up. John’s mouth was split and swollen…dried blood streaked his chin. He gently turned the lower lip to see the gash his teeth had made… It needed stitches… His face was swollen and bruised.
Roy moved slowly…he carefully unzipped the dark jacket and tugged it free and got his first look at Johnny’s torn and bloodied shirt and the bruised skin beneath it. He unbuttoned the tattered remains to reveal dozens of weal marks. Bruising ran from chest to belly and around to his back. Roy eased the shirt off. John shivered slightly in the cool air but didn’t resist. For a brief moment Roy wished it had been Jackson in the barn that night.
The older paramedic began to probe at John’s ribs drawing a wince of pain from the younger man but not a whimper escaped his lips. He was relieved that nothing shifted beneath his fingers. He lightly pressed John’s belly…no rigidity and no guarding…John tensed beneath his fingers but Roy was pretty certain that there was no internal bleeding.
Roy felt along his arms…lots of bruising but nothing was broken. Reaching one hand behind his friend’s neck and the other behind his shoulder he gently pulled Johnny forward to look at his back. Roy gasped at the stripes crisscrossing his partner’s back and sides. John’s body tightened in his arms as he probed a couple of deeper slashes. “Shhh partner, I know that hurts…just a minute more okay?” Roy’s hands moved over John’s back…the marks disappeared beneath the waistband of his pants.
Roy eased him back and moved to feel along John’s legs…he saw a subtle flinch and knew the weal marks probably continued down his lower body as well. There was nothing broken but there were a lot of very deep bruises and welts and Roy was furious. This had been an unconscionable act of cruelty on a helpless and hopelessly outnumbered victim. Roy once again wished he’d had the opportunity to break Scott Jackson’s face.
Johnny had to be hurting badly but he hadn’t made a sound throughout the entire ordeal. Roy pulled the jacket back on his partner…zipping it to his chin. He lifted Johnny’s chin, forcing him to make eye contact.
“Johnny…we have to go…I need you to help me okay? We have to walk out of here…Can you do that?”
Vague, dark eyes stared blankly back at him…but he didn’t pull away…he also didn’t respond.
John remained tucked away in his safe place…he heard the voice of his friend again…he could almost see him through the haze of pain and confusion…the figure urged him to come to him taking his hand…At least this one wasn’t hurting him…Johnny finally seemed to understand…he moved forward.
Once outside the thicket, Roy helped John to his feet. He was hurting and unsteady but he was standing. Roy knew they had to move. He didn’t know if Jackson was still at the farmhouse or if he was still out searching for them. Roy took John’s hand… “C’mon junior…” John stared at the ground unmoving. Roy gave a slight pull. “Please Johnny.” After a long moment he took a step and then another.
They made very slow progress. Johnny would walk only if Roy pulled him along. When Roy let go, he stopped. John stumbled over objects as if he didn’t see them, the shuffling steps slow and unsteady. Roy had to guide him around every obstacle. He looked at his silent partner…. “I don’t know where you’ve gone junior but I hope it’s better than this…,” Roy told him as he wiped the sweat from his own brow.
A snail’s pace was the only speed Johnny could manage and even though his friend never made a sound, Roy knew it must be painful for his friend to walk as badly injured as he was. They stopped frequently to let John catch his breath. When they sat down…Johnny would draw his knees up to his chin and the slow steady rock would begin but at least his eyes were now fixed on Roy instead of some inanimate object.
The unfocused, lost gaze never wavered and Roy wondered what if anything was going through his mind. After a while Roy would hold out his hand. Johnny would at least take it and allow Roy to pull him to his feet and they’d continue on.
Roy looked at his watch…it was getting late and they’d barely made it to the main road. He didn’t want to be on it in the dark for fear Jackson or one of his men might be searching for them. He needed to be able to see the drivers before they saw him not to mention that the blazing headlights were apt to frighten Johnny. The temperature was beginning to drop and John shivered from the cold.
Roy suddenly remembered the Ranger Tower and pulled his friend toward it. Johnny was exhausted…his steps getting slower and slower. He was literally rocking on his feet as he walked and his eyes were beginning to droop.
Roy kicked in the door, startling John…He pulled back. “It’s okay junior…c’mon.” Roy tugged on his friend’s hand. “C’mon.” John shuffled forward, his body slumping tiredly. Roy got him inside and settled on an old sheet covered couch and went to look around. No electricity, no food but thankfully there was an old hand pump for a well outside the back door. Roy battled with the rusty mechanism for a few minutes but finally got it working and an old bucket half full of dirty rainwater made a good primer. He located a chipped mug in a cabinet…pumping out the filthy, rusty water until it began to run clear and then filled the cup.
Johnny was huddled in the corner of the couch rocking gently. Roy settled beside him. Tired, dark eyes lifted to meet Roy’s. The older man sighed in despair at the emptiness in them. “Where are you Johnny…?” He asked softly as he stroked the tangled, dark hair from John’s face. He shook himself back to the moment and raised the cup to his friend’s mouth. “Drink it Johnny…c’mon…,” he urged, as the water ran down John’s chin.
