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The Hunted

Part 3

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

 

Links to Parts  1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

 

 

Johnny felt a hand on his elbow as the person next to him guided him up the flight of stairs. He didn’t like it, but he was hurting and his head was pounding. He sensed that it was Roy and he let him help him…Anything to get out of this place. They were stopped by a closed door and his heart thumped wildly with fear that they’d changed their minds and weren’t going to let him go home.

 

His mind replayed the scene in the jail cell and he shuddered. The officers groping hands on his body and between his legs, reminding him of his uncle and the night he’d attacked him in his bed. Something he’d never been able to put behind him completely and probably never would. The clang of the door slamming shut behind him as if he were an animal; the click of the lock, trapping him with those other men…Their rancid breath in his nostrils and their hands holding him, hitting him…Pawing at him. He’d been helpless to get away.

 

Someone moved past him and he shifted away uneasily, not wanting to be touched by anyone, but he didn’t look up, afraid they’d drag him back to that cell if they thought he was being defiant.  He’d learned long ago that not looking at people made them feel less threatened and less apt to punish him for being insolent as his family in Montana had accused him of; using the excuse often as a reason to hurt him.

 

He stood quietly waiting, breathing a soft sound of relief as the door opened and Roy urged him through it.  He knew his partner was with him, but knew there were others close by as well and he just wanted to get away from everyone.

 

He needed time to regain control and shove the memories and the pain of his past back into the dark recesses where he usually kept them hidden. Down deep inside himself, behind the wall he normally kept between him and his emotion, down where no one else could see the hurt and fear and shame he still carried.

 

He tensed at the sound of a voice. The voice of the man who’d brought him here and mauled him so intimately. He heard the voices raised in anger around him and stiffened fearfully until he felt Roy’s hand once again guide him along and realized they were leaving that awful place. He took some comfort at his partner’s nearness, but he was still haunted by memories and wasn’t ready to deal with the reality of what had happened to him just yet and simply followed where Roy led.

 

Roy walked John out to the parking lot. He cast several worried glances at his young partner as they crossed the open lot. John hadn’t looked up at all and Roy was afraid he was delving into those dark places in his head where the memories of his past were always lurking, ready to remind him of the hurt and abuse he’d been put through.

 

He wanted to comfort him, try and talk him back from those hurtful places, but with Vince and Pete trailing along behind them, he couldn’t. He was afraid John’s reaction would be one of fear or worse…retreating once more into his head…to his ‘safe’ place.

 

Vince and Pete were already giving him suspicious glances and Roy knew they were both full of curious questions about John’s behavior that he couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

 

He quickly unlocked his car and pulled open the door, easing Johnny carefully into the seat. He lightly patted his friends shoulder. John tensed immediately, but at least he didn’t recoil from him, so Roy knew he was still with them and hadn’t ‘withdrawn’; at least not yet.

 

Roy closed the door and went around to his own side. He threw Vince and Pete a casual wave before quickly sliding behind the wheel. They were still watching as he pulled out into traffic. He threw his partner a furtive glance. John was huddled and silent, pressed against the passenger side door.

 

“Johnny?” Roy questioned softly.

 

John didn’t answer but the dark eyes swiveled briefly toward him. “It’s gonna be okay junior. They know you didn’t do anything wrong,” he reassured him, reaching out to gently pat his arm.

 

He heard his name called and knew Roy wanted to talk to him but he wasn’t ready. If he tried now, he’d fall apart and totally humiliate himself in front of his partner and best friend, even though Roy knew his past and assured him it wasn’t his fault, John was mortified when it got the upper hand and left him shaking and weeping like a child in his friend’s arms. Roy never made him feel weak for it as his grandfather had, but it was still embarrassing.

 

John shifted subtlety away and began a slow rock. “They lll…locked me in a ccccage,” he stuttered forlornly at a bare whisper, almost as if talking to himself rather than Roy. “They hurt mmm…me; he put his hand between my…,” He stuttered to a halt briefly before he could finish. “He touched me,” he finished, looking ill.

 

Roy understood what he didn’t say. It wasn’t the beating he’d endured that had terrorized him. It had been there hands frisking him, pawing him and tearing at his clothing that had sent him over the edge.

 

“I know junior but they weren’t trying to hurt you…it wasn’t the same as what your Uncle did…They were searching for weapons and the other two just wanted the belt pouch junior…That’s all,” he promised him, but his partner didn’t answer.

 

That may have been true, but it had once again released the frightening memories of his past, and he couldn’t keep them from crowding in, just as they had years ago when John was fourteen and had run away from his Aunt Rosemary. They hadn’t meant to hurt him either, but John couldn’t control the memories of what George had done, then or now.

