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Rowan

Part 1

An Emergency Story By

Alana
 

 

 

 

Links to Parts 1. 2.

 

 

 

Captain John Gage looked at his desk with sense of accomplishment.  He was actually caught up on his paperwork.  He had soon learned he needed to keep up with the paper work.   It had been hard to make the decision to leave the rank of the paramedics, but it had been time. 

 

Lee had backed him whole heartedly in his decision.  She had been very understanding and never complained that their time together was being shortened between shifts when he and Roy and Mike had been studying for the Captain’s exam.  

 

 He had been acting captain at 36’s for 3 months while their regular B shift captain had been recovering from a severe injury to his hip and leg.

 

 The six weeks he had been captain of A shift at Station 88 had been interesting to say the least.  He smiled looking at the picture on his desk.  It had been taken at the ceremony where he and Mike Stoker and Roy had become captains. 

 

No one seemed to be surprised that 3 of the top 5 scores had belong to the men of Station 51’s A shift. Roy and John had scored 2 points more than Craig Brice and Mike had scored 1 point more than Brice.  An engineer from 110’s B shift had won the fifth spot.  Roy was now the captain on A shift at 110. 

 

Mike was captain at 51 on B shift.  Hank Stanley was now a Battalion 14 chief.  Marco and Chet were studying for the engineer’s test.   This time the results would be different, and Chet would do well.

 

 

 

Lee had finished her work for the day.  As she cleaned her desk she smiled at the picture on her desk.  It was her and Johnny and Chloe at his Captain’s ceremony.   Johnny and an impish 2-year-old Chloe were smiling back at her.  Her dark chocolate brown eyes showed the sense of humor and adventure so much like Johnny’s.  She remembered the first time she realized Chloe also had Johnny’s lack of fear for climbing and heights.  Johnny had laughed and swung her high into the air as she said ‘more’.   

 

Even now that memory made her queasy as the door opened and a man she didn’t recognize came into the office. 

 

“Hi, may I help you?”  Thinking he had come into the office by mistake. 

 

“Are you Mrs. Gage?”   He looked uneasy.

 

“Yes, and you are?” She questioned. 

 

“Justin Mathers.  My friend Ben Oliver suggested I should come see you.”

 

“Please have a seat.  Would you like something to drink?  I can have someone bring you some coffee or there is soda in the mini fridge.”

 

“No, no thank you.”  He looked around and sighed when he saw no ash tray.  “I have a problem and Ben thinks you are the solution.”

 

“Ben has too much faith in me sometimes.”  Her laugh was pleasant and the smile she gave him reached her eyes.   Justin Mathers took it all in.  Ben had given him a brief history of Lee and her husband.  That had impressed the man and given him hope that he had found a solution to his problem.

 

“My late wife came from a very old and respected family in the San Francisco area.  She was a lovely and refined lady.  She loved helping others and it gave her great joy and a sense of purpose.  Unfortunately, her brother was the exact opposite.  A self-centered man who never cared for anything or anyone.  His only concern was what could benefit him.  He married a woman just like him.  It is more of a business merger than a true marriage.  To keep up the pretense of a happy marriage they had a child.  Their son is their clone.  As bad if not worse than his parents. 

 

  His parents live in Europe and have no contact with him.  He is fine with this as long as he gets his monthly checks.  He is in a commune in Mexico I think.  His ex-girlfriend left their daughter with my housekeeper.  She left a letter giving me total custody to do what I pleased with the child; legal in all ways.  She left no address, and no one has any idea where she is.  I want this little girl to have a loving home with a family that will love her and protect her.  I want her to smile like the little girl in that picture.   I want you and your husband to adopt Rowan.”   He handed Lee a picture of a sad little girl.  Soon as she saw the picture Lee wanted that little girl to be Chloe’s sister.

 

“How old is she?”  She found her voice.

 

“Twenty eight months… Your Chloe is almost  three?”

 

“Yes.”  She took a deep breath.  “Did Ben tell you about Johnny’s parents?  And that Chloe is full blooded Cheyenne?”

 

“Yes.   He showed me pictures of you three.  Ben and Lilly are in complete awe of your daughter.”

 

“She has that effect on most people.”  Lee giggled.  “Especially her father and his former crewmates from A shift at Station 51; her uncles.  Did Ben tell you about my belief in the family of the heart?”

 

 

 

“Yes, and that is why I knew you were the perfect family for Rowan Lee.  That was a treasured belief of my wife, Lilly.  Ben and I always laughed that as well as being fraternity brothers we both picked Lilies from the garden of life…” 

 

They talked awhile longer on a variety of subjects.

 

 Finally, as Justin was ready to go Lee said, “I need to talk with my husband.  He is on duty until tomorrow morning.  Give me a number where I can reach you.  We’ll talk, and I will call you sometime tomorrow.”

 

 

 

Ryan Ames was the newest member of the crew.   He had been a floater until the position opened at 88.   This was Ryan’s second week as a permanent A shift crewman.   Ryan put the day’s mail on the Cap’s desk.  He was surprised to see pictures on the desk.  He hadn’t noticed any picture yesterday when he had been working an overtime shift.   He went back out to the day room and took a phone message for the captain.  He finished his chores and almost forgot he had a message for the Cap until he saw him coming in from the bay.

 

“Cap, your wife called earlier.   Said it was kind of important but not an emergency.  And that Chloe was writing you a letter telling you all about her puppy.”

 

“Where was I when she called?”

 

“Talking to Jake, out in the bay.” He shrugged puzzled.  “I told her you were busy and couldn’t come to the phone right then.”

 

 “If she calls again you let me know THEN.  I’ll decide if it is a good time or not to talk to her.”  The look on his face was not pleasant. “Why in Sam Hill would you decide I was too busy to talk to her?” Trying not to be angry. 

 

“But, I was just following the policy.”  Not understanding why, the captain was upset.   This was not the way he wanted to start his time at the station.

 

“What policy?”  Johnny asked puzzled by the response.

 

“The one on personal phone calls.  They aren’t to be returned until after 5:00 unless it is an emergency.” 

 

“I never heard of any policy like that.  Where did you ever hear about that policy?”

 

“When I was at 46.  Captain Brice gave us a long lecture about personal phone calls on company time; said it applied to everyone even him.”

 

“Brice had his own way of interpreting policy.”  Johnny was fuming.  No one had really been unhappy to see Craig Brice leave the department.  He had moved to Chicago shortly after his marriage.  “You all are grown men and you can use your own judgment on personal calls.  Now, how long ago did Lee call?”

 

“It was about 3,  I think.”  “Sorry Captain Gage.”    This definitely was not the way he wanted to start his career at 88.

 

“For what?  It wasn’t your fault Brice told you that.  You were a boot at 110.  When you are a boot you do what you’re told and don’t ask questions.”  Johnny had realized he had taken his dislike of Brice and his way of doing things out on the young linesman.  “If it had been really important Lee would have demanded to talk with me.  Sorry I snapped at you.”  As he was dialing he realized Ryan hadn’t met Lee or Chloe yet.

 

 “Hello.”  Lee answered the phone as she continued to file papers.  She was in the sunroom at her desk.  Chloe was over by the window playing with 2 of her favorite toys.  The unicorn Stacy had given her and the firetruck from Chet and Marco had given her for Christmas.   They saw nothing wrong giving her boy toys.

 

“Hello Sweet Pea.  I just got the message you called.  Everything ok?” 

 

“Hi darlin’.  Yeah we are doing fine except Chloe misses you.”

 

“Just Chloe?”  He could hear the teasing in her voice.   “Don’t you just a little?”

 

“No, I miss you a lot.   Her more because she wanted to go for a ride in her firetruck.   I convinced her Miracle would be happy just playing in here with her ladder truck.”    Chet and Marco had given her a pedal fire truck for her birthday.

 

“That’s my girl.   Tell her we’ll take the pedal truck out to the grove tomorrow.”

 

“Ah -um, I was wondering if we --hum ---could have some alone time in the morning to talk?   Maybe after you get home we could find some place to talk without Chloe.”

 

“Is something wrong?”  Worried at how uptight she sounded all of a sudden.

 

“No, it’s fine honestly.  I just need to talk to you about something.  It’ll be easier to do it without us being distracted watching her…Oh your daughter decided today she could ride Ash like Song.”   Night Song was a stallion that his friend Brad owned.   He had been going over to Brad’s stable riding as often as possible.

 

“So how did that work?”  Trying not to laugh.  “What did Ash do?”  

 

“What does Ash ever do?  He laid there totally still as Chloe climbed all over him.   Then when she got tired of using him as a jungle gym she curled up and took a nap using him as her pillow.  I swear Ash was smiling as she laid up against him. Even the dog spoils that child.”

 

“And her mother doesn’t?”  Laughing as he said it.    “Let know if you want to meet somewhere or just want me to come on home.”  

 

“I will…Love you Boyo, more each day.”

 

“The feeling is mutual, Sweet Pea.  Give Chloe a kiss for me.”

 

****************

 

Lee   had decided that the pool house would be the perfect place to have their meeting.  She promised him it was nothing bad.  Just not in the house with Chloe demanding her daddy’s attention.   (Ibbie was going to watch her.)

 

Johnny woke up a little before six, totally awake.  The ghost of a dream skipped thru his mind. It had been pleasant dream.  He seldom had nightmares, now the dreams were full of his girls.  

 

When the men came into the kitchen after the morning tones they were greeted with the smell of fresh brewed coffee and rolls just out of the oven.   Brad Tillman the B shift captain had half teasingly said the well-stocked freezer was a major perk of Station.  All shifts were welcome to what she sent in unless it was marked for a specific person or shift.

 

 “You got big plans for the day?”    Johnny asked as he noticed Ryan looking at the clock.

 

“Yeah my wife and I are going to go looking for an apartment.   The one we’re in is really small and she wants to start a family.”

 

“Call this number and tell them you are a firefighter and give them the area you’d like to live; they’ll give you a list of available houses in your price range.  First month rent and the deposit is waivered.   There’s a discount on monthly rent and no hookup fees for any utility.   The same deal goes for any law enforcement officers as well as LACoFD personnel.”

 

“Thanks Cap. “He put the slip of paper in his pocket. 

 

“They should find you a place fairly quickly.  If there is any problem, call me at home.   I put that number down too.”   

 

A few minutes later Johnny went into his office and came out smiling. 

 

“Next Friday night there‘ll be a carry in and game night at the house.”

 

“Lee making her chicken?”   Jake Lackey, the engineer for A shift asked.    Jake had been at 51 on B shift before he had gotten promoted and was an old family friend.

 

“Probably…and ribs…and whatever else she decides.” 

 

“About time you decided to have a party…haven’t been to your place for a month of Sundays.   His wife knows how to throw a party…. that girl can cook.”  Jake said with a huge grin.  At 6 feet 5 inches and 260 pounds, he was a gentle giant.  His formal name was John Henry and his dad had always said he was named after his great grandfather who, he claimed, was the inspiration for the legendary folk hero.

 

“That’s one of the reasons he was smart enough to ask her to marry him.”  Chet Kelly said as he came into the room.  Chet was on medical leave due to a pulled muscle in his shoulder.   The timing was almost perfect since the time off had given him extra time to study for the engineers’ exam.  Mike Stoker had been helping him and Marco study. 

 

“Kelly, what are you doing here?”  Trying to sound stern but not doing a very good job at it.

 

“Suzi wanted me to give this to you for Chloe.  She saw it at a workshop she went to over the week end.   She is so excited about you doing a presentation at her school next week…thanks for helping her.”   He took the book Chet handed him.

 

“My pleasure.”   The rest of the B shift had gotten there so after a quick word with the B shift captain Johnny left for home.

 

    

 

Lee had everything ready to serve.  She set the table with extra care partially because she liked pretty tables and partially because she had so much nervous energy.  She had taken extra care when getting dressed, almost as if they were having a date night.  Was she setting herself up for a major disappointment?  What if Johnny didn’t want another daughter but had his heart set on adopting a son?  Or did he even want more kids?  Of course, he did…they had always said they wanted at least 2.

 

 “Hi darlin’.    Glad you’re home.”  She smiled as he came into the room.

 

“Glad to be home.”  He kissed her lightly then pushed her over to the table.


“Smells good in here.”

 

“I made the blueberry sausage coffee cake you like.   Do you want some scrambled or fried eggs?”  A bowl of cut up fruit was on the table.  “There is juice and milk in the fridge and I can make coffee.”

 

“Think the coffee cake, milk and fruit will be fine.  I had couple of your orange rolls with my coffee earlier.   The guys said they would let me know about next Friday.  Jake wants your Hawaiian chicken.”

 

“I figured that…So do you want to eat first or talk as you eat or …” She was so flustered.

 

“How about I eat while you talk, ok?”  He was curious what had her so hyper. 

 

“Yesterday just as I was getting ready to leave the office Ben Oliver sent a man to see me.   By the time we had finished our conversation I was in tears.”  She took a deep breath. “He wants us to adopt her. I want to adopt her.  They threw her away like unwanted trash.  A beautiful little girl…”  Tears showed in her eyes.

 

 “Ok, slow down, catch your breath...Who gave who away and who do you want to adopt?” 

 Totally lost and confused but also concerned for Lee and whoever she was talking about.

 

“I’m making such a mess of this. A friend of Ben’s has a piece of garbage nephew who left his hippie girlfriend and baby to go off to Mexico or some commune somewhere.  Then the girl friend just dropped the baby off with the   housekeeper and gave Justin Mathers all the legal papers and now no one knows where she is and the great uncle’s too old and he wants us to adopt her and her name is Rowan Lee and she has strawberry blond hair and …”  She stopped and took a breath finally.

 

“Let me get this straight.  Ben’s friend wants us to adopt a baby because they just walked off and left her with him?  No one knows where the parents are?”

 

“Yes, they just left her, and no one has any idea where they are.”

 

“And her name is Rowan Lee.  How old is she?”

 

“Twenty eight months.  She has big hazel eyes and long strawberry blond hair and …she …I fell in love with her when he showed me a picture of her.”

 

“Sweetheart, this isn’t a stray cat we’re talking about.  It’s a baby…there are legal things we would have to do …What about Chloe?” Before he could say more Lee handed him the picture of Rowan Lee that Justin Mathers had given her.

 

The sad little girl looking back at him, clutching a stuffed dog for dear life won his heart.   He recognized the look in her eyes. 

 

“When do we see Ken?”  Meaning Ken Malansky who was their lawyer/friend.   “If and I mean IF we go ahead with this, we’re going to go by the book and make sure it is all nice and legal.”

 

 “I can call Justin and he’ll bring Rowan over here whenever we say.  I called Ken last night and we have an appointment with him tomorrow.  I figured it would be easier to cancel an appointment than to wait for one.”