Roy continued to gently coax his partner until John finally opened his mouth and took a swallow… “Good boy, c’mon…a little more…” Roy managed to get most of it in John instead of on him…He finally got another cup for himself.
Roy took him into the small bathroom and helped him with a few more personal needs and then he resettled him on the sofa…Roy sat next to him…not touching but close enough to be reassuring. “Well partner…this ain’t the Hilton but at least it’s a roof over our heads,” he said tucking the sheet around him. “I’ll get you home tomorrow and into a warm bed…I promise.”
Johnny heard the voice…he felt the touch of a hand he knew very well…he struggled between the desire to stay where he was safe and the desire to reach out to the presence he felt near him…was it real or just a hallucination for a mind that had snapped under the trauma he’d been put through…Roy was dead wasn’t he? And yet he sounded and felt so real…John was too tired to think about it now…he leaned against the warmth next to him and sank back into his place…but just before he fell asleep he felt a hand take his own and squeeze it gently…John’s finger’s tightened reflexively over them in return.
Roy closed his eyes for a moment and after a few minutes he felt Johnny shift, the rocking stopped and Roy thought he’d fallen asleep but a moment later he felt his partner lean against him…his head tilted to lay against Roy’s shoulder. The older man took Johnny’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. He almost didn’t feel the return squeeze…Roy smiled in relief…it was a small step on what could be a long road…but it was a beginning…he’d reach Johnny and he’d bring him back.
John woke with the sunrise…his head lay on something firm and a vague awareness reminded him that his partner was there…no…no… it couldn’t be him…Roy was dead…Johnny was still locked in his safe place but he edged closer to where his friend was…still uncertain whether it was a dream or reality…what if it was only a hallucination…He sat up and pressed into the corner of the couch…he was afraid…if it was a only dream, he’d be crushed and he wasn’t sure he could deal with it…What would happen then…? What if he had snapped…? What if his Aunt and Uncle were right and he truly was crazy?
When Roy woke in the morning, Johnny was once again huddled in the corner…his knees were drawn up to his chin. He was still…the rocking motion hadn’t resumed. His arms were wrapped around his legs instead of his body…the somber dark eyes were still vague but they held an almost wary look and they were locked on Roy.
The older man stood up and stretched and then moved to the small kitchen. As he left John’s line of vision the slow rock began again… Roy returned with a cup of water and the motion ceased immediately. The older man coaxed him into drinking some of the water. He once again helped his friend to the bathroom.
“Okay partner..,” Roy said leading him outside. “Let’s go home…” Roy led him outside and Johnny shuffled along a step behind him… Roy kept to the tree line, prepared to duck into them if he saw any of the three vehicles from the farmhouse.
They’d been walking for an hour and Johnny was tiring…Normally his partner could hike for hours without stopping but in his abused and battered condition, he needed to rest frequently. He had to be hurting but if he was, he wasn’t letting it show. Roy heard the sound of an engine coming up behind them. He stopped Johnny and cautiously stepped away from the trees. He saw and old red pickup chugging towards them.
“Hang on partner… let’s see if I can get us a ride.”
Roy stepped into the street, waving frantically. The truck slowed and then stopped. An elderly man leaned over and rolled down the window. He looked at Roy and then past him to Johnny who stood a few feet away…his arms wrapped tightly around his ribcage. “You Fellas’ okay…?” He asked.
“Ahh…we had an accident, my friends injured. Could you give us a lift into Carson? I can pay you…,” Roy offered.
“He alright…?” He asked nodding toward Johnny.
“Bruises mostly, banged up his ribs some.”
“2049 East 223rd Street…,” Roy replied. “It’s a Fire Station…We’re paramedics with LA County…”
The man nodded and Roy turned back to where his friend stood swaying unsteadily. The older man took his hand and tugged him gently toward the pickup but Johnny hung back…his eyes flicked toward Roy… “C’mon junior…it’s better than walking.”
Roy sat him on the tailgate and then climbed in…He took Johnny under the arms and pulled him backwards into the bed of the truck and laid him down. John curled into a tight ball on his side. Roy closed the tailgate and signaled the driver that they were ready. He scooted up next to his partner… his hand rested reassuringly on the dark head…Johnny was asleep before the truck pulled out.
Cap, Mike and Marco were sitting at the table in the Rec room, having coffee. The squad was out on a run. Kirk Carlson and Charlie Dwyer were filling in for the two missing A shift paramedics. Chet was finishing up the mopping out in the apparatus bay, complaining that he couldn’t just sit and do nothing while his friend’s were missing.
“It’s not like Roy to just disappear without callin…,” Cap said worriedly.
“You suppose something happened to him after he called you…?” Mike asked.
“Yeah…maybe that woman was a trap…,” Marco said… “Maybe we should call Crockett again…”
“He already said they’re combing the canyon where Roy gave them directions…,” Cap said with a sigh.
“But what if Roy found Johnny and got caught and now he’s been kidnapped too?” Marco asked.