 

Roy sighed. He knew in his head and in his heart what John had endured but he couldn’t truly understand the emotional and psychological fear, shame, guilt and pain that John had lived through unless he’d lived through it himself, no one could. For someone who’d endured what Johnny had, there was no understanding of the ‘difference’. Roy knew where John’s mind was and that it was gonna take a while to calm him down and get his head screwed on straight. He’d have to think of something to help him out once he was sure Johnny was okay.

 

Roy cast his friend a glance, understanding that John wasn’t ready to talk and he didn’t dare press him right now. It wouldn’t take much to push him over that deep, black precipice once again, but as soon as he got him to Rampart, he’d be able to have a heart to heart talk and settle John down.

 

Roy was so preoccupied with John that he failed to notice the old, white truck that seemed to following them.

 

 

Warren stood in the doorway watching as Walt Grady stalked toward his old pickup truck. The man’s head turned and he shot an ugly glare at Vince and Pete as well as the two young paramedics…His face red with anger as he watched the blonde paramedic help his friend into the car. He grimaced at how shaky the dark haired paramedic looked and figured Vince would be on him for sure about his friend getting hurt.

 

Doug chewed his lower lip with his teeth, worried about what his loose tongue may have begun but it really was Vince’s fault. He shouldn’t have let Gage walk just because they were friends or even that he hadn’t been the one to make the bust, he mused angrily, unsure which it was but sure he’d made the right decision.

 

Vince and Pete watched as the car pulled out into traffic before they turned and headed back to the building.

 

Doug saw the old pickup truck turn out of the lot and trail along behind but his mind was preoccupied, trying to decide if he should confront Vince about letting his ‘friend’ walk or just go to Sgt MacDonald with his concerns. His attention was pulled back to his partner as Vince and Malloy stepped into the building and Vince quickly took the decision out of his hands

 

He pointed a finger at his rookie trainee. “YOU! In Sergeant MacDonald’s office; NOW!” He barked at the younger man, and without waiting, spun on his heel and stalked away; expecting the younger man to follow.

 

Doug stared at him as he walked up the hall, surprised that Vince would want his favoritism trotted out in front of his sergeant.

 

He stepped inside with Vince. Sgt MacDonald glanced up from his paperwork and waved the two men into the seats in front of his desk. “I was just finishing up the report you gave me from this morning,” he said to Vince, before noticing the anger that was clearly visible on the older officer’s face as well as the annoyed one on Warren’s. “Something wrong?” He asked.

 

“Yes…”

“Yes…”

 

Both men answered simultaneously. Vince shot a glare at his trainee.

 

“Would you care to elaborate on what that may be?” He questioned Vince.

 

“I’ll let him go first Sarge,” Vince said, folding his arms over his chest.

 

“Go ahead Warren,” Mac said curiously, his dark eyebrow rising questioningly.

 

“He let my prisoner go,” Warren said accusatorily.

 

“Your prisoner?”

 

“Yes sir. John Gage. I collared him this morning in connection with the stalker case and Vince just let him go. I don’t know if it’s cuz they’re friends or because I made the bust but it was a good arrest,” he practically whined, not noticing that MacDonald’s mouth had dropped in stunned shock at his accusation.

 

“Johnny?” Mac gasped in surprise, shooting a horrified look at Vince. The officer nodded.  “Why?”

 

“The evidence was pointing to him. Even Vince knew it, that’s why he sent me there and then when I got there to detain him, he tried to run.”

 

“He tried to respond to a call,” Vince clarified.

 

Mac’s eyes widened in shock. “Tell me you didn’t stop a paramedic from going on a run?” He barked.

 

“He was fleeing arrest.” He said again.

 

“He shouldn’t have been under arrest Mac,” Vince barked.

 

“You sent me there because of the evidence against him was over…,” Doug began arrogantly.

 

 “Was circumstantial at best,” Vince interrupted. “And I just needed to verify his alibi which is why I sent you over there. To ask him to wait so I could talk to him after I did that. There was no evidence against John Gage.”

 

 “He has a white truck…,” he argued.

 

“A white Land Rover…Our suspect was driving a white pickup truck,” Vince drawled, before uncrossing his arms and leaning forward. “Which you would have known if you had properly interviewed Mr. Morrisey that morning,” he said snidely.

 

“His hand was cut…Miss Price said she cut his hand.”

 

“Arm…Miss Price said very clearly that she cut him on his arm, not his hand,” he countered.

 

“Oh,” Doug mumbled, beginning to look very worried.