 

“As if he was going to make you wait…The old it’s easier to say I’m sorry than ask permission routine?”  He picked up the picture again.  “You know that this isn’t fair…”

 

“All’s fair an in love and war…”  She began.

 

“And this is love.”  They finished together then laughed.  “So, do you think Chloe is going to like being a big sister?”

 

“Actually, I think Rowan may be just a little taller than Chloe… Finish your breakfast so we can go see what she is up to.  Oh, she is going to ask you for a pony.  She had her horse book out and was pointing to the picture of the black colt and kept saying my Song, my ride.   I told her she had to ask Daddy.”

 

“Thanks for throwing me under the bus.” He laughed and carried his now empty plate over to the sink.   “Washing these here or up at the house?”

 

“Put it in the picnic basket with the left overs.  Boyo, are you sure about this?  I don’t want to force you to do something you aren’t ready to do.”   She knew he had seen the same thing in Rowan’s eyes that she had.  That look that had haunted his eyes for so long but now was just a painful memory most of the time.

 

“I can’t think of anything you have ever forced me into …except maybe building this house …which I love…You only bring the best out in me.  I agree that little girl needs a forever home.  I think this one would be perfect.  Hopefully she and the Ladybug will agree with us mere mortals.”

 

“From your mouth to God’s ear,” Lee said quoting Sam Kline’s mother.  “We need to get this done as fast as possible…We can’t not do it.”

 

“I know Sweet Pea.”    They gathered up the basket and made their way into the house.  Chloe was at her table coloring, Ashke at her side.

 

 “Neoee!”   She got up and ran to him.  He swung her up high giving her a kiss.

 

“How’s my girl?  You been minding Ibbie?” 

 

“Yes, go ride Song?”

 

“Why don’t you let me get a nap then maybe if your mom says it’s ok we can go ride?”

 

“K” she gathered up her unicorn and followed him into the bedroom.  Chloe had decided since Neoee read her a story at nap she needed to ‘read’ to him before his naps.   Her favorite book to read him lately had been her version of Old McDonald.  

 

While Johnny and Chloe were busy Lee called making plans for Justin and Rowan to come visit.

 

*************

Johnny and Chloe were out with her peddle fire truck.  Johnny had added a piece to it, so he could push her as she was not yet strong enough to make the peddles go.  As head strong as she was, she was still small for her age.   He figured a little help  didn’t hurt and trying to pedal would help make her legs stronger. 

 

 Lee and Chloe had their pool time as a special one on one time as well as when they swam with Johnny.   

 

  Lee and Chloe had their special books they read together just as Chloe had books that were Neoee books.  Lee had a place in her office for Chloe if she needed to be at WBS with her.

 

(Most of the work for WBSF was done at home, often during Chloe’s nap time or after her bedtime.)  Lee seldom worked more than one full day a week in either office often going in after Chloe went down for her afternoon nap and coming home in time for dinner.

 

  Tom and Will had no problem with her hours as they knew she spent time at home working.  They had officially changed her status to a special projects consultant, so she would not quit completely.  The rapid advancement in computer technology had made that transition easier.

 

While Johnny and Chloe were outside Lee wrote Jeff a letter.  He and Gina had been out for Chloe’s birthday.    They were celebrating their second anniversary   with a trip to Paris sending her and Johnny cheesy post cards every day. Lee looked up at the wall they had made into a what Johnny called her revolving gallery.  

 

These pictures changed as Lee got new favorites or just because it seemed like a good idea.   It was made up of pictures she loved the most, most were ones Johnny had taken.  Not just the ones of family and friends but flowers and landscapes that showed his love of nature.   

 

 The paintings over the mantle had been rearranged after Johnny had surprised her on Chloe’s first Christmas by having the first picture of the three of them turned into a painting.  Rearranged but never removed.   Someone had told her they needed another painting there as a grouping should always be an odd number, but she had just laughed at them.  Those four paintings were the most important nonliving items in the house.  But in a way to her they were living things…they were a reminder of how precious and fragile life was…and how strong and enduring love was.  

 

 Maybe, now they would have a fifth one to add…Chloe and Rowan together maybe even in matching outfits…but each in a color that suited their coloring.   Telling herself to stop it and concentrate on the here and now Lee went back to her letter writing.  Frowning after she had finished the letter she wondered if it had been an unconscious fear that had kept her from telling Jeff about Rowan.   

 

She wasn’t going to let the what ifs steal the joy from what it is…and what it is a life full of love and laughter with her wonderful husband and daughter.

 

Looking out the back wall she could see Johnny and Chloe coming back from their adventure.   Chloe’s hair and eyes were so like Johnny’s that new friends and strangers never realized she wasn’t their biological child.    Chloe wasn’t their adopted daughter she was THEIR daughter who they adored and looked at with amazement each day.

 

“Mama Neoee wants a cookie.”  Chloe said as she ran into the sunroom.  “Ashie ran away.   Neoee said it ok”

 

“Daddy knows Ashke can find his way home.  So what kind of cookie does Daddy want?  Chocolate chip or peanut butter?”

 

“Two.”  She held up two fingers.

 

“Nope, one.  We’ll have dinner soon.”  Lee smiled as Johnny came into the room with a tray.  A soda for her, milk for him and Chloe and six cookies, three of each.

 

“One cookie each, didn’t know what kind you wanted so I brought 3 of each.”

 

“Very thoughtful.”  Lee giggled as he put the tray down.  “Did you tell Mama what you saw?”

 

“Bambi.   Ashie scared Bambi.”

 

“What cookie Ladybug?”  Johnny asked as he handed her the sippy cup of milk.

 

“Chip please.”   Johnny handed her the cookie and then turned to Lee.” And you?”

 

“Peanut butter.”   She watched as Chloe nibbled her cookie very lady like “After you eat your cookie I think Daddy might be nice and make you a bubble bath, so you’ll be all nice and clean when we have company for dinner.   A bubble bath then quiet time with your books?”  

 

 The concept of quiet book time had replaced the afternoon nap early in the “terrible two” period after one especially long and loud battle of wills.   Most days the quiet time ended with her falling asleep.

  

“Daddy read?”  Johnny laughed at the way Chloe cocked her head to the side and made her eyes even wider.  Lee always said Chloe was so him in her mannerisms but that was pure Lee at her flirty best.

 

“Yes, Daddy will read to you, so I can cook.   Daddy can read better than he can count.” 

 

  Johnny took a third cookie after giving Lee a wink and followed Chloe to the nursery.   

 

Lee was finishing her prep clean up when Johnny came into the kitchen. 

“Is that meat loaf I smell?”   

 

“Why would you be so surprised me Boyo?  Didn’t yourself tell me that you were hungry for some meatloaf and parsley potatoes?” 

 

“Yes, but since we were having company I thought you’d do something different.”

 

“Are you telling me my meat loaf isn’t good enough for company?”  She teased   enjoying the shocked look on his face.

 

“Of course, not I love your meat loaf that’s why…”  She burst out laughing and so did he. 

 

“I want Justin to see what our home is like.   We don’t eat in the dining room every meal, we don’t have fancy meals all the time…face it we probably eat out on the deck more than we do in the house when the weather is nice.    I don’t   wear dresses and pearls to run the sweeper…We are real people who like doing everyday things.  Yes, I like pretty tables and it’s fun to dress up and go out once in a while…but our life isn’t about that.    It’s about last-minute pot luck dinners and friends dropping by to swim or just hang out.   About a tired daddy who takes a long walk pushing a pedal car he fixed so she can pedal it easier.  Or one who lets her read him a story before he can nap.  That is our life and that is the most wonderful life I can imagine…except it will be even better with two little girls in it.”  She smiled. 

 

“We have a little time before she wakes up so let’s grab a quick shower before our guests come.   Maybe a shower will help relax those muscles you have knotted in your shoulder and back.”  He stopped not sure how or if he should ask the question that had been bothering him.  He decided now was not the time to bring it up.

 

 

Johnny sat on the deck and watched Chloe as she was playing with her toy kitchen set.  She wanted it out on the deck, so he had moved it from her bedroom.  They were going to have to do something about more closet space if both girls were going to be in the nursery…which they had been talking about re doing to a ‘big girl’ room.   He smiled wondering if Rowan would like the same kind of toys...

 

 

Lee heard Johnny introducing himself and Chloe to Justin and Rowan.   She started out to the deck  but stopped at the door watching the two little girls.  Chloe had her head cocked sideways watching as Johnny squatted down to talk with Rowan.  The look on her face was intense.  

 

“My Neoee.”  She said pronouncing judgment to the world as she moved closer to Johnny and Rowan.    

 

Rowan looked at the other little girl without a word then at her great uncle.  She just smiled at Chloe then reached out to take Chloe’s hand.    Chloe thought about it a minute then reached out to Rowan, taking her hand and holding on to it as they moved towards the toys.

 

Lee let out the breath she didn’t even realize she was holding as the two went over to the toy area.   She went on outside.

 

“That went well.”  Johnny said as she wheeled over to him and Justin.    “Justin, I forgot to ask, is Rowan afraid of dogs?”

 

“Not that I know of…We haven’t had contact with any.  Why?”

 

“Ashke…our German Shepard…He is out on some R&R right now.  He is very protective of Lee and Chloe and most of our friends who have kids, he adds them to his list.  He’s a retired police dog.  Very well trained so there isn’t any worry about him jumping on you or her.  When he comes back to the deck he’ll check out that Lee and Chloe are fine then go lay down near where ever Chloe is.”

 

“We have an extra booster seat fixed for Rowan…If you tell me what she’s most likely to eat I’ll fix her plate when I fix Chloe’s.”  Lee said taking charge of the meal.

 

“I’m afraid Rowan’s table manners aren’t very good.   She   usually eats with her fingers, even foods not considered finger food…she isn’t always very neat.”

 

“That’s no problem.   This is a kid friendly zone.”  Johnny said hoping to ease the older man’s embarrassment.  

 

“And I have already set out bibs…Although some days Miss Ladybug won’t wear one, she wants a napkin like her daddy.  Can you tell she’s a daddy’s girl?”

 

Soon everyone was at the table and the meal was pleasant.  Rowan ate well, and Justin relaxed when he saw the young couple take it in stride when she picked up the carrots and green beans with her fingers.  Lee gently reached over and handed her a spoon with some mashed-up potatoes on it just as she did for Chloe.  The brightly colored sippy cups solved any problems that spilled milk could have caused.

 

“I’ll have to get one of those for the house.  My housekeeper, bless her, is patient with her but we aren’t a kid friendly zone.  In fact, I never knew cups and dishes like that even existed.”    Justin said as he watched the two little girls with cookies and apple slices as Ashke laid between their chairs. 

 

“Chloe Elizabeth, what did I say about giving Ashie cookies?  They aren’t good for him.   Ask and we’ll give you his doggie treats.”  

 

Actually, Lee was happy to see both girls had given Ashie cookies.   Justin watched as Rowan slipped a bit of apple to the dog.  And was relieved to see Johnny wink at her as he nodded yes it was ok. 

 

“Ok, girls, let’s get your faces and hands washed.  Miss Chloe, do you need to potty?” 

 

“K…then wagon ride?”

 

“Justin, are you up for a walk to our special place?  It’s about a half mile.”

 

“Yes, after that wonderful meal I could use a stroll.   My housekeeper sent along Rowan’s necessary bag…I’m afraid we haven’t had much success with   bathroom training.”   It was plain to Lee and Johnny while the older gentleman cared for the little girl he was at a lost on how to raise her.  He told Lee at their first meeting he and his wife had never been blessed with children, so this was totally new territory.

 

“Rowan, sweetie, why don’t you come with me and Chloe and we’ll get you cleaned up, too.  Justin where is her bag?”  

 

Justin went to the car to get the bag.  Lee smiled, it was a duffle bag with a local sports team logo.   Lee and the girls went into the nursery.     Chloe went into the bathroom leaving the door open.  She liked being a big girl and going in on her own.  

 

The original changing table Johnny had built had been replaced with a lower bench/table combination after Chloe had scared Lee one day by almost rolling off as she squirmed around.  Like her father staying still was sometimes a challenge.

 

“Ok Sweetheart let’s get you cleaned up…”  Lee looked in the duffle bag smiling at the well-stocked bag.  Besides the diapers and wipes there were 2 changes of clothing, extra socks and a sweater.  There was even a soft fine baby hair brush and some bows.    Lee could see who ever had packed this bag had done so with care.   A small fuzzy dog and a receiving blanket were also in the bag. 

 

“Ok, let’s get you dry and clean then we’ll go play.” She pulled the soiled shirt off over her head talking softly letting her know what she was doing.  She had noticed Rowan wasn’t always at ease with being touched. 

 

 Lee could hear Chloe sitting on her ‘throne’ as Johnny called it looking at a picture book.  Her love of books had been a big plus thanks to a hint from Emily during the first frustrating tries of getting her to sit on the potty long enough to accomplish her goal.  Emily had suggested getting a few books on animals and just letting her have those books while on the potty.  Then when she was finished she got to put a sticker on her chart.   She loved stickers, especially the sparkly My Little Pony ones.   After wiping Rowan’s hands and face she held up 2 shirts.

 

“Do you want the pink butterfly or the green froggy shirt?”  Lee asked just as she did when she had time with Chloe.    Rowan reached out for the pink shirt.  “I like that one too.  Maybe the Boyo will read you and Chloe a story about a butterfly and his friend.   I’m so happy you and Chloe are friends.   Ok, let’s get these pants changed…Can you lay down for me?”  Lee gently helped her lay back and   took off the tennis shoes Rowan had on.  “I like your socks…someone made sure you were dressed in matching shirt and socks and pants...  nice to see they care enough to do that...”  Lee drew in a breath and felt her heart drop to her feet.  On the very small backside was a large purple and puckered scar.  The skin around it looked puffy and tender.   She wheeled over to the dresser and hit the intercom button.  “John, could you come in here, please.”   She surprised herself how calm she sounded. 

 

“Excuse me.”  Johnny got up and went into the nursery not sure what the problem was but that there was a definite major problem.  She had called him John.

 

“What’s wrong?”  He asked seeing the look on her face as he came in the room.

 

“This looks infected to me.”   Lee moved over so he could get a closer look.  Chloe had heard her dads voice and decided she needed attention also.

 

“Neoee help”

 

Lee wheeled over to the bathroom door.  “Can mommy help while daddy fixes Rowan’s owie?”

 

“Owie hurts…My Neoee fix.”

 

“Yep, Sweetie pie, your daddy can fix.” Lee watched as Chloe pulled up her big girl panties (with pink My Little Ponies on them) and came out of the bathroom.  Lee gave her a wipe and watched as she carefully cleaned her hands then went over to the chart.   (Chloe loved the chart, so they still did it even though the potty training was accomplished.)