“Well you’re half right…,” Roy said from the doorway.
“ROY…,” Three voices chorused as they jumped from their chairs. The disheveled paramedic stood in the doorway but he turned to someone outside.
“It’s alright…no one’s gonna hurt you partner.” He tugged at something and their mouths dropped open in surprised shock as Johnny shuffled in. Roy closed the door behind him.
The three men moved toward their friends…their voices loud with excitement until Johnny lurched backwards in fear…his back in the corner. He sank slowly to the floor, his arms wrapped around his knees…his breath came in short labored breaths, matching the rhythm of the rapid rock.
Roy held up his hands to stop them from coming any closer but Johnny’s frightened reaction had already halted them. “Dear God Roy…What did they do to him…?” Cap asked softly. Mike and Marco looked horrified. They’d had only the briefest glimpse of Johnny in this state two years ago…they were shaken at the sight of their normally cocky, over confidant friend huddled in the corner. For Captain Stanley it was a first even though Roy had explained it…he wasn’t prepared for this.
Mike was the first to recover…“What do you need us to do to help him Roy…?” He asked immediately…
“Just give him a minute guys… Okay?” Roy knelt in front of John and raised the younger man’s face. “Johnny, look at me…you’re okay…they’re your friends and they’re not gonna hurt you… I promise you…It’s Mike and Marco…Cap…Don’t be afraid.” John’s eyes were locked on Roy…His hands slowly raised to grip the older man’s wrists and his eyes flickered with some awareness for the first time. Roy smiled at him…John was responding. The blonde man took his arm and pulled him to his feet.
Johnny heard the voices raised in excitement…he thought he was back in the barn and he flung himself back into the corner prepared to deal with the rain of blows that would follow but none came…It grew quiet and the voice he knew as Roy’s once again began to speak calming words…John’s world was still gray but he could sense the world around him…feel the motion and the touch of a hand…Not harsh or hurting him…he felt himself move closer to the presence that was nearby and this time he didn’t shrink back…his hands gripped the solid strength of his friends arms and he felt himself being pulled up…
“C’mon junior, let’s sit you down here,” Roy said as he settled him in a chair. “Mike, can you get me a glass of water please…Marco, could you maybe get him something to eat? I know you’re starving partner, you’re stomach’s been growling for over an hour. Cap…would you mind callin some people for me?”
“Joanne…let her know we’re safe…Lt. Crockett and Dr. Brackett. Could you ask him to come here…I don’t want to parade Johnny through the Emergency Room…the fewer people who see him like this the less likely anyone will find out he’s got a problem…besides all the bustle might just scare him.”
Cap nodded and moved to the phone…speaking quietly with each person Roy had asked for. “Roy…Joanne wants to know if she can come to the station…?”
Roy shook his head… “Not now Cap…,” Hank looked at his senior paramedic curiously but relayed the negative answer.
“Sorry Joanne…Roy said not now…” He hung up a minute later, his brown eyes questioning.
“She’ll want to take care of him and he won’t let her right now,” Roy explained.
Brackett and Crockett told him they were on their way with no questions asked. Cap was very worried about Johnny and never took his eyes off his youngest crew member but as always Roy had it under control. The older man held the glass, coaxing John to drink…John’s eyes were on him and though they were still unfocused they held a look almost of confusion.
Marco set the soup bowl in front of Roy and the paramedic had very little trouble enticing John to eat it…he was starving. Marco suddenly realized that Chet was missing and didn’t yet know that John was home. He took a step toward the apparatus bay but Chet suddenly stepped through the door. His eyes flicked to Johnny and Roy but oddly he didn’t show the same joyous reaction as the others had…they soon realized why as Scott Jackson and Ken Foster followed him through the door.
Jackson was smirking smugly at them… “Well gentlemen we meet again.”
John went rigid at the sound of his voice, the eyes dropped to his hands and the slow rock began immediately and he was clearly agitated.
Jackson shoved Chet forward and pointed his gun at Roy to keep him from interfering. He waved the others away from John and then reached out and grabbed Gage by the jacket collar and hauled him from the chair. He shoved him toward the back door toward Foster who managed to catch him and carefully lower him to the floor. John drew his knees up to his chin.
“Tsk...tsk…,” he taunted Roy… “All that effort and now I’m just gonna take him from you again…”
“Over my dead body…,” Roy murmured.
“That was the plan the first time…I’m afraid that’s what caused this…I told him you were dead…”
Roy’s eyes shot to Johnny… “Oh God…,” Roy knew without a doubt, his young partner would have blamed himself for Roy’s death…another loss, another grief to bear and this soon after the loss of his friend Drew … Add to that John’s past history of abuse…It would have been devastating
“But this time…it’s permanent…I can’t deal with…that,” he said nodding toward the younger man. But don’t worry Roy…you don’t mind if I call you Roy do you…?” The blonde paramedic glared back at him…his blue eyes were frigid. “See…I plan to take you with me…I really enjoyed watching your face when I took him the first time but I bet it’ll be even better when you watch him die…”
The crew blanched in fear and Roy moved toward the other man but Jackson was ready for him…He pointed the gun at John’s head and Roy stopped.