 

“Further more; Miss Price positively told us that John was not the man that attacked her and his Chief verified that he was on duty all night which you could have confirmed with his crew had you bothered to ask before casting aspersions and allegations against an innocent man. The fact that he was standing there with his crew mates should have been your first clue that he might have an alibi,” he snarled angrily.

 

“I didn’t think of that,” he mumbled in embarrassment.

 

“No you didn’t and when his partner and his captain tried to tell you, you threatened to arrest them for interfering with your ‘arrest.”

 

“I thought that’s why you’d sent me,” he began again.

 

“I told you I wanted to talk to him…I never said anything about detaining or arresting him. You should have listened to me instead of trying to be a big shot and catch the stalker.”

 

“You made a serious error here Officer Warren,” MacDonald admonished.

 

“It gets worse Mac,” Vince warned.

 

Doug paled, remembering the young paramedic’s appearance.

 

“What’s that?” The older man asked worriedly.

 

“Johnny was injured during the arrest,” he told his superior, shooting a glare at Warren.

 

“Oh no,” Mac moaned, hanging his head briefly. “How bad?”

 

“Some bruises mostly and a possible concussion, but then he and Hall put him in a cell with a couple of bikers.”

 

MacDonald closed his eyes in resignation that there was more coming… He wasn’t disappointed. “And?” He pressed.

 

“They apparently decided they wanted the patch from his sleeve and his belt pouch. John objected.”

 

“How bad was he hurt?” MacDonald asked again.

 

“A lot of bruises and sore muscles from the look of it. He seemed to be in shock. They scared the hell out of him.”

 

“Can’t say I’d be much better off after all that,” Mac commiserated, shaking his head.  “Where’s Johnny now?” The older man asked.

 

“He’s pretty shook up. Roy’s taking him by Rampart,” he answered.

 

“Oh my God,” Warren muttered, remembering Walt Grady’s threat.

 

Mac looked over at the young officer. “What is it?” He questioned warily, expecting more bad news.

 

Doug knew he’d be in even more trouble if they found out he’d been talking about the case to Grady. He’d just have to find a way to get to the man and tell him Gage was innocent before he did anything stupid. “Uh…Nothing sir. I’m sorry; I regret causing this problem for the department. I just didn’t know all the facts at the time,” he waffled, trying to excuse his actions by claiming ignorance.

 

“Which is why I told you to tell him to wait for me, not arrest him.”

 

“I…I just thought you were cutting him some slack cuz he was a friend…,” he stuttered.

 

“He is a friend, but if I thought for one minute that John was guilty, I would have arrested him myself,” he growled.

 

Doug flushed. “That was the other reason I thought you let him go. I thought you were mad that I got him first,” he mumbled guiltily. “But if you would have just told me…,” he began.

 

“I needed to verify his whereabouts for the time of the murder before I shared that. I didn’t think you’d do something so…Foolish. All I needed was for John to tell me how Anna Grady got a hold of his name plate.”

 

“Did he tell you?” Mac asked.

 

“Roy did; John’s shirt was stolen from the base station at Rampart. His name plate and badge were on it. We know from Heather Price that the man was wearing a uniform shirt that didn’t fit him properly. My guess is he’s the one that stole Gage’s shirt.”

 

“So you need to go to Rampart and see if anyone remembers anyone around that day,” Mac suggested.

 

“That was my plan” Vince replied.

 

Doug breathed a sigh of relief. He’d get a chance to talk to Walt Grady if he’d followed the two paramedics as Warren suspected he had, but MacDonald dashed those hopes. “Warren; you’re suspended,” he began.

 

“But sir…I was hoping to get a chance to apologize to Gage.”

 

Mac shook his head. “I’ll send this whole incident to the review board,” he warned the young man. “They’ll decide what to do with you…You’re dismissed.”

 

Doug worried his lower lip with his teeth in concern. Should he warn them that Grady was gunning for Gage and that it was his fault? It could destroy any chance he had of surviving this mess or they might give him a second chance for doing the right thing.

 

Vince shot a disgusted glance at Doug as he pushed himself to his feet. “I’m going to go talk to Frasier and let him know John isn’t his stalker and then we’ll head over to the hospital to talk to Johnny. He may have some follow up questions, that’s if John will ever speak to me again,” he growled.

 

“Uh sir?” Warren began timidly.

 

“What is it?” Mac barked.

 

Vince stopped and turned to listen as Doug continued.

 

“Um…Anna Grady’s husband was here when I brought Gage in,” he blurted out in a rush.

 

“And…?” MacDonald prodded.

 

“He knows Gage was a suspect in his wife’s murder,” he admitted.