 

“Pinkie Pie.”    Lee gave her the sticker and then they counted them.  Lee enjoyed the teaching times with Chloe not so much because she thought her to be smarter than average but because she wanted to teach her the joy of learning just as her mother had done with her and Sara.   And now she wanted to teach that to Rowan.   They went back out to where Johnny had finished with Rowan.   The anger was still in his eyes and his voice was terse.  They went out to where Justin was waiting.    Johnny explained why Lee had called him into the nursery. 

 

“I’m going to call Dr. Steve and have him look at her tomorrow...If he can’t work her in I’ll take her to the ER and ask them to page Thanh to come look at her. Did you have it checked by a doctor?”

 

“Yes, he said it was because she had diaper rash.”

 

“I’m surprised the doctor didn’t put her on antibiotic when he saw that.”

 

“He just gave my housekeeper a tube of ointment and said to keep it clean and dry.  The diaper rash cleared up in a few days.  He’s a good doctor but I don’t think he sees many children.  Most of his patients are my age.”

 

Once they were out to the grove Johnny played with the girls.  They kicked the ball into the soccer net, he swung them, and they took the bread that Lee had stuck in her pouch and feed the fish.  Ashke was right by their side all the time they were at the pond.  Justin just watched amazed at the way his great niece fit in with this family.   Lee and Justin were at the shelter watching.

 

“Does she talk much when she’s just with you?”

 

“No.  The doctor said her hearing is fine and there is no physical reason.  I suspect she learned to be quiet and stay out of everyone’s way.”   He had no idea of how this statement tore at her heart as she thought of her Boyo.

 

“And the scar on her bottom?”

 

“The doctor guessed it was from a belt buckle that broke the skin then got infected.”  Johnny came over and sat down on the grass next to Lee.  The girls were throwing a tennis ball for Ashke to chase.

 

“We see Ken Malansky in the morning.  He’ll do all the legal work we need to proceed with the adoption.  Lee said you were going to bring papers for us to take.”

 

“Yes.  My lawyer made motorized copies of everything that Rowan’s mother left.  I contacted my brother- in - law and he said to do whatever I wanted as long as he didn’t have to do anything.”

 

“I think you should bring Rowan out here or meet us different places, so she gets use to being with us.  I am sure Children’s Protective Services will be in touch with both of us once Ken files the papers with the court.”  Lee said watching the girls having a good time together.

 

 “Ok, Munchkins, time to head back to the house.”  Johnny said getting up.   “I checked on the faerie roses they are all doing good since I transplanted them   We’ll have to add another one soon.”.”  He went off to round up the girls and Ashke.

 

“Who did the work out here for you?  I need some work done at my home.  Was it someone connected with WBS?”

 

“John Roderick did most of this with a little help from friends and some equipment he borrowed from WBS.  This is his living love letter to me and Chloe.  If you need garden work call Alvarez and Son Landscaping.  They are part of the WBS consortium.    My uncle hired Maria Alvarez as my nanny when I first came to live with him.  I think of Hector and Maria as my unofficial foster parents.  Them and Jeff and my uncle Matt …I was so blessed to have them in my life.  Now I am blessed to have Johnny and Chloe and hopefully Rowan to love and care for.  I hope that if this adoption…when this adoption goes through you will continue to be part of this circle of family and friends.”

 

Johnny came back with a toddler under each arm.   All were laughing.  Lee realized it was the first time she had heard Rowan laugh.

 

“Ok, let’s get these ducks in the wagon and back to the house.  I bet if we ask real nice when we get back we can have some more cookies and maybe some ice cream.”

 

“Strawberry?”

 

“Maybe chocolate.  I think you and your daddy ate all the strawberry the last time…”

 

 

Ken Malansky looked over the papers Lee had given him and made a few notes.   Lee was sitting quietly biting on the corner of her thumb nail.  Johnny had been pacing around the room and was now was standing at the window looking out into space.

 

“It looks as if everything is all here.  I can file these with the court this afternoon.  I would like to get in touch with the birth parents just as a precaution but there is more than enough information here to charge them with abandonment.”

 

“Call Kookie and have him do whatever to find the parents.  Justin has no idea where they went, maybe to a commune in Mexico.   They were up in San Francisco for a while.   Just send the bills to our accountant.”

 

“Can we have Rowan stay with us while this is all being settled?   Justin had planned on going to Chicago on business, but his house keeper isn’t willing to take so much responsibility on…she’s a kind lady from what Justin told us but she is 63 years old and not wanting to be in total care of a toddler,” Johnny questioned.

 

“Lee don’t get upset, but I have to ask this.   The social workers and the courts may even ask this…Physically, can you take care of two toddlers?”

 

“I think so.   You know we have the resources to hire someone full time if necessary.  But I honestly don’t think it will come to that.   When he is home Johnny is a great hands on type of dad.  So, Justin can ask us as his friends to watch Rowan while he is out of town?  We’ll have him give us all the necessary papers to have in case of emergency just like when we watch the DeSoto or the Kildare kids when their parents are out of town.”

 

“That would be a good idea…now do you want to sign the papers so we can start this process.  I’ll need a list of references, medical and financial records to submit.”

 

“Here they are, all updated and consent forms for agencies to get any information they need from our bank, employers and medical providers.  I  included  some  very heavy  hitters in the personal  references…thought  that  would  be more impressive than  in  the  professional…Tom  and Will  and  Ben Oliver  were  my  professional  references,   Kelly  Brackett, Joe Early,   Hank Stanley,  Bob Houser  and  Chief  McConnikee  for  Johnny’s…figured  Jean Paul and Maggie,  Jase  Windsor,  Dr. Patrick  O’Donnell  as  personal  references  didn’t hurt…along  with the Killdare  and  DeSoto  and  Alvarez’s…Oh and  we added  Johnny ‘s  aunt  to  the  personal/family  section  since  that  was  so sparse.  I even put Amos on that list...he is a second or third cousin technically.  That gave us 3 relatives…Plus Micha Little Bear and the doctors and fire chief from Lame Deer since they were apart of Chloe’s adoption.”

 

“Sounds like you’ve learned to play the game.”

 

“Had to, this is too important to lose.”     Johnny said as he continued to look out the window.  

 

 “I guess that toy company had it right…Life is a game.    What happens isn’t something we totally control.   We just do our best with what we are given to work with.”

 

 

“I need to talk to Jo and Kathy.  Can we stop at Roy’s and maybe you two go off for coffee or to hang out at the grove or something?”

 

“I’m not sure what they had planned for today. I haven’t talked to him since last week.”  Johnny was glad she suggested stopping as he had been thinking about calling him as soon as they got home.   He wanted to spend some time with Chloe before meeting Justin and Rowan at Dr. Steve’s office.  They pulled up in the drive way and saw both cars and the old truck that Roy and Johnny had   rebuilt was in the driveway.

 

 

“Go ask them if it’s a good time for us to drop in.”  Lee said needing a few minutes to get her thoughts in order. 

 

Ten minutes later Roy and Johnny left for parts unknown.   Since it was a beautiful day the three women went out to the deck.  Jo had called Kathy to come over.

 

“Johnny looked worried is everything ok?”  Jo asked once they were settled.  She thought Lee looked stressed also.  It was rare that they didn’t have Chloe with them when they ran errands unless something was wrong. 

 

  “Yes and no.  We just spent the morning with Ken Malansky…He is going to be handling a private adoption for us.   Her name is Rowan Lee and she is a strawberry blond and taller than Chloe, but I think they weigh about the same…Chloe is 5 months older. They got along really well last night…I promised you all when we adopted again I would share with you all and not keep it a secret.”   She spoke quickly as if afraid she would not finish her sentence. 

 

“Ben Oliver put us in touch with her great uncle. Her parents don’t want her.  Her mother dropped her off one day then vanished into thin air.  Back into the hippie life style…It hurt Johnny to see that lost look in her eyes…The one we use to see in his, Jo…she doesn’t talk much but is really smart.  She was doing some of Chloe’s puzzles and stacking toys.   I heard her laugh when they were playing with Ashke.   Justin, her great uncle, was worried we would be put off by her eating with her fingers, but she can use a spoon really well.  I don’t think anyone ever really tried to teach her.  She isn’t potty trained but seemed to be happy when we changed her into a dry diaper and some clean clothes after she ate.  She let me brush her hair…”

 

The two friends let her talk not asking the questions they had. “Ken doesn’t think we’ll have any trouble with the courts.  They can prove child neglect if not abuse…The mother left a letter and her birth certificate with the house keeper when she dropped Rowan off. It’s not an official birth certificate but one that a midwife wrote out and it was notarized.    The father is off in commune in Mexico, his uncle thinks. “

 

“And Johnny is ok with this?”   

 

“Yes.  He sees a lot of himself in her, I think.  She has a scar on her bottom.  The doctor think it was a cut from a belt buckle that got infected…When we talked about that it’s the closest I have ever seen him to hate.   Even that time those bullies knocked my chair over…I didn’t see hate just sadness, the things his   cousins have said and did… Just sadness…but his seeing that scar…It was anger and hate.   If this is going to bring all the old memories and hurt back to the surface…Am I doing the right thing asking him to do this?”

 

“Of course, you’re doing the right thing.  It sounds as if this little one needs you.   Johnny can deal with the memories now…He has so many good ones to remember they help soften the old ones.  The old ones are never going to be gone completely that is part of who he is and why he is the Johnny we love and respect.”  Jo said  squeezing Lee’s hand.  

 

“I hope so.”

 

 

Johnny drove to a little lake in the forest preserve near the house.  It was a favorite fishing spot since not many people knew it was there.  Roy hadn’t said much, recognizing the look on his best friend’s face. 

 

 It was a familiar look but happily one he had not seen for a long while.    Johnny parked the Rover and they walked to the lake.  An old picnic table and a small rock lined fire pit was near the lake edge and Johnny sat on the table top, his feet on the bench, his elbows on his knees. 

 

Roy sat on the bench waiting for Johnny to share what was on his mind.

 

“We’re trying to adopt a little girl.   Her name is Rowan Lee and she is about   4 months younger than Chloe.    She’s a throw away just like me.  Lee took her in to clean her up after dinner and called me into the nursery.   It’s funny I knew something was really bad before I got in there.   Do you know how many times Lee has called me John since we were married?”

 

“No.”  Roy answered moving so he was sitting closer to Johnny.

 

“Three times that I recall…Once when we’re fighting over her going to Lame Deer, the day of Matt’s funeral and yesterday.   Even when introducing me to someone she usually calls me Johnny or John Roderick…or Boyo… there’s a scar on Rowan’s left buttock.  It’s purple and ugly and I’m pretty sure there is some sort of infection.  I called Steve Ramon and he is going to look at her today; added her as his last patient for the day.”

 

“The uncle?”   Roy put his hand on Johnny’s arm.  He could feel him trembling.

 

“No, the mother or one of her friends.  I guess they lived in some commune up north.   Her great uncle is friends with Ben Oliver.  Ben sent him to Lee.  The mother just dropped this baby off with a trash bag of old dirty clothes and some papers saying do whatever you want with her.”

 

“Chloe gonna like being a big sister?”

 

“Yeah I think so…They played really well together last night.    We’re bringing Rowan home with us after we see the doctor.    Ken Malansky is doing the paper work for the adoption.  He said there is no legal reason Justin can’t leave Rowan with us while he is out of town on a business trip.   They have Kookie looking for the parents.”

 

 “God, Roy, how can they do that to a baby?   She is so tiny.  Her and Chloe were playing with Ashke we heard her laughing when he was giving her kisses and then when I was carrying her and Chloe she put her head on my shoulder and snuggled up closer...She likes chocolate ice cream and didn’t like peas…She has this blond hair and her bangs are cut really jagged, like whoever did it didn’t care.  I read her and Chloe a story after we had ice cream and she laid with her head on my knee…If I could get a hold of the son of a bitch that hurt her I think I could kill him…If anyone ever hurt Chloe like that…How do you protect them?  Stacy and Jenny…even the boys…how do you protect them?”

 

“Just the best as you can…It’s a little easier as they get older but then there is a whole new set of worries…Being a parent isn’t easy…but what’s the old saying?  Anything worthwhile having doesn’t come easy?   Anyone that does that to any child is beyond my understanding.  We’ve seen people at their worst over the years in our job, but we’ve seen more of them at their best…anything me and Jo can do to help you let us know, ok. “

 

“Yeah, we will.   I guess we better get back.  Lee and I have a few hours before we have to meet up with Justin and Rowan…Chloe really seemed to like her except I heard her a few times say my Neoee. Like she was marking her territory.”

 

 “You got to admit, Junior, both of your girls are pretty protective of their ownership of you.  Wasn’t too long-ago Lee was ready to scratch some girl’s eyes out for coming on to you.”  Roy said laughing, trying to lighten Johnny’s mood.

 

“Yeah that chick was one crazy drunk.”   Johnny laughed at the memory of the drunk girl at a party who had come up to him and Lee and propositioned him.  Lee had made it clear she didn’t share her man with anyone. “Soon as we get settled you’ll have to come over and meet Rowan.  She’s a little shy but I think that’ll change quick enough once she gets use to being around  more people.” He laughed.  “Just look what a good job you did of socializing me.   I don’t want Rowan to ever have to feel like she is a throw away…that no one will ever want her.”

 

When they got back to the house Jo, Lee and Kathy were busy making lists of things they thought Rowan would be needing. 

 

“I think I need to clean out Miss Chloe’s closet again.  She has gotten taller.   I know the stuff from last spring isn’t going to fit.  Kathy, if I get it boxed up can you take it to the clinic?   There’s several boxes of blankets and new born things I was saving but it’s time to get rid of them.”   Johnny gave her a quick kiss.  “Boyo, do you think we should go to the furniture store and get another youth bed?  We should be able to get them delivered at least by tomorrow and have someone set it up…I can get bedding there…and we will need 2 more car seats…Maybe we need to think about trading the mustang in…”

 

 

“Slow down…  We don’t have to do all this right this minute.    Let’s just take it one step at a time.  You won’t be taking both girls by yourself anywhere at least not for a while” He quickly clarified as he saw the frown on her face.  “I was thinking we need to get a double stroller like the one Val and Kelly have…”

 

Jo watched them drive off with mixed emotions.  Turning to Roy and Kathy she saw the same questions in their eyes.

 

“Is she setting them up for a big fall?”  Jo asked.  “What if this adoption doesn’t happen?”

 

“I think I will give my friend Marci a call.  She’s one of the supervisors for at   the county’s child protection services office.  She knows Lee and Johnny from the help they’ve given the clinic…It may help.”