Foster had been standing quietly behind Jackson, his own gun in hand…He glanced at Johnny and then at Roy. He saw the look on Roy’s face as he watched his partner…He saw the fear and something else…he couldn’t let this happen… “Scott…?”
“What…?” The other man snapped back.
“Put your gun down…”
“What…?” Jackson snarled as he turned to look at Foster…furious and then incredulous as he saw the gun pointed at him. “What do you think you’re doing…?”
“It’s over…you’ve done enough. I’m not gonna let you kill the kid. Captain Stanley…could you take the gun from him please.”
“I’ll shoot him…,” Scott growled, shaking the gun at Johnny.
“Then I’ll shoot you and what will that gain us…,” Ken said tiredly. “It’s done Scott…just let him go.”
“No…no…he’s got to pay…he’s got to die…” The gun wavered away from Johnny’s head for a moment and Roy took the chance…he leaped at Jackson, grabbing his arm and forcing it upward away from Johnny. The gun discharged into the ceiling. Roy slammed Jackson’s hand onto the counter and the gun dropped from his suddenly numb fingers.
Roy pulled Jackson away from Johnny, yanking him forward until he was almost nose to nose. “Okay Jackson…we know how tough you are when it’s four against one…let’s see how tough you are when it’s just you and me…” Scott tried to pull away and take a swing but Roy gave the man a hard shove that sent him reeling backward… “You son of a bitch…you wanted to see my face…well you’ve got it…,” Roy growled angrily as he followed. His fist drove into Jackson’s stomach, doubling him over…another swing stood him back upright. Roy’s fists flashed again and again and Scott managed to land a single blow that only made Roy angrier. He belted the man again knocking him to the floor. The other man struggled to his feet.
“What’s wrong Jackson…not so easy one on one…?” He snarled as he moved in again…
Mike, Marco and Chet were cheering Roy on but Hank moved to stop his senior paramedic from killing the man. Roy was pummeling him now and Jackson was bleeding profusely.
“Leave it alone Cap…,” Foster said quietly.
“He’s gonna kill him.”
“Maybe…if he does he deserves it, might do us all a favor…But my guess is…DeSoto will know when to stop.”
Jackson hit the floor for the fifth time…he didn’t get up. He lay groaning in pain and holding his stomach weakly. Cap moved around them to retrieve the gun from the counter. Foster handed him his own. “It’s over,” Ken said quietly.
“Not quite…, Roy muttered as he turned toward his partner who was huddled and shaking on the floor.
Johnny had climbed to the surface…he had to know for sure if it was Roy…it had to be…he knew that voice...but Roy was dead…Jackson had told him he’d killed him…he’d heard the shot. A look of confusion crossed his features. But then a new voice intruded and he knew that one too. It was associated with pain and fear and death…Roy’s…his own. He felt hands grab him…he sank back…retreating once again.
Roy knelt next to his friend, reaching to help him to his feet but Johnny recoiled…raising his hands protectively. “Back to square one huh junior…?” He said softly shooting an irritated glance at Jackson who had finally passed out on the floor. Roy once again reached for his trembling partner and John tried to back away but Roy grabbed his wrists and pulled John into his arms. “Okay partner we’re done…It’s time to come back,” he ground out as his friend struggled desperately to free himself.
Ron Crockett, Kelly Brackett and Dixie showed up about the time Dwyer and Carlson were backing the squad in. “Doctor, Dixie…,” They greeted, looking at Crockett curiously. “What brings you all out here?”
“Roy found Johnny…”
“What…? That’s great,” Charlie said exuberantly.
The sound of a struggle caught their attention… “What the heck…?” Kel asked in confusion. They ran for the rec room, stopping short at the strange sight. Captain Stanley and his crew along with a man that none of them recognized stood watching an odd sort of wrestling match.
Scott Jackson lay bloodied and bruised on the linoleum. Roy was seated on the floor holding his thoroughly furious and frantically struggling partner. “Johnny give it up…I’m gonna win,” Roy assured his friend.
John pushed against him…his body twisted frantically…he was panting heavily and absolute rage colored his face.
“How long has this been going on…?” Kel asked.
Cap looked at his watch… “About ten minutes…Doc, shouldn’t you stop that…?”
“Do you know what he’s doin to John?”
“Yes…I’ll explain it to you later but it’s an older form of treatment for people with Johnny’s problem…a little physical and controversial but it’s worked in the past with a lot of people… Don’t worry Captain…he’s not hurting him…just making him really, really mad.”
“To let him release the anger and the fear he’s holding inside…”
Cap shook his head, still not sure he understood. “Roy said he’d outgrown this…”
“Mostly he has…but I imagine from the bruises on John’s face that he’s been through some major trauma…Traumatic events can drive anyone over the edge…now mix in Johnny’s condition…” Kel hesitated, not wanting to mention John’s abusive past as well…that wasn’t common knowledge and it wouldn’t be revealed by Kel.