 

“He’s not a suspect,” Vince growled.

 

Mac waved Vince silent but his eyes narrowed. “And just how would he know that?” He questioned suspiciously.

 

“Well uh…the uniform is what started it,” he stammered, before going on. “And…and then he asked me if he was the one and…,” he trailed off with a guilty shrug.

 

Mac shot to his feet and leaned over the desk, his brows knotting over his nose in disbelieving anger. “YOU DIDN’T GIVE THAT MAN IFORMATION ABOUT AN ONGOING CASE?” He barked.

 

Doug stared dismally at the floor, his face flushing with shame that he’d made such a horrible mistake and had compounded it with his desire to win the admiration of his friends and colleagues for a huge bust in his third week on the force. It could now very easily be his last.

 

“Yes sir,” he mumbled.

 

“Oh no,” Vince gasped.

 

Mac sighed and sat back down. “I’ll get Frasier to go up there and talk to him. Tell him Gage isn’t our man and we’re sorry for the misinformation,” he assured the black officer.

 

“Uh sir,” Doug began again.

 

“Now what?” MacDonald snapped.

 

“He uh…He heard DeSoto say he was taking Gage to Rampart,” he warned the other two men. “He followed DeSoto out of the parking lot, but I don’t know if he went there or if he went home,” he hedged.

 

“Oh great,” Mac snarled angrily, envisioning some horrible confrontation in the halls of Rampart General.

 

“I’m on my way,” Vince said, spinning on his heel and heading for the door at a rapid pace.

 

“I’ll call Frasier,” Mac yelled after him, before turning his attention back to Doug. “Go home,” he ordered in disgust. “I’ll have IA call you when we decided what to do with you,” he added.

 

Doug’s face paled. “Yes sir,” he mumbled, knowing he was most likely through. He stood up and shuffled out the door.

 

 

 

Roy pulled his truck into the emergency bay at Rampart. There was an ambulance unloading a patient and Dixie stood in the doorway waiting while the attendants pulled the gurney from the back.

 

The blonde paramedic shot a quick glance at his young friend. He didn’t want to leave Johnny alone for too long but he didn’t want him forced to sit in a waiting room in this condition with a pack of strangers gawking at him either.

 

“Johnny? I’ll be right back okay?” He promised his still too quiet friend.

 

John didn’t answer but the dark eyes swiveled briefly toward him and Roy knew he’d at least heard him and that was a good sign. He climbed from the car and ran toward the entrance.

 

The pretty blonde nurse glanced over as he approached and a concerned frown furrowed her brow, wondering why Roy was accompanying an ambulance in his own vehicle and not the squad.

 

“Treatment three,” she directed the attendants who were wheeling the patient into the hospital. She turned her attention to Roy as he approached. “What’s going on?” She asked, tossing a glance toward the truck.

 

“It’s Johnny,” he murmured, just loud enough for her ears alone.

 

Her blue eyed gaze shot to the passenger seat. “What’s wrong with him?” She asked quickly, heading for the vehicle without waiting for an answer.

 

“He’s right on the edge,” he whispered.

 

She shot him a suspicious glance. “What happened?”

 

Roy held up his hands in a placating gesture. “It wasn’t me,” he quickly avowed, knowing how protective she was over John.

 

“What was it?” She asked, jerking the door open.

 

John flinched away from the rapid and unexpected motion and began to slowly rock. Roy slid past Dixie to gently touch his arm. “Easy Junior…I’m here,” he soothed before turning back to the nurse. I’ll explain inside,” he promised.

 

The nurse’s face darkened with anger at the bruised and disheveled appearance of her young friend. She squatted beside him. “Hey tiger,” she said softly.

 

The dark eyes gave her a sideways glance but the rock continued. “Johnny? It’s Dixie. Can you look at me sweetie?”

John’s head turned slightly toward her and she knew he was still with them at least, but in no condition to be paraded through the hospital. She glanced at Roy. “I’ll be right back,” she assured the young man before turning to the older blonde paramedic. “Stay with him; I’m going to get a wheel chair…It’ll be easier than trying to walk him through the ER,” she advised.

 

Roy nodded his agreement and turned his attention back to his partner. “Take it easy junior; It’s gonna be okay.”

 

“I wanna go home,” John mumbled through bruised lips.

 

“In a bit…I just want the doctor to take a look at you.”

 

“Doan want to,” he whispered.

 

Roy patted his arm. “I know, but I need to be sure you’re not hurt bad. I promise, I’ll take you home as soon as possible,” he promised.