 

“Can’t hurt.   He called her a throw away…just like he was…”   Roy put his arm around Jo.  “Either way we’ll be there for them.”

 

************

Dr. Steve Ramon was tired it had been a long day.  He was tempted to call the Gages to have them take the little girl they were bringing in to the ER.  He knew Thanh was up in the pediatric ward until 6.   John Gage had sounded very concerned about the possibility of it being a serious infection and he knew Johnny had been an excellent paramedic.   He finished his notes from the last patient and had his office nurse check to see if Lee ad Johnny were there yet.  He had told them between 5 and 5:30, it was 4:45.  He wasn’t all that surprised when the nurse showed the Gages and an older gentleman into the exam room.   Johnny was holding a little blond whispering in her ear.   Lee made the introductions. 

 

“Hi, there” Dr. Steve said as he went over to Johnny.  “You sure are a little cutie.”  Rowan hid her face in Johnny’s shoulder.   “Johnny said you had an owie so we’re gonna look at it and make you feel better.  Do you have any kind of medical history on her?” 

 

“She had a bad diaper rash when she was dropped off and I had my house keeper   take her to Dr. Benson…He gave her something to put on it and said that she was under weight.  There were several bruises on her legs and back as well as the sore on her bottom.  Dr. Benson thought one of the bruises looked like an imprint of a fancy belt buckle.”  Justin answered. 

 

“Did he report that to children services?”

 

“No…should he have?  I’m afraid neither one of us were really sure what to do...”

 

“Rowan’s parents lived in a commune and I have a feeling it was not a child friendly place.”  Lee added.  “Her uncle has asked Johnny and me to adopt Rowan, so you’ll be seeing a lot of her, I’m sure.  Anything she needs, we will take care of all the bills.”  

 

“This is definitely infected…Johnny, can you feel the heat when you touch it?  Press it gently and you can feel a knot in there…I’d say it was an abscess at the least if not a full-blown case of osteomyelitis.   Johnny you want to hold her while I give her a shot to numb the area, so we can take a more in-depth look.  Lee, I think it would be best if you and Mr. Mathers go out to the other room.   My nurse will get you a gown and some gloves.”  He told Johnny as he called the nurse back into the room.   “You did tell me you kept your certification?”   

 

“Yeah, I did …Sweet Pea, no argument about staying in here.   You go out and do the paper work with the receptionist.”   Lee and Justin left the room.    “So, you going to lance it?”

 

“We need to get a sample of the tissue and we need to drain it…I am wondering if it wouldn’t be better to do this at the hospital…We may need to scrape the bone.  Can you take her in tomorrow? “Steve said as he propped the lump more.

 

“I can have Lee and Jo bring her in.  I’ll try to find someone to take my shift…or at least part of it.”  Johnny was more concerned than he wanted anyone to know.  If it was osteomyelitis that could mean serious consequences.  Sure, they could hire a nurse for the physical aspect of the care but what would the emotional toll be on Lee?  Would it be fair to Chloe to have another child come into her life only to demand so much care and attention? 

 

Rowan had tears rolling down her cheek but other than a very soft whimper she didn’t make a sound.  That told Johnny all he needed to know.  This little one needed him and Lee.  They would work the issues out.  For a child to learn at her age not to cry out loud…He hated to think how that lesson had been taught.

 

“I’m going to call over to Rampart and see if we can do it now.  I think the sooner we get her on some good strong antibiotics the better and I want to do the whole battery of X-rays, maybe a CAT SCAN…Her nutrition probably wasn’t the best so that may complicate this…”

 

Johnny redressed Rowan while Steve was on the phone.   He took her out to Lee and Justin.

 

“Steve’s decide we need to do this at the hospital…She may be staying there a day or two.  We’ll take her, Chloe’s car seat is in the Rover, so we won’t need to transfer yours.”

 

“I don’t have a car seat for her…Should I get one?”  Justin looked confused.  “I just put her in the back seat.”

 

“No, we’ll take care of all that.”

 

“I’ll pay the medical bills.   I will see my lawyer in the morning about setting up a trust fund for Rowan…”

 

 “What you do is your business…but we are more than able to take care of our daughter’s medical bills.”   Lee bristled at the tone of his voice.

 

“My dear, you misunderstood.  The anger you heard in my voice was directed at my nephew…not at that sweet little girl.  Money spent on her is well spent …and I want to take care of her.   If I was younger or if my wife was alive there would be no question of us raising her and loving her.  She has Lilly’s eyes, her hazel eyes…In the few weeks I have been with her I have learned to love her.    Sometimes saying I love you is saying goodbye.   Doing what is best for the other person rather than what you want.”

 

“Justin, I am so glad you are going to be part of our family of the heart.”  Lee said.

 

Once they were at Rampart, Lee went up to her office to make some phone calls.   She let Ibbie know what was happening then called Jo and lastly called Ken Malansky to let him know the latest development.  This would be more evidence of neglect if not abuse and child endangerment.   

 

 She then called Jo and told her that they were at Rampart and Johnny was pretty sure Rowan would be staying there the night if not longer.  

 

“What scares me is the not knowing.  If that infection has gotten into the bone…It could mean major surgery and physical therapy …Think the doctors give you all the worst-case possibilities   just so they look good when none of that happens.”  Lee said with a nervous laugh.  “I better get back down there.  John Roderick is even more stressed out than I am, I think.”

 

Jo went into to the living room where Roy was watching a movie. “Dr. Ramon had them take Rowan to the hospital to run some tests and to lance the abscess he found.  Lee is trying to be positive, but she is on the edge.  Worried about this baby, Chloe being left all day with Ibbie and how Johnny is reacting.” 

 

“Yeah he was pretty up tight when we were talking.   He sees a lot of himself in that little girl.  Plus, he is worried about what it will do to Lee if this adoption falls through.  As much as he wants another child I think he has always been worried about her reactions to the whole process.”

 

Two hours later Dr. Roman and Dr. Harrison came out to talk with the adults.

 

“Johnny, that was a good catch.    We were surprised how big the abscess was.  I’m surprised she hadn’t been screaming with pain or running a temp as much infection as we found.”

 

“Do you think the ointment they used for the diaper rash hid some of the symptoms? “

 

“It could have.  We’ll be keeping her overnight and possibly for several days.  Who has legal custody of her?”

 

“I do.   Her mother left a letter stating she was giving up all of her parental rights signed by a notary.  My lawyer has a copy and so does Mr. And Mrs. Gage’s lawyer.”   Justin said.  “My housekeeper and I have tried to do what is the best for her and in my opinion, what is best is for this couple to adopt her.  I’ll sign anything necessary to give them full access to her medical files and for them to make any decisions regarding the care she needs.”

 

“You know this is just a formality, but we are mandated to inform Children’s Protective Service of this incident.”  Dr. Steve said.  “We know that it is because of your care she has received treatment and this problem has been going on for several months.”

 

” Yes.  Can we see her?”   Lee asked.

 

“She will be in recovery for a while, then we’ll transfer her to the ward.”

 

“I don’t want her in a ward, she needs a private or semiprivate room.”  Lee said with no room for argument.     Dr. Harrison, who hadn’t ever dealt with her before looked surprised.   “And there will be someone in her room at all times.”

 

“Your insurance won’t cover that.  She isn’t that critical.” 

 

“Dr. Steve is there someone you would recommend we call to stay with her or should I ask Dixie?”  Lee totally ignored Harrison.  “The Boyo is on shift tomorrow, but I’ll be here most of the day”.  

 

“I’ll call Janie…she is good with kids that age.”   Steve knew that look. 

 

“After we see her we’ll head home but you call if there is anything you need.  Justin did the paper work, so we are the contacts.   You have our number at home, both my offices and the station if you need us.”

 

“Johnny, I need to stop by my office before we go see her.   I have something I picked up in the gift shop for her.   “And you need something to eat.” She turned to Steve Ramon and smiled sweetly.  “If nothing is available in pediatrics have them set up whatever you need on up the 14th floor.”  They left the two doctors shaking their heads at her.

 

 

Lee called the hospital as soon as she and Johnny were up the next morning.   The report was good, and Lee felt better about not staying the night with Rowan.  She was fixing breakfast when the phone rang.  

 

Gage residence.”  Lee answered as Johnny was in with Chloe. 

 

“It’s me.  I just wanted to check if you needed anything.”  Jo said.  “Roy and I were thinking about all of you.”

 

“Thanks.  I talked to the hospital and she had a good night.  They are still waiting on some test results, but they said she slept well and had no problem with taking some juice earlier.  The nurse who spent the night with her was getting ready to feed her breakfast.    That is one thing we’ll make a priority is her being able to feed herself using a spoon.  I think they must have just given her finger foods or just ignored her eating with her fingers.   She does well with the sippy cup.”

 

“If you need anything let us know.  Soon as you have time we’ll go shopping for her.  We haven’t told the kids about Rowan.”

 

“I appreciate that.  We expect a call from CPS today, so they may contact you and Kathy since you are two of our references on the adoption papers.    Hopefully we will get a case worker who looks past this chair…”

 

Johnny and Chloe came out to the kitchen ready for breakfast.   Chloe was on her dad’s shoulders and Lee cringed a little.  Not because she didn’t trust Johnny but just because how high up in the air Chloe seemed.

 

“I told you she was gonna make our favorite breakfast…Ladybug here was more interested in playing than getting dressed.   Said she could play but I was gonna eat all the corncakes.”

 

“I wouldn’t let him do that would I?”   Lee said laughing at the look on Chloe’s face.  “Bad Daddy.”

 

“Good Neoee…”   Chloe answered in Johnny’s defense.

 

“Yes, he is…he’s the best.   Now you two ready to sit down and eat?  The eggs are almost ready.”

 

“Did I hear the phone?”  Johnny asked as he poured a cup of coffee.

 

“Jo called to see if we needed anything and check on Rowan.  I have to get the stuff ready for the advisory committee meeting, so I’ll have to be in my office part of the day, but I’ll be able to pop in and out of her room.  “I may stop at the community center and get a few laps in either before or after work.”

 

 “Oh, don’t forget to let me know how many are coming next Friday.  If the weather is nice we could have dinner out at the grove.  Turn it into a hay ride and hanging out there kind of night.”

 

“You surer you want to still do that with everything else going on?”

 

“Sure.  Just tell Jake it’s probably gonna be hot dogs over a camp fire instead of the chicken…but I will try to send some in one-day next week…Let me know what day you want it.” 

 

“I’ll check the rotation...Whatever day Eric’s cooking.  Man., He cooks worse than I did…He burns everything and uses more hot sauce than Marco.”

 

Ibbie came in as they were finishing breakfast.  She and Lee talked as Johnny had a few minutes with Chloe.  The two of them were looking at the new book Suzi and Chet had sent her. 

 

“I see him with her and wish my husband had been there more for our daughter.   But he’s a fantastic grandpa… which s good since my son -in-law is out at sea.  You would have thought my daughter would have married a civilian not a Navy man.”

 

“She must have been happy with her life as a Navy brat or she wouldn’t have considered it a good life.  If things had been different I would have grown up a Marine brat.”   Johnny came over to her with Chloe on his hip.

 

“Take her mommy so I can get to work on time.  Sets a bad example if the captain is late.”


  He  sat Chloe down on Lee’s lap.  “Love ya, call me.”

 

“Go see Song?”  Chloe asked.  She loved riding the stallion sitting in front of her dad.

 

“Maybe.  Love ya both, much.”

 

“We love you muches and mores.”  Lee answered back.  He gave his girls one of his crooked grins and left.

 

“Ok, I’m going to work but should be home by 4.  If they let Rowan come home today, I’ll be back sooner.  But I think she will be in there for a few more days.  “Ohm, I forgot to ask, is an additional   $50 per week enough now that you’ll have two munchkins to watch?”

 

“That is more than enough…You already pay me more than most people would.”

 

“Yeah but how many people would put up with this crazy household?  They want regular hours and some sort of normal routine.”  

 

******************

 

Lee was inputting data when two women came into the office.  The older one looked familiar but Lee couldn’t place her.    

 

“May I help you?”  Lee asked.

 

“I’m Marci Fenders and this is Amy Dillon.  We’re from CPS.” 

 

“Please have a seat…There is coffee and soft drinks over at the counter and some awesome cupcakes.  Johnny Pat O’Shea just delivered this morning.”

 

“You run a snack bar out of your office?”  The younger woman looked confused.

 

“Yes, and no.  My husband was a paramedic when we first met.  I saw how often they missed meals or even would have just bought food in the cafeteria and have to leave it.   So, it’s not a traditional get a snack and pay for it set up.  This is for the fire department personnel and police officers who come into the hospital and have missed a meal or just need a quick pick me up.   And at times when there have been injuries to fire or police personnel we use the office as a private waiting area for them.   That helps the personnel in the ER as well as the first responders.”

 

“That is an interesting concept...who purchases the supplies for this area?”

 

“I do with a lot of input from the people who eat here.”

 

“This is beyond your normal snack bar.”  Amy was looking at the variety and quality of the items.

 

 “You said he was a paramedic, he has changed jobs?”  Amy came back to the desk with a coffee for Marci and a coke for herself.  

 

“He’s now the A shift captain at Station 88.  He was at 36   as a fill in for another captain who had been injured.   He’s been at 88 for 6 weeks now.”

 

“Is that your husband and daughter?” 

 

“Yes, we adopted Chloe the day she was born.  She’s almost  3  now and amazing.”

 

“Who watches her while you both are working?”

 

“Ibbie…Abigale Connors.   She had worked for us before Chloe was born.  She is wonderful with Chloe and is very flexible in her schedule. “

 

“Did you hire her through an agency?”

 

“No, her cousin and aunt are family friends.     Actually, Ibbie was a retired LPN when we first hired her.  I have all the information you’ll need about our home and us in this folder.”  Lee got it from the desk drawer.   “There is also copies of the letters Justin Mathers received form Rowan’s biological mother.   Ken Malansky who is drawing up the private adoption agreement also has this information.”

 

“Why do you want to adopt another child?” 

 

“Because we think it would be good for Chloe and because we have lots of love to share with another child or maybe even more than 2 depending on what the future brings.”

 

“You think you can afford to adopt another child?   Especially one who maybe facing a serious health problem?”

 

“Yes.  Money would be the least of the concerns we have about adopting any child.”

 

 “I see.  How many hours a week do you work?”

 

“My schedule here depends on John Roderick’s schedule.  I don’t work when he is off duty.  What time I spend in this or at my other job depends on what is going on with him and Chloe.  There is a lot of my work I can do after Chloe is in bed when Johnny is working and there are days when he is working I only spend a few hours here or at the office at WBS.   The majority of work I do for them is done at home. 

 

“You didn’t adopt your daughter in California is that correct?  Is there a reason for going out of state?”