Hank nodded his understanding, while the rest of his crew stood nervously watching…Dwyer and Carlson exchanged a confused glance, wondering what the heck was going on.
Crockett moved over to cuff Jackson who was just starting to come around. Kel knelt by his prone body, glancing frequently at the struggle still going on.
Both men were sweating and panting for breath… “Come on Johnny…I need you back Junior…” Roy suddenly remembered Jackson’s words… ‘I told him you were dead…’ He tried a new tack…“Johnny it’s me…It’s Roy…Johnny, look at me…Listen to my voice junior…It’s me,” he said close to his friend’s ear. John heard the voice …It was Roy’s voice…he was certain…how? “Johnny…I know he told you I was dead…It was a lie…I’m not…I’m here…I’m okay and nothing that happened was your fault…you understand?”
John stopped struggling…he heard the words…he was like a drowning man clawing for the surface, he couldn’t breathe…color swirled around him as the grayness lifted and he collapsed in exhaustion… he lay panting against Roy’s chest. “R…Roy…,” he gasped out.
“That’s it junior…,” Roy almost shouted in relief as he rocked the younger man in his arms ecstatically. “That’s it junior…,” he repeated a little more calmly as he stroked the dark head.
“He said you were…dead…,” Johnny whispered as his head tilted back to look up at Roy with tired dark eyes…his breathing held an occasional hitch but he was definitely regaining control.
“I’m okay…he tried but he missed and I’m okay…”
“I know junior…we’re gonna get you into a warm bed…and let the Doctor look at you okay?”
“Doctor…?” Johnny whispered in confusion as he tried to turn his head to look around but Roy held him securely…the last thing his partner needed to see was Scott Jackson laying there.
“Yeah junior…Doctor Brackett’s here. He’s gonna take a look at you and let you sleep okay?”
“Can you all come into the dorm with me…I want to get him settled.”
“Why don’t we take him to Rampart…?” Kel suggested.
“Later…he’ll feel more comfortable here …for the moment anyway.”
Kel nodded…they were interrupted by the arrival of an ambulance and a couple of uniformed patrol officers. Crockett turned over the semi conscious Jackson to one of them while the other moved to handcuff Foster.
Cap touched his shoulder as he led him past… “I’ll tell the police what you did for Johnny.”
Foster nodded… “I hope Gage is okay…”
Cap nodded and watched as they wheeled Jackson out on a stretcher.
“Okay partner…can you stand up?”
“Good…,” Roy said as he helped him to his feet, griping his arm to support him as John staggered weakly…The other’s moved around him wanting to help, but John shied back uncertainly. “It’s okay junior…,” Roy reassured him. The wary, tired dark eyes turned toward him and Roy nodded encouragingly.
Injury and exhaustion were rapidly catching up with the younger man and he tottered unsteadily beside his friend. Roy knew it might be painful, especially since Johnny was now awake and aware but he couldn’t stand it. He lifted his partner, ignoring the wince of pain as he put pressure on his back. Cap moved alongside him… “Let us help you pal.”
Roy shook his head… “I’ve got him Cap…,” he replied as he carried him into the dorm.
“Can w…walk R…Roy…,” Johnny protested tiredly.
“I know you can…you’ve already proved that junior…but right now…I just want you to rest okay?” He said as he sat him on his bunk. Cap and the others waited outside until the Doctor could look at John. “Okay junior…the Doctor needs to check you out…let’s get this off you,” he instructed as he unzipped the navy jacket and tugged it off.
There were two shocked, indrawn breaths as the bruises and welts were revealed for the first time. Dixie shot a look at Kel who stood in furious silence at the abuse Johnny had suffered. He wished he could have been there when Roy had pounded the stuffing from Scott Jackson.
“Okay partner, let’s get the rest off…he needs to see all of you…”
John hesitated but at Roy’s encouraging nod he allowed Dixie and Roy to strip the rest of his clothes from him…Dixie blinked away tears at the sight of so much bruised and battered flesh on her favorite paramedic.
John lay tense and rigid as Kel’s hands moved over his body. His eyes clenched shut against the pain he was feeling. Roy sat by his head, brushing the dark hair back soothingly and speaking quietly until Kel finished.
“Well Doc…what’s the verdict?”
“Without X-rays…I’d say nothing’s broken…but he’s pretty badly banged up…he’s dehydrated and he’s got some really deep gashes, including his lip…Most likely a concussion…I don’t know how he managed to walk ten miles in this condition…,” Kel said in amazement. “I’ll put him on antibiotics and we can stitch the worst of them but I’d feel a lot better if he were at Rampart…”
“No…,” Johnny said softly.
“It’s okay Johnny…,” Roy reassured him. “We’ll go later, when you’ve had a chance to rest okay? Right now I want you to get some sleep. Doc’s gonna start an IV and give you something to take away the pain and help you sleep? He’s gonna stitch your lip and a couple of the deeper cuts on your back.”