 

Dixie waked quickly back inside. She moved to the treatment room nearest the doors and pushed it cautiously open. It was empty. She glanced down the hall and spotted one of her nurses. “Betty!” She called to the older, gray haired nurse.  The woman looked up and Dixie waved her over.

 

“Yes Dix?” She questioned curiously.

 

“Find Dr. Brackett; tell him John Gage has been injured and I need him in treatment room six right away,” she instructed quietly.

 

Betty nodded and quickly trotted off to do as she’d been bidden. Dixie glanced around and noticed one of their orderlies standing a few feet further up the hall. “Mr. Marsh; grab a wheelchair and come with me,” she directed, turning around and heading for the ER doors, assuming the man would follow.

 

Charlie scowled and resisted the urge to throw the nurse a salute. He simply nodded and ran to grab a chair, before following her out.

 

He saw a blonde man standing near the open door of a black pickup truck and frowned. There was no squad nearby but he was dressed in a paramedic uniform. The man turned and Charlie suddenly recognized him as John Gage’s partner.

 

That thought brought back the memory of what he’d done this morning wearing the paramedic’s uniform and his hands began to shake as Anna Grady’s lifeless gaze swam before him.

 

He drew in a couple of deep breaths to get himself under control before the blonde nurse and the paramedic noticed, which was unlikely since both of them seemed totally centered on the occupant of the truck.

 

He pulled the chair to a stop as Miss McCall stepped around DeSoto and began to speak. “Okay Tiger,” she said softly, reaching into the vehicle to take hold of the occupant’s hand.

 

Charlie frowned as the tall blonde reached in to help her. “C’mon Johnny; you’re gonna be okay,” he soothed.

 

 

John’s dark eyes swiveled toward where Roy was standing next to him, waiting for Dixie to return. “I wwwanna go hhhome,” he stuttered, barely above a whisper.

 

“I’ll take you home as soon as Brackett checks you out,” he promised his friend.

 

Doan wanna be ch…checked out,” he mumbled.

 

Roy sighed. He knew John wouldn’t want anyone touching him right now but at the same time, he knew there could be some serious injuries from the manhandling he’d already received and he needed to be sure Johnny was alright and not concussed.

 

“Johnny; you’re bleeding and you have an ugly bruise on your forehead. You were dizzy and having trouble walking and I just wanna be sure you don’t have a concussion…or worse okay? Then I can take you to my house and let you get some sleep okay?” He reasoned with his stubborn friend.

 

“No,” he mumbled unhappily. “I doan want Jjjo and the kkkids to see me,” he whispered, his face flushing in humiliation at what had happened to him, both before and in his past.

 

“Aw Junior,” Roy began sympathetically. He understood where John’s head was at right now, but he had no intention of just dumping him off at his apartment to relive the nightmare over and over by himself either. He knew John would sit there brooding alone, worrying that he’d somehow deserved what had happened to him as his family had told him he had in his past…pushing his memories and fears down deep inside so he wouldn’t have to face them and letting them tear at his heart and soul and Roy wasn’t going to let that happen. “Joanne loves you. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” he assured him, seeing the reddening cheeks. “Hell Junior, she’ll drive over there and take that idiot cop apart for what he did,” Roy teased him.

 

The vision of the diminutive Joanne DeSoto standing toe to toe with Officer Warren and unleashing one of her angry lectures on the cringing officer brought a quirk of a smile. The corner of John’s sensitive mouth tilted upward for a brief moment. It only lasted a second but it was a reassurance that John was beginning to come around a bit, at least with Roy.

 

Dixie was suddenly there beside Roy. “Okay Tiger,” she said softly, reaching in to take John’s hand.

 

John flinched away from the unexpected contact. “NO,” he gasped, pulling away from her touch.

 

He threw a worried look at Roy. He frowned and shook his head at the reflexive action. He waved Dixie off. “Johnny? You’re gonna be okay. It’s only your friends here,” he assured his young friend. He reached in and slowly lifted John’s legs free of the vehicle. John tensed but he did allow Roy to take his hands and pull him gently from the seat.

 

John groaned as all the bumps and bruises he’d sustained put up an angry protest. His head swam sickeningly for a moment before it cleared.

 

“Easy partner,” Roy soothed.

 

John was still tense and wary as the older man turned him toward the wheel chair where Charlie was waiting. Roy frowned; he wasn’t particularly fond of this orderly and his attitude but he really had no choice either. He helped John hobble stiffly toward it.

 

 

Charlie’s eyebrow crawled into his hairline as Roy tugged his young partner from the truck He hadn’t seen the fearful reaction inside the vehicle, but it was obvious that someone had soundly beaten the dark haired paramedic. Served the arrogant jerk right too, he mused. He noted that his partners blue eyes were on him and he barely contained the snort of laughter and the amused look at the young man’s appearance from cracking his professional façade as Roy lowered John into the wheelchair.