 

“Two actually.  One the adoption agencies we dealt with here in L.A. county looked at my wheelchair and decided I couldn’t handle a child.  Secondly, Chloe’s biological parents were from the Cheyenne reservation in Lame Deer Montana.  It is the reservation my husband spent part of his childhood. “

 

“So, your husband is Cheyenne?”

 

“His mother was a full-blooded Cheyenne just as were Chloe’s parents.   His father was Caucasian from California.   There is some speculation that Johnny’s grandmother and Chloe’s great grandmother were second cousins.   It was her great grandmother who requested Micha Little Bear contact us about adopting the baby her severely injured granddaughter was carrying.   We agreed although there was no guarantee that the baby would survive or be healthy.”

 

“And if it hadn’t been a healthy baby?”

 

“She is a little girl not an it, Ms. Dillion.  Her name is Chloe Elizabeth.  If she hadn’t been healthy we would have still loved her and done our best to provide everything she needed.”  Lee’s tone changed slightly as did her posture.

 

“Do you have any questions for us about the process of adopting this child?  We will be involved since there is clear evidence of neglect and child abuse and endangerment against the parents.”

 

“None.  But let me make something very clear.  We will be doing everything possible to make this adoption happen.  My husband and I are totally committed to this child.   Even if it means a court battle.”

 

“You seem to have some resentment towards our office.  May I ask why?”

 

“My parent’s will had made my uncle Jeff my guardian.   There was a social worker from your department that decided she was going to prevent Jeff from being my legal guardian.  That it wasn’t proper for a man to have custody of a 7-year-old child.    She grabbed me by the arm and was pulling me away from him when her supervisor stopped her.   There was a court hearing and once the judge heard how Jeff was planning on seeing I was properly cared for her recommendations were ignored.  For years I would have nightmares about her taking me away from my home.” 

 

“I see.  Well, let me assure you we only want what is best for this little girl.   I need some basic information before we can set up an appointment for a home visit.  Do you rent or own your residence?  Is it a house or an apartment?”

 

“We own our house.”

 

“And how many bedrooms are there?”

 

Four including the nursery  plus a pool house with 2 large bedrooms.”

 

“And what is your monthly house payment?”

 

“I think its $1 000 per month…the accountants take care of that…actually they take care of all the bills.” Lee loved the look of shock on the younger woman’s face.   “All that is given in detail in the folder I gave you.  There is one more thing you should know we have a large German Shepard that thinks the girls are his responsibility.   Our land is fenced in, so he has free run of the place.   I know you like to make unannounced visits so even if it’s only a few minutes before you arrive I can put him up.   Unless he is out on a run around the yard he is never more than a few feet from me or Chloe.   He is a trained guard dog.  Actually a  retired  K-9 dog.”

 

 “You like to shock people, don’t you?”  Marci Fenters asked.

 

 “I don’t like is people who come into my office and talk down to me.  If you really listened, you would realize I am using the same tone of voice to Ms. Dillion as she has been using…. I maybe in a wheelchair but don’t patronize me.  I have two master’s degrees in computer related areas and my BS was in Statistical Analysis I was 16   when I received that.   I was 13 when I graduated from Westwood Academy…Now, if you want to talk down to me that’s fine…but don’t expect me to lower myself to your level.  I will treat you as a professional from now on.”

  

“I think we have all the information we need for now.  I’ll call you after we review this folder and have contacted references if we see the need.”

 

“Fine, I am going down to spend some time with Rowan before I go on home.   You have our phone numbers if you need anything else.  Please remember if you should call John Roderick at his station he will hang up on you if the SCU goes off   without a lot of explanation.”

 

 

Rowan was asleep.  She looked so small and helpless it tore at Lee’s heart. Janie had been replaced by another LPN, Carla   who was reading a book.  She looked up surprised when Lee came in.

 

“You must be Mrs. Gage.  Janie said it was ok to read or watch TV if Rowan was asleep or didn’t need anything.”

 

“Of course, it is.  I just wanted to make sure she or you didn’t need anything.  Did you make arrangements for bathroom breaks and for getting something to eat?”

 

“Yes ma’am.  Janie said to tell you she had a good night and the doctors were pleased with the way it looked this morning.  We do a diaper change every three hours to apply more of the salve to help the scar from puckering again.   She ate some mashed potatoes and chicken and noodles earlier and some pudding.  I feed her since the IV is in her left arm.”

 

“I don’t think we really noticed that she was left handed last night…Thank you.  Janie left our number in case you need anything, right?”

 

“Yes ma’am.  The doctor seemed to think maybe another day or two she could go home.    Dr. Brackett and Miss McCall came into visit said they just wanted to check on her since they were good friends with you all.”

 

 

Johnny   went through the morning notes from HQ and checked the chore list and   added a few things after talking with Brad after seeing the note lefty by Roger Smith the other shift captain.    

 

“Cap, Jilly wants to know if there is anything special you’d like her to bring Friday.”   The big engineer smiled knowing what his friend was going to answer.

 

“Some of her pecan pie would be awfully good but then so is her ham loaf….”

 

“I told her anything she cooks you’ll enjoy.  We sure are two lucky men.  I hear these young guys complaining their women can’t cook…Man haven’t these modern girls ever heard the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?”

 

“Guess not but yeah we are lucky.   Jake, your girls are pretty close in age, aren’t they?”

 

“Yeah 13 months.   Then JJ is 2 years younger.   He is just a little older than your Chloe.   Fun age…but then each age has its own special gifts.  Tammy; she is her mama’s daughter.  Wants to cook and is learning to sew.    Jordon, she doesn’t want nothing to do with sewing or cooking…she loves sports and being outside.  She is always asking me when we’re coming back over to your place, so she can go fishing.”

 

“Any time you want.   Ashke knows you so even if we aren’t there he won’t bother you except wanting to play.”

 

One by one the crew came in and all were ready when he called roll call.    Announcements were read, chores assigned.  Just before dismissing them Johnny remember to ask about Friday.  Everybody was coming.  Ryan waited until the others had left to talk with Johnny.

 

“Cap, you got a minute?” He asked as Johnny started to the kitchen.

 

“Yeah, lets grab some coffee then we’ll go in the office.”

 

Ryan looked uncomfortable seated across from John.  Johnny smiled remembering what it was like to be the new guy.  He remembered his own rocky start with Hank Stanley at 51.     Hank and Emily had grown to be a special part of his family then when he had married Lee it seemed as if they got even closer.   Em was always there when Lee needed some advice or just a friend to talk with.

 

“What’s on your mind?”  He took a sip of coffee to give the nervous linesman a chance to collect his thoughts.

 

“Shelly and I found a house.  It’s in a really nice neighborhood and nearer to the station.   The lady we talked to was nice but then when she found out you were my captain she got a different attitude.   She asked me if we had meet your wife yet and what our impression of her was.”

 

“That must have been Donna Benton…her and Lee had a run in not too long ago.   Don’t worry about her.  She usually doesn’t work with the First Responders fund.  She likes working commercial and high end real estate.”

 

“I just wanted you to know since I hadn’t met your wife I couldn’t answer the questions she asked …but she just didn’t seem to understand that.  She has Shelly’s worried that your wife won’t like her because she isn’t in the auxiliary or doesn’t have a college degree.    The lady seemed to think that your wife would be more critical of her and the fact she is Chinese.  She is kind of shy around new people…”

 

“Lee is gonna do everything she can to make your wife feel welcome and included.  One of the things Lee dislikes most in the world is people who judge others on looks, or nationality or most other reasons.   We don’t see the fact she can’t walk as a disability. It’s just the way it is.   She judges people on the how they act, most important to her is how they treat others.   Would you like me to have Lee call and talk to your wife before Friday?   I forget you’re new to the station and the department, so you haven’t had a chance to get to know Lee.  And working with Brice I’m sure you never heard anything good about her or me.”

 

“So that’s why you have pictures on your desk?  Even if it is against department policy?”  

 

“It isn’t  against   department  policy  as  long as it  doesn’t interfere  with  work..  I put them in my personal drawer before I go off shift, so they aren’t in any one’s way.”

 

“Capt. Brice said personal belongings belonged at home.  He even frowned when he did locker inspections and found personal pictures.”

 

“He inspected your lockers?”

 

“Yes sir.  Said if we needed to change during shift everything should be neat and in place, so we could do it faster.”

 

Johnny rubbed his forehead.  “No wonder most of the guys over there were ready to put in for transfers…what you have in your locker is your personal choice.  You keep it as neat or as messy as you want as long as you are able to respond to all calls in a timely manner.   Lee isn’t at home right now, so I’ll call her later and have her call Shelly, if that is ok with you.”

 

“That would be real nice…Shelly is a great cook…. she’ll probably make something Chinese for Friday if that’s ok?”

 

“Sounds great to me…And, Ryan if you have any questions, come ask me.  I figure it’s easier to ask a question than fix a problem from not asking one.   Kind of learned that the hard way.”  

 

His crooked grin put the young linesman at ease.   “I still get blamed for Captain Desoto’s thinning hair and Chief Stanley’s gray hair.  Think you’ve got a day room to clean.  Don’t forget the windows.”

 

Ryan went to do his chores and Johnny got back to his work.  There were going to be drills after lunch.    Just as he started to pick up the phone the SCU toned in.

 

As they scrambled to the engine and squad Johnny realized that Roy and his crew were being called to the same MVA.   The engine followed the squad as they made the left turn out of the station. Johnny still occasionally felt a pang of regret as he watched the red squad take off   but knew I his heart he and Roy had made the right decision.  His reason was different than Mike’s and Roy’s in some ways, but it had been the right one.

 

Roy’s engine was there first, so he was the lead on this one.  Soon all were working together to clear up the chain reaction mess.   As near as anyone could surmise at that point two trucks had hit blocking all the south bound lanes.   Other cars had become involved when the oil from the tanker had made stopping dangerous and the slipping and sliding cars had added to the confusion.  Rubberneckers and others not paying attention had also added to the mess. 

“Cap, Capt. DeSoto needs to see you about 7 cars up.”  

 

Johnny jogged up to where Roy and his paramedics were standing.  Roy looked concerned, one paramedic looked angry the other looked glassy eyed from the cut on his forehead.

 

“Junior, think you can still slink through a car window?”  Roy asked not happy having to make the request.  “We got a three-year-old in trapped in a car with a dead adult.  Don’t think your guys are any smaller than mine but we need to get her out of there.  The car she is in is wedged half way under a flatbed loaded with heavy machinery.  One of the ‘dozers is leaning at a crazy angle and if it comes down the little girl is gonna be crushed.”    He hated to ask Johnny to do this knowing he would risk his life for the little girl.   A little girl not much older than Johnny’s daughter.

 

They went over and looked at the car.   The whimpering child was strapped in a car seat. 

 

Johnny took off his coat and handed it to Roy, giving him a crooked grin.  “Just like old times, partner.”  Johnny quipped. 

 

“Yeah, thought we agreed we were too old for this.”  Roy joked.  “Don’t make me call Lee, ok?”

 

Johnny took a small hatchet and cleared l the glass out of the window frame.  With a deep breath he began the slow process of going into the car.   Roy watched as Johnny grabbed the back of the front passenger seat and pulled   himself farther into the car.  Once Johnny’s feet were in the air, he stood behind   him giving his legs some support as Johnny reached to undo the strap that held her in the car seat. 

 

With several tries at the awkward angle the belt release finally opened, and the little girl was free from the straps.   Grabbing her by the shoulder   he pulled her as gently as possible from the seat.  Talking softly as he moved her.    Roy helped to guide him out of the window and passed the now loudly crying child off to a waiting paramedic. 

 

“Good work, Junior.”  Roy said as Johnny   caught his breath.  “That little girl and her family owe you.”

 

“Nawh, just doing my job.  She is a cutie, isn’t she?   Reminds me of Jen at the age…blond and blue eyed…”  to himself …and Rowan.

 

“Yeah, it never gets easier seeing kids in situations like that...   Let’s get this mess cleared up…”

  

It took another 45 minutes before traffic was finally moving and the engines and squads were released.  The final body count was 4 with more than a dozen sent to the hospital, most of them for cuts or broken bones.

 

Just before heading back to their stations Roy and Johnny got a minute to talk.  

 

“I was right; I am too old for this.”  He flexed his shoulder.   “This body doesn’t twist and turn as easily.”

 

“It never did you were just too stubborn then to admit it.   You need to get that shoulder checked out?”   Concerned he was back at his old habit of hiding an injury. 

 

“No, it’s fine. “

 

**********************

 

After visiting Rowan for a while Lee had went home to Chloe.   It was a nice pleasant afternoon.  Chloe drew pictures and colored while Lee did some paper work then they made pies for Daddy to have when he came home.  Lee watched as Chloe played with the dough she had given her, rolling it out with her toy rolling pin then putting it in the small tin pie pan. 

 

 Chloe never noticed Lee switching the pie pans so that the one she gave Chloe to pour apple filling in was one she had fixed, not the one the little girl had played with.  After the pies were made and ready for the oven Lee let Chloe sprinkle the mix of brown sugar and cinnamon on to the left-over pie dough that Lee had rolled out then buttered.  Rolling the dough into a log Lee and Chloe counted the pieces as Lee cut them and placed them on the cookie sheet.     Lee put the pies and pinwheels into bake and then thought about dinner.    Chloe was a good eater liking and disliking pretty much the same things Johnny did.   

 

“Ok, Ladybug, what do you want for dinner?  Chicken or fish?”

 

“Hot dog.”  Chloe answered.  Lee knew that tone of voice.

 

“Chicken or fish, tonight.   Chicken and some mac and cheese?”   Hoping   that the addition of her second favorite food would sway her choice.

 

“Mac and cheese and hot dog.”  Deciding Chloe wasn’t going to change her mind in the near future, Lee gave in.

 

“Ok, but you have to eat your veggies too.”

 

“Carrots?”   Tilting her head so like Lee did when she wanted her own way.

 

“And a few peas?

 

“K.”   

 

After dinner Lee asked Chloe if she wanted to go for a walk.

 

“Aunt Jo?  Jenny?”  The response was quick.

 

“Let me call her and see if they are home.”  Lee dialed the number watching as Chloe  put her shoes on. 

 

Jenny answered the phone, “DeSoto residence.”

 

“Hi.  Would you like some company?  Chloe wants to take a walk over to see you.”

 

“Grandma and grandpa and mom’s Aunt Charlotte are here.”

 

“Ok, tell your mom to call me tomorrow.  Tell your mom we’re going for a walk and I’ll take the handy talkie.  Love ya.”

 

“Ok.  Love you too.  Bye.”   Chloe brought her sweater to Lee.