John flinched as Dixie inserted the IV but within moments the dark eyes began to close… “You stayin…?” He whispered as he drifted off.
“Yeah junior…I’m stayin,” he promised as he pulled the covers over him.
Crockett and the Station crew came in. “How is he?” Cap asked worriedly.
“Sleeping at the moment,” Roy said shifting uncomfortably on the floor.
“Chet…,” Cap said… “Bring my chair around for Roy, would ya?”
Roy continued after he was settled in the chair. “Doc says he’s got a concussion and that he’s dehydrated and badly bruised and cut up but he doesn’t think anything’s broken.”
“How about the ahh…you know…?”
“He’ll be fine Cap…,” Roy assured him. “He’s already getting a handle on it.”
Cap nodded… “Then I guess we’d like to hear what happened and only John’s physical injuries are to be discussed outside this room…” Cap’s no nonsense look caught Dwyer and Carlson.
“Cap… we’d never repeat anything that would hurt Johnny…you know that.”
“Okay then Roy the floor is yours.”
“Well after I talked to Detective Griffin and you Cap…I drove up to where Rebecca Jackson told me to start. I drove around for hours…busted up my car pretty good. I was about to give up when I spotted the Ranger tower Mrs. Jackson told me about. I was about eight or nine miles up the road when my car quit. I was gonna walk back to the main road but I felt like I was so close to finding him.” He said, nodding at Johnny.
“I walked another mile or two and sure enough…there was the farmhouse. Brad Kimmerlin was just comin out…Man I wanted to…,” He trailed off, looking at Crockett. “Well you may be arresting me for it anyway so I may as well tell you…”
“What’s that Roy?”
“I wanted to kill him…He came out and threw Johnny down the stairs…” Roy rubbed his face. “He was dragging him like a sack of garbage ya know…?” He glanced at his sleeping partner. “I had to just stand there and watch…,” he said in disgust as he swept the dark hair from his friend’s forehead.
“Anyway as soon as it got dark I snuck inside the barn and broke the hinge off the bolt. I was trying to get Johnny to let me help him when I heard someone coming so I grabbed the crowbar and hid. It was Kimmerlin comin back. I uh…I hit him with the crowbar…I’m not sure how bad he was hurt…he had a pulse and he was moving when I left.”
“I’ve already sent some men up there…I’ll let you know once they’ve checked it out.”
Roy nodded… “Will I be arrested?”
“Not a chance…not after they’ve seen Gage’s condition…So what then?”
“Well Johnny was in withdrawal and I couldn’t get through to him…”
“Withdrawal…? From What…?” Crockett asked in confusion…Dwyer and Carlson exchanged a look and shrugged. They didn’t know either.
“Johnny has a neurological condition called Aspergers…but look HQ doesn’t know about it and…”
“They won’t hear it from me…,” Crockett assured him.
“Or us Roy…,” Dwyer promised.
Roy explained it…The three men nodded in understanding looking at Gage with admiration… “And he’s still one of the best paramedics in LA…That’s pretty impressive…,” Crockett said after he was through.
Roy nodded with pride in his partner… “Yeah he is.”
“So what then…?”
“Well…there was no way I could get him out quietly at that point so I had to knock him out…,” he explained tilting John’s head to the side for them to see the bruise on his chin.
“How’d ya do that Roy…?” Chet asked naively.
“I think it was the old fashioned way…,” Mike chimed in.
Kelly still looked confused. “A left hook…,” Marco clarified.
“Ya hit Gage…,” Chet yelled incredulously.
Roy hushed him as Johnny stirred restlessly. “I didn’t exactly bring a sedative along with me…,” Roy snapped. “It was the only way…,” he said, defending his action to the others.
“Relax pal…we understand…so will John,” Cap assured him.
“What happened then…?” Kel asked.
“We got into the woods about a mile or so and I could hear them yelling and I knew they were after us. I found a good spot to lay low and crawled in.”
“Good thing Johnny was unconscious,” Marco said.
“Yeah well he started to come around when they were about thirty feet away. Scared the hell outta me… All I could do was pray he’d stay quiet.”
“I take it he did…” Cap commented.
Roy nodded. “He looked at me for a minute…then went to sleep. I figured we’d just stay put through the night. I didn’t dare try and get him through that terrain in the dark. The next morning well…what went on in the rec room was half as bad.”
“You’re kidding…?” Cap said in disbelief.
“No…but when it was over Johnny was at least calm. He was still somewhere else but he stopped fighting. We couldn’t move very fast with him in that condition….we only made it to the main road so we spent the night in the Ranger Tower. This morning we got picked up by a very nice man named Carl Parker who gave us a ride here and you know the rest.”
“What you two don’t get into…,” Dixie said shaking her head.
“So how’d Jackson get here?” Crockett asked.
“We’d just gotten back when he showed up.”
“He walked right into the bay and stuck a gun in my face…,” Chet said in disgust. “I was like wow…here we go again…but I didn’t know Roy was there with Gage until he pushed me into the rec room.”