 

Roy’s eyes had caught the fleeting smirk and he frowned. His eyes narrowing at the orderly, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it at the moment; he just needed to get John inside.

 

Dixie brought both of the men’s attention back to the matter at hand. “Let’s go,” she directed, waving Charlie toward the door.

 

“Yes ma’am,” Charlie replied in a barely civil tone. He pushed the wheelchair inside. Dixie stayed close beside John on one side and Roy on the other, shielding him from the view of most people in the corridor.

 

The blonde nurse shoved the door of the treatment room open and let Charlie push him inside. Roy and Dixie were about to follow just as Brackett came from another room down the hall. Betty was just steps behind him.

 

“He’s mostly just got some bruises and scrapes but he did take a hard hit to the forehead,” he advised. “I think he’s okay physically but he’s right on the edge,” he added. There were very few people who knew John had Asperger’s and they had created the code phrase to warn each other when John was close to withdrawal without actually using the proper name for it, keeping others from knowing what was really wrong.

 

Brackett’s dark brows tangled over his nose as he caught Roy’s meaning and they moved quickly into the room where John was waiting.

 

Charlie was still standing behind the wheelchair as they entered and Roy stopped in his tracks as he spotted him. The man’s dark eyes were practically glaring down at John and Roy didn’t like it. “Uh Doc,” he muttered with a head jerk toward the orderly.

 

Charlie turned at the sound of their voices, quickly schooling his features into a look of concern. He realized he should be helping the patient onto the table and reached down to grasp John’s arm.

 

Kel and Dixie both understood the subtle warning motion; none of them wanted witnesses if John reacted badly to being examined and the last thing they needed was that kind of gossip floating around the hospital. Even Betty didn’t know, but she could be trusted to keep her mouth shut about anything she might witness.

 

 “Mr. Marsh; I need the portable X-Ray unit down here stat,” Dixie instructed brusquely, stopping Charlie from actually touching John just in time.

 

“Yes ma’am,” Charlie replied sullenly at the officious tone in her voice. He reached for John once more to help him from the chair so he could take the wheel chair from the room. Kel and Roy both saw the motion.

 

“NO,” Roy snapped, stopping him from touching John.

 

“We’ll take care of that,” Brackett added, a bit more gently. Charlie was after all just doing his job.  “Just get the portable down here,” he ordered.

 

Charlie scowled. “Yes sir; what about the chair?” He questioned, barely keeping his own tone civil as he turned away so they wouldn’t see the anger in his face.

 

“You can come back for that later,” Dixie said briskly.

 

“Yes ma’am,” he sneered, not looking at her for fear she’d see the defiance and the rage in his face. Someday, all of these arrogant people would be sorry for the way they treated him, he mused sourly.

 

He left the room quickly and headed for the base station to call the radiology department as he’d been instructed.

 

 

Roy waited for the door to swing shut behind the orderly before he cast a quick glance at Betty and then turned to his young partner. “Okay Junior, let’s get you up on the table here okay?” He said gently reaching down to grip John’s arm gently.

 

Johnny stiffened at his touch and Roy decided to simply forestall the argument. He let go of John’s arm and simply slid one arm under his knees and another behind his back and lifted John in his arms before setting him on the table, leaving him no time to protest before it was done.

 

He backed away and breathed a sigh of relief that John, though tense, didn’t fight him, but it was short lived. Kel and Dixie both moved in around him to begin the examination, but John recoiled from Brackett’s touch, shoving his hand away. “No don’t,” he whispered, his body beginning to rock slowly.

 

Betty frowned. She’d seen John do this once before when he’d been injured shortly after Roy and John had had an argument that separated them for a couple of weeks. She had no idea why he’d reacted that way and no one had filled her in if they knew, which from Dr. Brackett and Dixie’s response; they likely did.

 

Dixie caught the look from the older nurse and nodded her head toward the door. “Thanks Betty; I’ve got this. Can you handle the base station for a bit,” she asked throwing the older woman a reassuring smile.

 

“Yes…Uh, sure Dix,” she replied, giving John a final worried look before she headed for the door. Dixie knew the gray haired nurse was quite fond of Johnny and she’d have to come up with something to reassure her or fill her in. She turned back to the matter at hand as the door closed behind Betty.

 

“Roy,” Brackett called quickly, ignoring their conversation and waving the blonde paramedic back over.