 

“Sorry kitten…Aunt Jo has company, but we can still take a walk.   Ashke was waiting by the door.  Lee made sure she had her key and the handy talkie in her bag.  Ashke waited on the deck while Lee locked the house then went down the ramp.  Lee wasn’t sure if they would go all the way to the grove but started down that path.  Ashke ran ahead a little way then circled around back to his charges.  He growled a few times, but Lee didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.  They got to the fork in the path and Chloe decided she was tired.

 

“Ride Mommy, please.”     She held up her arms to be lifted to Lee’s lap.  Lee lifted her up and Chloe waited until Lee put the harness around her.  Johnny had fixed the harness when Chloe had grown too big for the sling he had put on the chair when she was an infant. 

 

“I think someone is going to be ready for a shower when we get home.”

 

“Bubblers?”

 

“Not tonight sweetie.  Mommy can’t lift you out of the tub…remember we promised Daddy only bubblers when he is home. “

 

“I want my Neoee and bubblers.” The little girl pouted.  {Her name for a bubble bath}.

 

“Daddy will be home in the morning…you can call him and tell him good night after you are in your jammies.”   Lee was trying hard to not get into a battle of wills.  The terrible twos hadn’t been that bad but some days Chloe’s strong will   showed more than others.  Lee was feeling guilty they had spent so much time away for her yesterday.

 

 “Pick out the jammies or the nightie you want then we’ll go get your shower.   I’m sorry I can’t lift you out of the tub, but daddy said no.”

 

  It was a safety issue more for Chloe than Lee at this point.  The last time she had lifted her for the tub, her back had went into a spasm.  Thankfully she had already gotten Chloe safely out of the tub and Johnny was home.  They had talked about it and decided that for Chloe’s safety Lee would not lift her out of the tub any more.  Johnny thought it was a combination of the angle Lee bent over and the weight had caused the problem.

 

Chloe went into the shower and sat her favorite bath toy on Lee’s shower chair.   Lee adjusted the shower head to a fine miss and held it facing away from Chloe until the temperature was adjusted. 

 

Sometimes Chloe sat on the shower chair but today she chose to stand up. Lee let the gentle spray flow over the little girl then used baby shampoo to wash the thick black hair.  The hair was a fine silky texture and as black as Johnny’s.  It was almost to the bottom of her neck, it grew so fast.  The lavender body soap that Lee used was Chloe’s favorite and she didn’t protest as Lee helped  her  wash. 

 

While she was washing, her Lee hummed a song from one of Chloe’s favorite tapes, when You Wish Upon a Star.   When the shower was through Lee wrapped her in a beach towel with Winnie the Pooh on it then sat her on her lap.  Once they were back in her room Lee quickly dried her off and got her dressed in a nightgown with multicolored stars.   Lee towel dried her hair and brushed it softly all the while telling   Chloe a story about when she was little, and her mommy would brush her hair then braid it. 

 

“Ok, let’s go call Daddy and then you can get into bed and I’ll read you a story.”

 

“Three stories.”

 

“Maybe two…”  Lee laughed at her how determined Chloe was to have the last word.

 

“Station 88 firefighter/engineer Lackey speaking.”

 

Hi Jake. Is Johnny busy?”

 

“Now you know unless he’s in the middle of a fire that man is never too busy for you.”  He laughed.  “He’s beating Christie at chess.  Doing it fairly easy.” (Tom Christfield, senior paramedic)

 

“Oh, good Miss Ladybug is ready for bed and wanted to tell her daddy good night.”

 

“He’ll be there in a second…nothing more important than that.”    He put the phone down.  “Hey Cap, someone wants to tell you good night.”  

 

“Take your time on your next move, Pal.  Gotta to go talk to my girls.”   He got up and made his way to the phone.  “Hi.”

 

“No bubblers …Mommy said no.”  A very sad little voice said.

 

“Mommy was right.  The bubblers are our special time.   Did you have a good day except for that?” 

 

“We went for a walk.   Ashie saw a squirrel, we made you a ‘prize I helped…”   She said it almost all in one breath.  “I was good, and Mommy said I get a new pony because I was good   AALLLLLLLLLLLLLL day.”

 

“Good for you.  You have sweet dreams ok, and I’ll see you in the morning, can I   talk to Mommy.  Love you “

 

“Love you. Night.” She gave the   phone to Lee.

 

“Hi.  How was your day?”

 

“Good.  Sounds like you had a busy one once you got home.”

 

“Yeah and an interesting one at work.  CPS came to the office then I went down to see Rowan.   She is doing well.  I talked to the doctor--- they are thinking another two days in the hospital.   I’m kind of surprise they didn’t come over to the station.”

 

“They may have we had a couple of long runs…Love you”

 

“Love you muches and mores.   See you in the morning, peaceful dreams Boyo.”    Back when Johnny use to have some terrible nightmares she began wishing him peaceful dreams instead of good night. 

 

He went back to the chess game and laughed as he watched Jake finish the game for him.

 

“Ok, guys there maybe someone from Children’s Protective Service coming around asking questions.  Lee and I are in the process of adopting another little girl.  She had to be hospitalized because of some issues that happened to her before we met her.  So, if they come asking you questions just be honest with them.”

 

“Cap she gonna be ok?  The little one you’re adopting.”

 

 

“Yeah, the doctors think so…Her name is Rowan, she is just a little younger than Chloe…Strawberry blond with big hazel eyes.”

 

 Jake smiled seeing the look of pure joy on Johnny’s face.  He had known Johnny from the early days at 51.  He and his wife had been at their wedding.

 

 

The next morning after breakfast Lee was cleaning the kitchen and Johnny was sitting on the deck watching Chloe and Ashke playing.  Chloe would kick a ball and Ash would push it back to her.   Johnny was standing up by the railing drinking his second cup of coffee. Johnny looked from the two playing and was surprised to see Lee was frowning as she came out onto the deck.

 

“Something bothering you?”  He asked going over to her.  “You don’t look happy.”

 

“Are we moving too fast?  What if the adoption isn’t approved or once Rowan is living here Chloe is unhappy with sharing our time with someone else I don’t want Rowan to ever feel she is not as loved as Chloe or that she is second best…”

 

“Stop letting that nerd in your head play with your mind.   You have the biggest heart and so much love to give both those girls…the adoption will go fine.  Look at the people we have on our side…Justin will have a big say so and he chose us.”

 

“When you say that it makes it all so clear and so easy…What do you say we gather up the Ladybug and go shopping?  We need a new stroller and beds and car seats and clothes…The things Justin brought over are too small and they are clean but old looking.  And that poor baby only has two pairs of shoes and I think they are too small for her.”

 

“Too bad she and Chloe don’t have the same size foot…there are more than enough shoes to share.  Are you going to pass on your obsession for shoes to your daughters?”

 

“Hopefully.”  She laughed at the running joke/feud she and Johnny had over her love of shoes, especially high heels.  Twenty minutes later they were off to shop.

 

The store they had gotten the car seats for Chloe was the first stop.  The young clerk they had dealt with that day was now the manager.    He greeted them as old friends since they were in there often.

 

“Buying Chloe something special today?”

 

“Yes and no…We need two car seats…a double stroller and a youth bed, bedding for the bed and… another potty chair and another high chair…or should we get the toddler seats?  Chloe thinks she is getting too big for the high chair…Johnny   you check out the car seats and beds while me and Chloe go look at the important stuff.  Oh, and another child’s rocking chair…We will probably need another dresser or chest of drawers…but maybe we better wait to see if there will be room.”

 

“There is I measured the wall space available while you were getting changed.” He assured her.

 

“And definitely another rocking horse, this one blue or yellow.”  Chloe was   willing to share most of her toys, but she wasn’t happy sharing her pony.   With a smile and a wave, there were off to the toddler shoe display. 

 

Chloe was on her lap wearing the harness/seat belt as usual when she and Lee were shopping.  She had brought one of the tennis shoes that Justin’s housekeeper had packed in Rowan’s bag.   Lee picked out several different pairs and styles for both girls and went back over to Johnny.

 

 “Here add these to your cart.”   She and Chloe went back over to the toddler’s clothing section.  There was a young sales clerk folding shirts.

 

“Excuse me, could you help me.”

 

“Of course.  Are you looking for anything in particular?”  Between what she got for Chloe and what she picked out for Rowan they soon needed a cart. 

 

“I’m not real sure about the jeans…Rowan is a little taller and maybe 5 pounds lighter than Chloe…but once she is out of the hospital …hopefully she’ll gain some weight.”

 

“If they aren’t the right size just bring them back…does she like dresses?  We just got some really cute ones in…My little girl is 6 and she loves jumpers and the pullovers with the cowl necks…She doesn’t like the turtle neck ones…”

 

 They were going towards the check out when they saw Johnny and the manager at the beds.  Chloe called out to her daddy and demanded down.

 

“No, you know the rule…when we are in the store you stay on my lap unless you are in the stroller.    Daddy is busy.”  Lee spoke with a firmness tempered by the gentle tone of her voice.  

 

“I see some pretty bed spreads…want to go look for one you like for Rowan?”    They had talked about the beds as they were driving over to the store, letting her know there was going to be changes.    Lee really wasn’t surprised when she picked out one with pink ponies on it and Lee picked out one with pink and lavender butterfly’s and pixies on it for Rowan.   

 

Lee decided the curtains in the room would work well with the colors in the spreads as would the rug.  The colors in the two spreads would go good together.  Even not knowing Rowan ‘s personality yet, Lee did know the girls were individuals and would not be matchy matchy with their likes and dislikes.  Lee had picked the butterfly’s and pixie pattern because Rowan had seemed to like a book about the pixies when they had been looking at books both at the house and in the hospital.

 

Johnny was waiting for them over by the register.  The manager, Terry, looked at the cart and at Lee’s helper.   “Store policy is the manager doesn’t get commission, so their total purchase will be added to your total for the pay period and whatever the total is if they want to pay by check its approved.

 

“After you give us the total then I’ll need a gift card for the same amount.”

 

“So, who gets this one?”  Johnny asked as they drove towards the hospitals.

 

“If it’s ok with you we’ll give it to the clinic.  Kathy was saying they needed some diapers and clothes and some baby food and formula…or maybe I’ll send it to Lame Deer and just have Mark order a couple of cases of formula and baby food for us…He sells it to me at his cost.”

 

When they got to Rampart Chloe was all excited.  She wanted to see Nurse Dixie and Dr. Joe.    She was particularly fond of Joe Early.   She liked Kel, but he wasn’t as comfortable around kids as Joe was.   Dixie was going on break, so she took Chloe to the nurse’s lounge with her.

 

“I’ll take her up to Nell if you aren’t back by the time I have to get back here.”

 

“Thanks…you be good for Dixie?”  Johnny said as he handed her over to the nurse. 

 

“I always good for Dixie, silly Daddy.”  She rolled her eyes at him.

 

“Fast learner.”  Dixie said with a laugh.  “You’ve trained her well.”

 

“No, I think she is training us.”   Lee said shaking her head.  “She   convinced her Daddy she needed two new ponies because they would be lonely if she took just one.:”

 

“What can I say?  I’m a sucker for a pretty girl who bats their eye lashes at me.”   Johnny said as he pushed Lee towards the elevator.  

 

Lee and Johnny went into Rowan’s room.  Janie was reading a story to the little girl.

 

“Did she have a good night and eat ok this morning?”

 

“Yes, she liked scrambled eggs with cheese but didn’t like the oatmeal.  She wanted more juice, so I had them bring her more and she’s been drinking it.  Her temperature has been good all day and was very happy when they took the IV out.

 

“Her pain level has been good?”  Johnny asked.

 

“Yes…they said there was a numbing agent in the salve, so they don’t have to give her any other pain meds.  Dr. Ramon was worried about upsetting her digestive system with too many meds.   I think he was going to call you about her going home with you tomorrow.”

 

“He may have called after we left the house.   Why don’t you go take a break and we’ll stay with her?  If you like you can go up to my office and get something to eat.  Tell Nell I sent you up there.  O’Sheas’ was bringing   new stuff into day so there should be plenty up there.”

 

For the next half hour John and Lee played with the little girl.  Reading to her, holding her and singing songs with her like they did Chloe.  Johnny changed her diaper and was pleased with how the incision looked.  Lee brushed her hair and put a new night gown on her.  Rowan smiled but said very little as they spent time with her.  She did say pretty when Johnny was reading to her from a farm book when there was a picture of a mare and colt.

 

“Boyo, you may end up mucking stalls yet.  Looks like both of our girls are gonna be horse crazy like their dad.”

 

“I’m not horse crazy I just like to ride.  Brad said they are building a ramp to use with some other wheelchair patients as part of the horse therapy program.  You’d do good on a horse; you’ve got good upper body control and strength…”

 

Janie came in and had Chloe with her.  Lee frowned but Johnny took her and sat her on his lap. 

 

He could see she had been crying.  It was past her lunch time and getting past nap time.

 

“He broke…ed (sniffle sniffle) Rainbow.”

 

“Who broke what?”  Johnny asked as the tears began to reform. 

 

“The fireman broke.”   Lee looked over at Janie as John delt with the sniffles and tears.

 

“I was getting her some juice and two firemen came in.  Her toy pony was on the floor and one of the men stepped on it…He said he would bring her another one …He felt really bad.”

 

“Why was your pony by the food counter?”   Lee asked.

 

“To get a drink… apple juice like me.”

 

“That’s why the ponies need to stay in the play area, so they don’t get stepped on.   I’m sorry Rainbow got broken.”

 

“Neoee fix?”  She sniffled trying not to cry any more.

 

“I’ll try but I can’t always fix everything.”

 

“You try.”

 

“Can you say hi to Rowan?  She’s coming to visit us tomorrow.”

 

“Hi.”  She looked at the other little girl and smiled.  “My friend, Ashie’s friend.”

 

“Yes…would you like to be Rowan’s big sister?”  Lee asked since the conversation seemed to be going so well.

 

“Not sister, friend.”  She gave Lee that what are you talking about look.

 

“We’ll talk about that some more later.”  Johnny said as he put her down.  He went over to the bed and sat down.  “What about you little one?  Would you like to be Chloe’s little sister?   Me and Lee would like very much to be your daddy and mommy.”  Rowan didn’t answer just looked at him and then looked away.   

 

 The look he had seen in her eyes and the way she moved back when he went to touch her made him winch.   He wanted to hurt who ever had taught her to be afraid of a grown up’s touch or afraid to talk or look at an adult.

 

They stayed a few more minutes and Rowan’s lunch came in. 

 

“Let’s go home since Mommy and I have some work to do.   Think I’ll give Roy a call and see if he can help with the beds and moving stuff.”

 

“Since you need to work in her room, I’m going to put Chloe down in our room.  Or maybe let her sleep in the sunroom…she can use her sleeping bag.”