“He musta figured this is where we’d go…,” Roy said.
“Well don’t leave us in suspense…What happened then?” Dwyer asked.
“He said he was gonna kill Johnny…and he wanted me to watch him die…God I was scared.”
“We all were…,” Cap assured him.
“Then Ken Foster stepped in…”
“What…?” Crockett asked in surprise.
“Gage charm musta worked on him as well…Johnny would be dead now if not for Foster. He distracted Jackson enough for me to get my hands on the gun. Once I got it away from him, it was just a fist fight.”
“Chet’s eyes widened in shock… “Just a fist fight…?” He squeaked incredulously. “Man you pounded him…I didn’t know ya had it in ya.”
Roy’s eyes turned toward Johnny. “Yeah well…he deserved it…”
“Yeah but you don’t understand…it’s just not like you…”
“No Chet…you don’t understand…,” Dixie said quietly. “He’s just like any other parent protecting their young,” She teased with a grin. Roy flushed as the other’s laughed…his protective streak with Johnny was well known and for a couple… finally understood for the first time.
Crockett’s radio crackled to life…He got up and left the dorm.
“Roy…you look tired. Why don’t you get some sleep as well,” Cap suggested.
“I will Cap…I just wanna sit with him a while longer.”
Crockett came back in. “Roy…I thought you’d wanna know…”
“Kimmerlin’s still alive…” Roy nodded. “I don’t think he’ll be bothering you or John again though…he’s in a coma.”
“Oh… I’d like to say I’m sorry…,” He looked at Crockett. “It would be a lie.” He turned back to Johnny who was stirring restlessly. “Shhh partner, go back to sleep…,” he said softly as he laid his hand on the sable hair. John settled back to sleep.
“Bring him by the station in a day or two…we’ll need to photograph those injuries,” Crockett told him. Roy nodded and they left.
He stayed with his partner for a few minutes longer before he moved over to his own bunk and laid down…he was asleep in seconds.
Dark eyes were watching him intently when he woke several hours later. Roy sat up and quickly moved over to his partner’s side. “How are you?” John shrugged tiredly… “Are you hurting? You need a pain killer?”
“Hurts a lot…but I can manage a while longer…I don’t wanna sleep.”
Roy sat on the edge of the bed… “Okay…but you should rest.” John shook his head. “Alright junior…Do you wanna talk…? Can you tell me what happened…?”
Johnny shook his head…“I don’t remember much…Just…I remember being in the barn...He ahh…he hit me…,” John said hesitantly, touching his swollen lip.
Roy reached out to sweep the shaggy, tangled hair from John’s eyes. “It’s okay…they’ll put him away for good this time…he can’t hurt you anymore.”
John nodded… “I almost got away but Foster and Pierro showed up and caught me. I remember Jackson beating the hell outta me for it…,” John whispered, swallowing hard. “He damn near killed me…”
“God Johnny…I’m so sorry.”
“Not your fault…but I didn’t go away,” he said defiantly.
Roy grinned at the pride on his bruised face. “Good for you…Do you remember anything else…?”
The dark eyes turned toward Roy… “He told me you were dead…He said he shot you…,” Johnny said softly.
“It was just a graze junior…I’m okay.”
John’s brown eyes swept over him assessingly before he continued…“Oh… Well…I don’t remember anything after that…I guess he finally won.”
“Probably better that you don’t remember, seeing the damage he did to you…but he didn’t win junior…you’re here.”
Johnny grimaced… “Yeah…I guess…But that’s it until I woke up in the rec room and you were uh…Well…you know…,” he said, blushing furiously. Roy chuckled at his thoroughly embarrassed partner and Johnny’s crooked grin finally made an appearance. “Roy…?”
“Good…let’s get you something to eat…”
“Comin after me…”
“Did you doubt I would?”
“Well no…at least until he told me you were dead…I was really scared.”
Johnny struggled to sit up but Roy stopped him… “Lay back Junior…I’ll bring it to you.”
“No…I …I wanna get up.”
“You sure you’re up to that…?”
“I wanna shower…”
“Johnny…you’ve got stitches.”
“Please…?” He pleaded, turning his brown eyes on his partner.
Roy groaned… “God I hate it when you do that. C’mon junior…,” Roy said, helping him carefully to his feet. He led John to the locker room… cringing at the sight of his partner’s battered body as he hobbled painfully along beside him in nothing but his boxers. “Go ahead junior, I’ll wait…and be careful of those stitches…,” he warned as John stripped and stepped into the shower slidng the curtain closed behind him.
A short time later he assisted his partner into the rec room but Johnny drew up hesitantly at the sight of Charlie Dwyer and Kirk Carlson.
The dark eyes turned toward Roy… “Did they ahh…see me…?” He asked hesitantly.
“Yeah Junior but Cap swore them to secrecy…”
“Cap…? Cap knows? Oh man…w…what d…did he say?” John stammered nervously.
“Johnny it’s okay…He’s on your side okay…so are Kirk and Charlie…no one’s gonna say anything.”