 

Roy moved quickly to his friend’s side. “Hey Junior, settle down. I’m still here,” he said reassuringly. He reached out slowly and lightly touched John’s chin, gently turning his face until the dark eyes met his. “You’re safe now. No one here will hurt you…I promise,” he vowed.

 

The dark eyes flitted about the room in confusion and for the first time, seemed to become aware of his surroundings. The chocolate brown eyes moved from face to face before returning to his partner. 

 

“Rrr…Roy,” he mumbled.

 

“Yeah Junior,” he breathed out in relief. He reached out to smooth the tousled sable locks away from John’s face.

 

John looked exhausted, but he was definitely back from the silent, gray world he retreated to when he was afraid.

 

“Doc needs to take a look at you,” he said, waving Brackett back over.

 

“I doan want to,” to he whispered, giving Roy that sorrowful, puppy eyed look he used on Jo to get his own way.

 

Roy almost chuckled. “I know, but you got a nasty bruise on your forehead,” he told him as his fingers brushed over the darkened area. John winced a bit but didn’t pull away.

 

“Plus you’ve got a few other bumps and bruises we want to take a look at Tiger,” Dixie said softly. “So can you let me take your shirt off here so we can check you out?” She questioned, resting her slim fingers against his chest.

 

“I fff…ine now; I just wwwanna go home,” he stammered as he always did after coming out of withdrawal.

 

“I know Junior and I want to take you home, so the sooner we get this over with, the quicker we can leave,” he reasoned with his young friend, subtly letting John know that the examination was none negotiable.

 

John shot him a nervous look and sighed in resignation at the set of Roy’s chin and the no nonsense look on his best friends face. He wasn’t going to win this fight. “Okaaay,” he sighed.

 

“Good boy,” Roy replied, stepping aside to allow Dixie to undo the few remaining buttons that hadn’t already been torn from John’s shirt during the struggle at the jail.  He was tense, and the wary look of distrust he’d had when Dix first met him was back in his eyes, but he let her ease the ragged garment off his shoulders before Roy helped him lay back on the table.

 

Kel went slowly, clearly telegraphing every move he made and making sure he didn’t startle John in any way. He checked to be sure John’s nose hadn’t been broken from the impact with the hood of the squad, and then flicked the penlight in John’s eyes. He tossed a glance at Roy, giving him a small quirk of a smile. “Both equal and reactive,” he told the blonde paramedic. “I don’t think he has a skull fracture and most likely only a minor concussion,” he told the senior partner. “We’ll get an X ray to be sure of course,” he added before turning back to his patient. “Does your head hurt Johnny?” He asked.

 

“Yeah…A lllittle,” he replied, his voice barely audible.

 

“I’ll give you something for that as soon as I get the X-rays back and we’re sure there’s nothing serious alright?” He questioned, patting John’s arm.

 

Johnny shifted away uneasily from the casual touch and Kel, Roy and Dixie exchanged a worried glance, afraid they were back to square one with Johnny. They hoped Roy could bring him around as he had before.

 

Kel, Roy and Dixie all knew Johnny had Aspergers but only Kel and Roy knew he’d been badly abused by his mother’s family as well and worse by one uncle in particular. Kel knew Dixie suspected but he couldn’t confirm that without Johnny’s permission.

 

Roy reached out and wrapped his fingers around John’s, giving the younger man’s hand a small squeeze. John’s mouth curled upward for just a moment at the gesture and Roy knew he’d be alright. John just needed to clear his head of the old memories.

 

If Johnny checked out okay and Brackett would allow it, Roy knew just the place to allow Johnny to do that Johnny’s place in the mountains. Wide open spaces, peace and quiet. Just him and Roy and nature.

 

The door swung open and Malcolm trundled the portable X-Ray machine inside. Roy leaned down close to John’s ear while Brackett and Dixie spoke to the technician.

 

“Will you be okay if I leave you for a minute?” He whispered for John alone.

 

John gave him a faint nod. “Yeah,” he mumbled.

 

“Good; I’ll be right outside if you need me,” he assured his friend.

 

“Kkkay,” the younger man mumbled, closing his eyes in embarrassment as Roy’s fingers lightly brushed the sable locks away from his bruised forehead. The tension seemed to ease beneath the gentle stroke of his best friend’s hand.

 

“You’re gonna be okay,” Roy promised him and John nodded, knowing he didn’t mean physically as much as the emotional and mental challenge he’d been dealt.

 

He turned away as Malcolm began to set up and he followed Kel and the blonde nurse toward the door.

 

The dark haired doctor threw a glance over his shoulder at Malcolm. “I want those stat,” he instructed.

 

“Yes sir,” the young, black technician replied.