 

“Smart lady, I like that idea.”   He strapped Chloe into her car seat.  He turned his attention to her and helped her get into the rover.  He kissed her lightly.  “You know I am so proud of you.”

“Thank you…but why?   I didn’t do anything.”

 

“You don’t think taking on the responsibility of another toddler isn’t something?  Making sure she has good medical care?   Seeing that she has pretty things to wear and toys to play with?   Sure, sounds like something special to me.”

 

“What is special is that little girl and what we are doing for her is an opportunity   for me to share some of the blessings I have received.  Two of the biggest are here in this car with me.   I am so proud of you because of what you are inside - your heart and soul are so over whelming.  You make me a better person…just being with you.”   She turned to check on the sleeping child seated behind her.   ‘You know she is gonna have just enough sleep that she isn’t going to want to nap after lunch… Unless there is something you want me to fix why don’t we get something from a fast food place?”

 

“Tacos or chicken or burgers?” 

 

“Your choice.”

 

*******************

 

Roy was down working on the pottery wheel when the phone rang.  Jo was at the store and he was tempted to let the answering machine pick it up but then thought it might be Jo needing something or with a question.

 

“DeSoto residence.”

 

” Hey Pally.  Any chance you can come over and help with moving some furniture?    Lee said to ask if you all would like to come over for dinner as payment for services rendered.”

 

“Jo’s a t the store but yeah I can come over.  I’ll leave her a note.  So what furniture you moving?”

 

“The store is supposed to deliver the new bed for Chloe’s room by 4 and I need to rearrange the dresser and make a space for the new chest of drawers…. a few things like that.”

 

“Yeah give me about 15 minutes to finish up here.   Dinner is up to Jo.  I think both kids are gonna be home tonight.  Between sports and dance classes I never know any more until I see the calendar in the kitchen.”

 

Roy was still in the basement when Jo got home.   She came down stairs to put a few things in the extra freezer in the pantry he had built when they divided the basement into three areas when they had built his studio. 

 

After a hello kiss she looked at the pot he was making.  “That’ll make a nice vase.  I like the size.”

 

“Thanks.  So, you saw my note?”  He was cleaning off his hands.  “Told him dinner was up to you.”

 

“I hadn’t really planned anything so that would be fine.  I got some ground beef, but it’ll be fine tomorrow.   Honey, what do you think about this adoption?  Is he okay with it?

 

“I think for him his anything that makes her happy is fine with me attitude makes it’s a done deal in his mind.   I’m not sure she thought everything out before she jumped head long into it.”

 

 

“She didn’t jump head long into it, she jumped heart and soul into it.  From the minute, she saw that picture she made up her mind.   Kathy is worried about what will happen if this adoption doesn’t happen.  Lee’s whole attitude is so different from when they adopted Chloe. 

 

Remember how secretive she was about it?  She couldn’t wait to tell us about Rowan.” 

 

“Yeah I remember.  Maybe she remembers how hard it was for Johnny to see her so unsure.  And how much he wanted to share their good news.”

 

“Kathy has another idea why Lee wants this so bad.  Kathy thinks Lee sees Sarah when she looks at Rowan.  Sarah’s coloring and build was more like her mother’s.  Kathy said that Lee definitely was her father’s child.   Hair color, attitude was her dad’s.   She thinks she may have some pictures of Sarah and Lee in the box her mom sent her. 

 

  Kathy said her dad and Lee’s had been best friends from the first day they met.   Her dad had handpicked his officers and Kathy’s dad was second in command.   But hopefully we are all worried about something that isn’t going to happen.  They have the best lawyer around, Justin Mathers has a lot of influence and he wants this as much as Lee and Johnny.    I better go call her, so I can find out if she wants me to bring anything.”

 

Lee and Jo were in the sun room going thru Chloe’s clothes and making a keep and give pile.  Lee decided most of Chloe’s spring and summer clothes were going to the clinic (with some of her fall and winter clothes) where Kathy worked part time since she had gotten taller.  Chloe had cooperated with trying on clothes for a while but soon had gotten bored and was playing with her ponies.

 

“The shirts might still fit but she has so many…The long sleeve ones they are just a little too short…The sweat shirts all still fit…and Rowan is taller than Chloe by about an inch and a half…her foot is a size bigger...Jo, I’m scared…”  Lee set down the   dress she had been holding.    “What if this isn’t the right thing to do?  Chloe seems to like Rowan, said she was her friend not her sister…She is still a baby…maybe it’s too soon.”

 

“Stop second guessing yourself.  It is the right thing…Isn’t that what your heart is telling you?”  Jo smiled at her friend.  “If you didn’t care so much you wouldn’t be having these doubts, but don’t overt think it.  I was thrilled when I found out I was pregnant with Jenny…but Chris had just turned three and we needed a new house …it was pretty over whelming.    You and Johnny have so much lo to give this little girl.  Could either of you walk away from this now?  The material stuff you can send back to the store…but can you send Rowan out of your heart?

  Chloe will be fine…its gonna take some time…Chris wasn’t real thrilled with Jen when she first came home.  Complained all she did was eat, cry and make dirty diapers…But he learned to share our time and attention…and so will Chloe…and share toys and most importantly to share friendship and love with each other.   She is such a sweet little girl, and didn’t you say she got along well with Val and Kelly’s kids when you all did things together?   And when you have other kids over?  I know she and Mike and Melissa’s daughter get along well.”

 

“I know…It’s not the girls or Johnny it’s just me being …”

 

“Being a young mother.   Wonder how soon the guys are gonna be ready to eat?  Think we should think about starting dinner?  I told Jenny and Chris to come over by five.”

 

“How about sloppy joes?  Or shredded barbecue chicken.”

 

“Roy and the kids like either…I have Cole slaw and potato salad left from the other night…My mother loved the slaw dressing, I didn’t tell her it was your recipe.”

 

“That’s good why spoil her dinner by making her think she said something nice about me.”   

 

 Lee laughed.  After all this time Jo’s mother still seemed to go out of her way to make her negative feelings known but now Lee just ignored her.

 

**************


“If   we move the bookcase the bed will fit in that space and there should be room for the wheel chair to get on both sides.   The salesman kept trying to get me to look at bunk beds, but the kids are too young, and Lee would probably get hurt trying to make the beds.  You know she wouldn’t let me or Ibbie do it.    That girl gets more stubborn everyday about some things.”

 

“Would you want it any other way?”   Roy asked knowing the answer.  “She has mellowed some in other areas.   Wouldn’t it be easier to move this if you took some of the books off?”  

 

“Yeah but thought this way would be faster…”  Johnny  shrugged then took books off the shelves putting them on the bed.  “We can move the stuff we want out of here into the hall then over to one of the extra bedrooms until I get time to take it where ever, she wants.”

 

“And the cradle?”

 

“That is staying in here for now…That is where the stuffed animals and doll babies sleep for now.    I can imagine one day Chloe using it for her own baby when she is all grown up and married in about 25 years…Didn’t use to think beyond next week.  Does Chris still say he wants to be a paramedic?”

 

“Yeah but not around his grandparents or too much around Jo.   Whatever he does he’ll be good at it.   Jen wants to be a teacher but then last week she was saying maybe a doctor, so she and Stacy could be in practice together.   Jimmy wants to be an engineer working for NASA.”

 

“Whatever they want their schooling is paid for, Lee just got the quarterly statement for their trust funds.  We’ll need to go down to the bank and set up one for Rowan.”  They got the book case moved and he remeasured the area.

 

“Ya know, the other day I was looking at new cars. I can remember when I had to   work over time to get the money to fix the old Rover   …now I look at brand new ones and can go write a check for whatever I want with all the bells and whistles… Kind of amazing isn’t it?   I mean years ago all I wanted was to be a paramedic and now…Man I was sore after going in that window, but it felt good.”

 

“Ever sorry we became captains?”

 

“No, not really…it was time.  And we know Jo and Lee are happier…The job is still dangerous but nothing like before.”    They began putting the bed together.  Working in union it didn’t take them long.   They moved the new chest of drawers close to the dresser but decided it was too crowded there.  He wasn’t really happy with the height of the chest and the more he looked at it the more he was against having it there.  “The dresser was bigger, but I think it would have been a better choice.   What do you think?”

 

“That you’re right…you don’t want Lee standing up trying to put things away.  Too bad you didn’t build in dresser draws in the closet.”  The walk-in closet in their bed room had drawers build in and were all the perfect height for Lee to be able to use.  The dressing table in the bedroom and two-night stands were more functional for her.

 

“Yeah, I’ll call the store and have them come get this and send out the dresser that matched it.   This room has to be perfect.”

 

“No, it has to be kid friendly and make them feel safe and secure…the other stuff is just window dressing.   I know Lee has a lot of jewelry from her mom and grandmothers…yet what does she wear 90% of the time?   Her locket from you and the family ring you gave her your first Christmas and her wedding rings.   Because that is what most important to her because you made them special.    Do you see what I mean?  You don’t buy because you can but because they mean something.   Right now, you are buying what is needed and important…what you are not buying is this little girl’s love.”

 

“Good point.   We just want to make up for all those idiots that hurt her…She is so tiny…and when she eats she watches that no one is going to take it away…Did you ever go to bed hungry?  Not the I wish I had a snack hungry but the wish I had breakfast or dinner hungry?   What Claire Sullivan never knew was a lot of days those cookies she gave me were the only food I had…Come on, let’s get this room back together…I think the sheets and pillow cases are probably dry.”

 

They started to the laundry room and Johnny noticed the smell of dinner cooking.   Johnny made a detour to the kitchen.

 

“Meat loaf?”  He asked with a crooked grin.

 

“Sloppy joe…and Jo is bringing over some potato salad and Cole slaw.   How is the bedroom coming?”

 

“Good except I’m going to send the chest of drawers back and get the dresser…So anything you need from the store or anywhere?”

 

“Nc. We’re good.  Boyo, thank you.  For giving up your day off…for understanding why I want this so bad.  It’s not that you and Chloe aren’t   enough   family to make me happy…I just think this was supposed to be… You know?”

 

“Yeah, I know…Sweetheart, I understand and agree…whatever it takes we’ll do to make her part of our family.

 

 

Lee put the last of the clothes away and looked at the room.  It was almost exactly like she had imagined it.  The dresser did work better than the chest of drawers and she really liked the way the comforter on Rowan’s bed matched the other colors in the room.   Rowan would be coming to their house…no Rowan would be coming home tomorrow.  In a few minutes she would be leaving to go have lunch with Shelly Ames.  She had been upset when Johnny had told her how Donna Benton had made her feel.  She and Donna had not seen eye to eye on several things at the foundation as well as at the consortium.  Ibbie was in the kitchen with Chloe fixing lunch.  Chloe was tearing lettuce up for a salad.  Lee smiled as she listened to Ibbie teaching Chloe the names of the vegetables and utensils in Spanish. 

 

“You know; she is going to confuse her teachers when she goes to school.  She slips from one language to another without even realizing it sometimes.  Especially when she gets really excited.   I should be home about 4, I’m going to stop by WBS to pick up some papers.   If you need to get in touch with me, we will be at O’Sheas’ until I go to the office.  You Ms. Ladybug be good, ok?  No more temper tantrums because something didn’t go your way.” 

 

“Mommy…No more throwing blocks.”

 

“I know because the blocks are in time out.”

 

Lee got to O’Sheas’ before Shelly and was seated right away at the table reserved for family members.  The server was one who waited on Lee and Johnny often and when she came over she automatically brought a glass of diet Dr. Pepper. 

 

“A friend is going to be joining me…but I’ll go ahead and order a double order of cheese straws…and have them make up a 2 dozen assorted cupcakes…and a double slice of pecan pie please to go

 

Shelly Ames came in a few minutes later and was surprised at how friendly Lee was and how at ease she was made to feel.  As they ate Leer explained about the auxiliary and how each station was part of their larger county wide organization.

 

“There is no pressure to join but it’s really a fun group.  Us old timers try to help the new comers…. Emily Stanley and JoAnne DeSoto were my anchors…Melissa Stoker was also wonderful …. Marco and Chet’s moms were members just not as active…and the wives and family members of the other shifts were also great.  The next meeting is at our place just because that way the ladies with kids can bring them and we provide a sitter and activities and let the kids socialize…. We also do programs for them helping them deal with their stress and issues of having fire fighters for parents.   The kids like it because we let them have their meeting in the pool house and if the weather is good we can usually get one or two of the guys to come and be life guards… Have you met any of the guys Ryan works with?”

 

“No.  But he is very happy there…It is much friendlier than his old station…He likes Captain Gage very much…He has been very kind to him.   And we are very grateful for your help in finding a house.  It is so lovely and more than we could have afforded.  I have been looking for a job but so far I haven’t found one.”

 

“What kind of work do you do?”

 

“I worked as seamstress…but the owners were shut down because so many of the people who worked there was illegals.  Because I cannot give a reference I cannot find another job.  I also can-do detail work, such as beading.”

 

“Do you have time to go see a friend of mine?  She owns a shop that is wonderful, and she needs help.   They do custom designs as well as alterations…”

 

“I do not have a way there…My friend dropped me off here…I was going to take the bus home.  It is 2 transfers, but I did not want to tell you no when you invited me.”

 

“No problem, we’ll stop there after we go to the station…You haven’t met Johnny or any of the others, yet have you?”

 

“Oh no, we cannot do that.  Your husband the captain would be displeased, and I do not want Ryan to be in trouble because of me.”  Shelly said clearly upset.  “I know it is against the rules for family to call or visit.”

 

“No, the only rule is use the pay phone number and if the SCU goes off hang up.   Why would you...let me guess Brice?”

 

“Captain Brice was a very precise man.”

 

“Craig Brice was a pain …If you will carry the boxes we’ll go see the Boyo and you can meet the crew.  And, after we see Liz I will take you home.  No arguments.”

 

Lee pulled up to the entrance and parked next to the no parking sign.  Shelly looked concerned.  Lee giggled.   “I get certain privileges…not because Johnny is the captain but because I bring the guys food and they cut me some slack. “She honked the horn twice and waited a minute.  Shelly looked confused until the door open and a tall handsome firefighter stepped out.

 

“Sweet Pea, what’s up?”  He opened her car door and bent over and kissed her.  “I was just thinking about you.”  He got the chair out of the back seat and lifted her into it, giving her another kiss before setting her down. 

 

“You must be Shelly…Ryan is up on the hose tower…Come on in…Welcome to 88…Jake, go get Ryan…”  Shelly was even more confused because Ryan had told her they were not allowing to use first names at the firehouse. 

 

“Hey guys, everyone come in and meet Shelly…Ryan’s wife.”