John’s face was flushed in embarrassment… “Man…w…what do I s…say to them…?”
“Roy…,” he almost whined.
“Knock it off John…none of them think any less of you…as a matter of fact they’re pretty impressed.”
Johnny snorted in disbelief as Roy prodded him forward… “Impressed by what…that I got my ass kicked?”
“Took four of em to do it…,” Roy teased but he sobered at the dark look Johnny threw him… “Okay seriously …they’re impressed by you…that you bounced back…that you’re a good paramedic despite having AS.”
John cast him a dubious look but moved to sit at the table…wincing as Roy eased him into the chair.
“Hey Johnny…” Charlie greeted, resisting the urge to slap his young colleague on the back.
Johnny nodded a hesitant greeting… “Guy’s…,” The dark eyes rose to meet Hank Stanley’s. “Hi Cap…”
“Good to have you home John…,” He said as he turned back to his newspaper.
“Cap…? About what I have…I…”
“What’s that Pal…?”
“I mean…I know I shoulda told ya…but it never came up and I didn’t…”
“John…I only regret that you didn’t feel you could tell me about this but I hope you know you can trust me to be a part of this team now…all of us…together…nothing that I saw changes the way I think of you…are we clear?”
“That goes for us too Johnny…nobody will ever hear about this from us…,” Charlie promised.
“Except how Roy kicked Jackson’s ass…,” Carlson added with a smirk.
“I wish I coulda seen that…,” Johnny murmured.
“So do we…but Chet gave us the play by play…”
“Wanna hear it Gage…?” Chet asked enthusiastically as he plopped down next to John. The guys acted if they were telling him about a Saturday night boxing match. The younger man looked around him with a small smile tugging at his swollen lip. Roy shook his head but he was grateful. They were treating him as if nothing had happened and that’s what John needed right now…to know that nothing had changed. He brought a plate of food over and set it in front of his partner as Chet liberally embellished the story of the fight. John’s brown eyes met his in amusement and gratitude.
“Thanks Roy…,” He mouthed silently to his best friend. He nodded back.
After John finished eating Roy ran him by Rampart. Kel took a few precautionary X-Rays that pretty much confirmed what they had already expected… “There’s a lot of bruised body here…I’d like to keep you Johnny…”
“No you look Doc…I’ve been a prisoner for four days…the last thing I need right now is to be locked up here okay? I wanna go home.”
“You’re still gonna need someone to help you John…”
“I will have…I’m goin home…”
Brackett looked at him in confusion…“He’s comin home with me Doc…,” Roy explained. Kel glanced at John and received a confirming nod...he finally understood…John’s quiet apartment may be where he lived but his home was with the DeSoto family.
“Okay Johnny…you can go home but you take easy it for at least a week…and I’ll see you back here…clear?”
Joanne had been waiting anxiously…Roy had called her from Rampart to tell her they’d be home soon. She heard the car pull in and went to the door to meet them. Her eyes pooled with tears at the sight of Johnny’s poor, battered face and the stiffness of his movements. “Hi sweetheart…,” she whispered, placing a soft kiss on the younger man’s cheek. “I’ve been so worried about you…Roy set him on the sofa…,” she instructed. “Are you hungry sweetheart?”
Roy and Johnny exchanged a grin…Things were getting back to normal already…Johnny was home.
A few weeks later Johnny entered the rec room. “Mornin, mornin, mornin…,” he greeted with a grin as he threw a pamphlet on the table and went to get coffee…
“What’s this?” Roy asked picking up the leaflet.
“Something new I’ve decided to become a volunteer for,” he said plopping down next to his partner.
“What’s that Gage…brain transplant recipient…?” Chet taunted.
“Nah…didn’t work for you…,” Johnny shot back.
Roy was grinning as he read the pamphlet… “Aspergers Syndrome and Autism…” He glanced up at Johnny.
“They raise money for research and work with the kids…I…well…I thought…you know…that you guys have always been there for me,” he said quietly…silencing even Chet. They glanced at each other but John’s eyes were on Roy… “I thought it was time I give back."
“They know you have Aspergers?” Roy asked.
“Yup…They think I’ll really be able to relate to others with it…encourage them, ya know?”
“You know…Joanne and I might like to get involved with something like this…”
Several of the others nodded in agreement… “Maybe it could be Station 51’s official mission,” Cap suggested.
“You think I could help…?” Roy asked.
Johnny’s eyes met Roy’s… “You already have…”
The character’s of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. My thanks for allowing me to borrow them occasionally . Any medical mistakes are mine. I know I let them hurt Johnny pretty bad here but several people told me Kimmerlin and Jackson got off too easy the first time and the only thing that could make Roy mad enough to make them wish they’d never been born was to hurt John. Sorry about that. I hope I presented the description of withdrawal and the return from it with the same sensitivity that it was described to me with. It can be physical and draining for everyone and thankfully most adults with AS will rarely go through it unless it’s under extreme duress.
Posted to Site 12/08/09
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Productions. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
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