 

Ryan heard the captain and frowned.  Why had she come here?  Had the lunch with the Cap’s wife went so bad she was in trouble?   As quickly and safely   as possible he came down and went into the dayroom/kitchen.   He was surprised to see the Cap standing behind a woman in a wheelchair and leaning down whispering something in her ear.  She laughed and shook her head.

 

“Shelly, this is Jake Lackey, our engineer, Tom Christfield and Louie De Palma our paramedics, and Eric Bryant our other linesman.   A good bunch of guys…Hope you and Ryan enjoy the carry in and game night.  Did Lee explain how that works?  bringing something Chinese…I love Chinese food.”

 

“Don’t let him kid you Shelly, he loves food.   Lee can even get him to eat Brussel sprouts.” The Brussel sprout remark was a running joke between the engineer and Johnny from one of the first parties back in the days at 51. “Man, if I ate like he does I’d be over 300 pounds not my slim self.  Keeping it trim.”   Said with a huge grin.

 

“Then I guess you won’t be wanting any of the cupcakes I brought for you guys?  Too bad, Johnny can have yours along with his pie.”  Lee turned to Johnny,” Your daughter had a temper tantrum this morning because her blocks fell over…She was building a hose tower.  She threw a block and hit Ashke…she had to put the blocks away and they are in time out.  Ash just moved farther out of range.   Shelly, I forgot to mention our dog, he’s big but very gentle and very well trained…”

 

“So how long are the blocks in time out?”  Building with the blocks was one of Chloe and Johnny’s favorite play time activities.

 

“Until Daddy gets them out for her.   Well, you guys enjoy the cupcakes and you all stay safe.    We have another errand to run then I’m taking Shelly home…I may stop by the office…just depends…  See ya all at game night…oh are there any food allergies I need to know about?  Write it down and give to the Boyo so I can add it to my file…”

 

Johnny pushed her out to the car as Ryan walked with Shelly.    He and Shelly stood off a little way while Johnny and Lee were talking, Johnny squatting down so he was eye level with her once she was in the car.

 

“So, do you feel better about going to their house on Friday?”  Ryan asked.  He really liked his captain and didn’t want to offend him by not going to his party.

 

“Very much.  She is so nice, and she even said she may know a place I could get a job.  That would help so much…She doesn’t seem at all like I thought from the way the lady acted at the real estate interview.  She never said but I don’t think she liked your other captain…she called him a pain.”

 

“I don’t think Cap liked him either…and some of the stuff he did was his rules not the departments.   I had forgotten he said she couldn’t walk.  You better go…” 

 

Ten minutes after Lee and Shelly left the station they were called out to a fire at a nursery complex which had a large amount of fertilizer stored in the rear of the largest of the three greenhouses.   While the customers and workers had all gotten out of the green houses they were still milling around.     Vince Howard and Rob Murphy were doing their best to try to keep some sort of order and move people back as far as possible.

 

“Vince, they have to get back if it blows it’s gonna rain glass and heavy chemical smoke all over this area.”   As he turned to go back over to the engine he felt a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Captain Gage looks like you’ve done well in setting up your target spots.  Good concentration centers.”

 

“Thanks Chief, I learned from the best.  The manager said there was about 200 bags of fertilizer in there.  They’re getting ready for a big sale… All the   green houses have displays of chemicals set up…Each one has a different theme… fertilizers, weed killers, garden decorations and furniture…lot of cleaning products and paint in that one…The potential for explosions is extremely high in the main building.  I think we need to have HQ call the two schools in the immediate area and request they keep the kids in the buildings even if it means delaying the end of the school day…”

 

 “Good idea.”   Chief Stanley radioed into HQ with Johnny’s suggestion.  The additional trucks that Stanley had called in  arrived and were deplored in an effort to keep the other greenhouses cool as well as stopping the spread of the flames. 

 

“Ames, Bryant.   Check that back area for greenhouse number 2, we need to keep that area as flame free as possible.”    That was the greenhouse with the most fertilizer.  The shock wave from the explosion knocked the linesmen off their feet.  The glass shards went flying through the air in all directions.   Johnny could hear the screams coming from the by standers and some of the law enforcement people as they were hit.     John was torn between his duty as the station captain and the cries of those in pain, but he stayed with his command position.

 

“There is a woman hurt bad…7 months pregnant.  Go help her…We’ve got more engines and squads coming…”   Chief Stanley said.  He knew Johnny had kept his paramedic certification since he had qualms about the change

 

The woman was laying on one of the grassy islands in the parking lot.  Two   older women were with her as was a police officer.  The officer was trying to keep all calm as he held his wadded-up jacket on her side.

 

“Whatcha got Murphy?”  Johnny asked as he knelt next to the semi -conscious   woman. 

“A large piece of glass in her side…The bleeding won’t slow down but I’m afraid to push too hard.”  The rookie officer was pale and shaky. 

 

“She lost one baby, she was stillborn…don’t let this one die too…”  One of the older women pleaded.  “She only has 6 more weeks…” 

 

“Go get the oxygen off Engine 36 and find a squad and see if you can find any me some medical supplies…gloves, and a BP cuff especially.”  He was examining the woman as he gave the orders.  Turning to the older women.  “Has she had any complications with this pregnancy?

 

No, not since the morning sickness stopped about 2 months ago…The doctor said everything was doing fine.”    He saw Murphy and a fireman he didn’t recognize coming towards him.  “Ok, we’ll take good care of her…Her name?”

 

“Peggy…Peggy Williams.  I’m her mother-in-law…”  

 

“Thanks, let’s get this oxygen on you and we’ll see what we have here…Ladies, would you please move back?  We’ll need some room to work.”  Very carefully   he cut around the oversized sweater she was wearing to get a better look at the large shard of glass imbedded in her side.  It was at a downwards angle and protruding about four inches out. 

 

 

“OK, I’m going to need some bandages and tape to secure this…  Murphy go see if you can find a bio-phone we can get over here…Now, just hold still, we’re gonna take good care of you and your baby.”  Johnny told the woman as she opened her eyes.  “You  need to stay as still as you can…”   He got the BP cuff an on her and pumped it up.  “Your mother-in-law and friend are right over there, and we’ll get you to Rampart as soon as possible.”    The soft tone and reassuring smile helped to calm the young woman and her friends.  Murphy returned with bandages and tape and a stethoscope. 


“They’ll have a bio-phone over here in a minute they were just finishing up…Station 110 is leaving theirs for you, both are needed in the ambulance.  Soon as it is free they’ll have it over here.”    Johnny nodded his head in acknowledgement as he listened to her heart then moved their bell of the stethoscope to her abdomen.   He made a quick note of her vitals grateful he hadn’t gotten out of the habit of carrying a small note pad.  He then directed the other fireman in helping him stabilize the glass shard.     He had just finished taping it into place when they brought the bio-phone over.  They were quickly   connected to Rampart.

 

“Rampart this is Squad 88 how do you read?”

 

“Loud and clear 88.”  Dixie smiled at the familiar voice.

 

“Rampart we have a female approximate age 24 who is 7 months pregnant.  She has a shard of glass embedded in her lower left abdomen, protruding approximately 4 inches, we have stabilized the shard.  Her blood pressure is…He proceeded to give the vitals. “Be advised this is the second pregnancy, the first ended in a still birth.” 

 

“51 start an IV of Ringers…”  Joe Early instructed.  He was surprised and a little puzzled when he heard a slight laugh over the bio-phone and the saw the amused look on Dixie’s face. 

 

“Transport as soon as possible.”   As an afterthought, “Who is the patient’s OB?”   He heard the phone being laid down then Johnny responded.

 

“She sees Dr. Westfall and her associates.”

 

After the call ended Joe turned to Dixie who was still smiling.  “Would you mind explaining what you and Gage found so funny?”

 

“You…old habits die hard, don’t they?”

 

“What?”  Still confused Joe frowned.  “What old habit?”

 

“How long has it been since Johnny worked at 51?  8or 9 months?  You told 51 to start to the IV.”

 

“I did?  Are you sure?”

 

 “I can play the tape back to you if you doubt my word.”  Dixie said looking dead serious before laughing.  “It did seem natural for him to be on the phone.”     Their conversation stopped as the first wave of arrivals from the greenhouse explosion came into the ER.

 

Once his paramedics could take over the care of Mrs. Williams John returned to the engine and began his duties as captain again.   As the last of the ambulances left the fire the task of clean up began.  Chief Stanley came over to Johnny as he was giving his linesmen instructions.

“Excellent job, Capt. Gage.”

 

“Like I said I learned from the best.  Besides I have a good crew.  For only being at the station a very short while I think Ames and Bryant work very well together.  I wasn’t sure how he was going to fit in at first he was stand offish but after talking to him I think he’ll fit in well.”

“You figure out what the problem was?”

 

 

“Yep, Brice.   Did you know he inspected their lockers and wouldn’t let them use the phone until after 5?   Man, I knew he was a control freak but that was just wrong.  Even around the station on down time he didn’t want them using first names.”

 

“I knew there was a lot of requests for transfers from his shift.  He was a good man as far as the technical stuff…”  Trying hard not to speak ill of a fellow firefighter.   “I’ll see your report on my desk tomorrow?”

 

“Yes sir.  It’ll be done before I leave the station in the morning.  I plan on it being done before I call lights out.”

 

  Hank walked away knowing that Johnny had spent many a sleepless night   writing and re writing reports when he first became a captain.    Johnny demanded a lot of his men, but he demanded even more of himself.  That is what made him an outstanding rescue man and paramedic and that is what would make him an outstanding captain.  He would not ask anything of his crew that he would not ask of himself.   Hank couldn’t help but feel a little fatherly pride as he walked over to his car.  And the warmth and sincerity of John’s words lingered in his soul…So John thought he had learned from the best…that was a nice feeling to have  someone he respected not only as a fellow firefighter but as a friend pay him such a compliment.

 

Once everyone was cleaned up and the squad and engine cleaned the rest of the day was peaceful.   It had been Jake’s turn to cook so dinner was a hearty beef stew he had been cooking all day in the crock pot.    After dishes were done the men had chilled while Johnny worked on his report.  He stopped typing and was rubbing the back of his neck when the phone rang.

 

“Station 88, Capt. Gage.”

 

“So, you didn’t give up being a captain to go back to the paramedics?”  Roy teased.  “I heard you did good work out there today.”

 

“Thanks.   Heard you all had a mess out on the freeway.”

 

“Yeah…a semi jack knifed and set off a chain reaction.   You made a good call in having them keep the kids in school.”

 

   “Think they sent about 30 people to the ER, 7 of them with serious cuts…Three   Code I’s.   The same parents that were mad at having to wait for their kids were pretty happy they were safe inside when that glass started falling.  They’ll be finding glass for weeks around there.”   Johnny heard the SCU in the background and Roy’s terse bye.   He hung up the phone and went back to the report.

 

**************

 

Johnny and Lee were finishing breakfast when the phone rang.  Johnny answered. 

“Gage residence.”

 

“Johnny, it’s Laurie.  Dr. Steve set up an appointment for Rowan in two weeks.  He said the discharge papers should be signed by 11 today.   If there is any questions or problems before the appointment call.”

 

“Great.  We’ll be there.   Tell him thanks and thanks for calling.”   He hung up and turned to Lee.   “You ready to bring our daughter home?”

 

“Yes.   I like the sound of that. Our daughter.  Rowan Lee Gage…. but that won’t be official for a while yet.  Come on, Ladybug, let’s go get you cleaned up   so we can bring your sister   home.”

 

“No sister.”  

 

“Yes, sister.  You and Rowan are both our girls now.  I am going to be Rowan’s mommy.    Your daddy is Rowan’s daddy too…. We love you both so much…Be happy Rowan and mommy and daddy and Chloe are all a family now.”  Lee prayed that Chloe understood and would not be hurt or sad about having Rowan come live with them.

 

“Boyo call Ken and let him know we are picking Rowan up and then call Justin.  Ask him if he would like to come over on Saturday and visit.  Come on, Chloe, you can help me pick out something for Rowan to wear home.”

 

She and Chloe went into the nursery and Johnny made the phone calls.   

 

Chloe picked out what she wanted to wear, a shirt with a pink pony on it and her favorite jeans…they had pink stars down the legs.    Lee showed her two shirts. 

 

“Which one do you think Rowan would like to wear?”   After some very serious   deliberation it was decided Rowan would wear a green shirt with a frog on it and a denim skirt.   Chloe followed Lee into her bedroom.  Lee lifted her up on the bed.

 

“Should I wear purple or a white shirt?”  Lee asked the little girl.

 

“Yellow.  Daddy likes the yellow one with the flowers.”  Johnny said as he came into the room.  He sat down on the bed next to Chloe.  “You want to take the car or the Rover?”

 

“Let’s take the rover.  You know we need to get another car…. maybe it’s time to look into a lift van.  I can’t have two car seats and a wheelchair in the back seat…and there will be times when I have both girls in their car by myself.”

 

“We can worry about that later.  For a while I think if you and the girls are in the car you’ll need another adult with you.”  He gave her a look that told her it wasn’t something they would talk

 

about it was a done deal.   As much as she hated to admit he was right she knew he was. 

 

 

Nell watched Chloe while they went down to get Rowan.    Soon as Lee and Johnny left her Chloe went over to her “desk” and began coloring and answering her toy phone.  Nell watched her for a few seconds then went back to her filing. 

 

Marykay was at the nurses’ desk and smiled when she saw the two coming   towards her.  Johnny had the wheelchair tipped back and was talking softly to Lee then he bent down and kissed her lightly.    

 

“You two behave …I hear you’re taking Rowan home with you.  Is she always so quiet?” 

 

“Yep but I figure after some time at our house she’ll be as talkative as her big sister.”

 

“So, the rumor is true, you’re adopting her?   Good for you all.”    She looked at Johnny.   “That little girl got a rotten start but you two are gonna make it all good from now on.   If you need anyone to speak on your behalf at the adoption   hearing…I’ll be there for you.”

 

“Thanks, MaryKay…we appreciate that.”

 

“She is all checked out…We didn’t have any clothes for her, so she is still in a gown.”

 

“Her new outfit is here…I washed it after we bought it the other day.  All the things she had were too small and old and ugly…Chloe picked out a shirt and I thought a skirt might be easier than pants over the bandage…”

 

Johnny and Lee went into the room.  Carla was with her and they were reading one of the books Lee had brought in for her. 

 

“Hey Sweetie, you ready to go home?   While I go sign you out, Carla and Mommy can get you dressed.  Be back in a minute.

 

“A New York minute?” Lee asked with a sad smile. 

 

“Yeah, a New York minute. “

 

 

To Be Continued.

 

Posted to Site 10/14/18

 

 

 

 

 

Links to Parts1. 2.

 

 

 

 

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