 

The trio threw John one last glance and then left the room, heading for the base station and the coffee pot.

 

Roy wanted an opportunity to talk to Brackett about taking John somewhere for a couple of days anyway. He glanced toward the waiting room as they walked and frowned slightly at the sight of that new, rather abrasive orderly talking to another man that looked slightly familiar.

 

He couldn’t place where he’d seen the man before as his mind was too focused on Johnny right now to even try.

 

Kel poured three cups of coffee and handed two of them to Roy and Dixie. “So Roy…What the hell happened?” He asked, picking up his own and taking a sip.

 

Roy went through the morning’s events earning him a shocked look from the doctor and a look of rage from the blonde nurse. He pitied Warren if he ever showed up here.

 

“That toad,” she muttered under her breath when Roy was done, drawing an amused glance from Brackett.

 

“Well…Let’s just hope it’s only a few bumps and scrapes,” Kel said quietly, thinking that most of John’s problem was emotional and not physical at this point.

 

Roy nodded. “So doc…If John’s alright, do you think it would be possible to take him to the mountains for a couple of days?” The younger man asked.

 

Kel frowned. “I don’t know Roy…With that head injury…,” he began hesitantly. “He took a nasty thump on the head,” he added.

 

Roy set his cup down. “I know doc, but he really needs to clear his head and that’s the one place he’s most at peace,” Roy pressed.

 

“What about your house?” Kel asked.

 

Roy shook his head. “Jo and the kids will be all over him. He won’t get any quiet there,” he reminded him.

 

Kel grinned knowingly. Roy’s kids adored their Uncle Johnny and his wife mothered the young paramedic as if he were one of her own children, which was great under normal circumstances but maybe what John needed more right now was peace, quiet and calm.

 

“I guess you’re right,” Brackett conceded. “Let’s see what the X-Rays show before I make that decision,” he said.

 

Roy nodded and picked up the coffee cup. He took a sip and his blue eyed glance traveled absently down the hall, searching for the two men who’d been there earlier, but they were gone.

 

 

 

Charlie hung up the phone after calling the Radiology Department for the Portable as he’d been bidden; ordered was more like it by the high and mighty Dixie McCall, he mused sourly.

 

He started down the hall, but pulled up abruptly and his blood seemed to freeze in his veins. His face paled and his heart began a wild guilty thumping as Walt Grady rounded the corner from the emergency entrance.

 

He looked around frantically for a way to escape, sure the man had somehow found out what he’d done and had come here to kill him.

 

He started to turn back the way he’d come, but it was too late; Walt had already spotted him.

 

“Charlie! Charlie Marsh!” He called out.

 

Charlie turned to face him; his knees practically knocked together and his body shook with fear. “Uh…Um…yeah? Oh…uh hey Wwwalt,” he stuttered nervously.

 

“You work here?” He barked.

 

“Uh…ye…Uh yeah,” he stammered. “As a matter of fact…I uh…I should get back to work,” he added in a rush, anxious to retreat from the man. He began to back away.

 

“WAIT,” Walt snapped. It was clear from the tone that it wasn’t a request. “I wanna talk to you.”

 

Charlie’s stomach turned a flip and he had to fight back the urge to throw up. “Um…about what?” He almost squeaked.

 

“My wife,” he snapped.

 

Charlie took a step back, prepared to run for the nearest exit if Walt stepped in his direction. “…Your um w…wwife? Uh yeah….I’m real sssorry about that,” he gulped out.

 

Walt’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “How’d you know about it?”

 

Charlie blanched. From the question it had become obvious that Walt wasn’t here for him and he’d just put his foot in his mouth. He thought fast… “I uh….I drove by the um…the accident scene…I mean. I thought it was an accident scene,” he corrected. “I uh…I saw Anna’s truck and assumed it was an accident,” he finished, shrugging lamely.

 

Walt seemed to accept that. “It was no accident,” he growled dangerously. “She was murdered,” he barked.

 

Charlie looked about ready to faint. It had been an accident. He’d never intended to kill Anna but he couldn’t tell Walt that. “Th…that’s uh terrible. Do they um…have a suspect?” He asked nervously.

 

“They had more than that. They had the bastard in custody and then they just let him go,” he snarled.

 

“Uh…Who?” he asked, looking relieved.

 

“That paramedic…The one they just brought in here…Gage I think they called him,” he replied, looking around.

 

Charlie’s eyes widened and he almost laughed. Gage! And Walt Grady thought he was guilty. This was too perfect. “Uh yeah Walt. He’s in treatment one right now,” he informed him.

 

Walt’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Is he? Then I need your help,” he said softly.

 

“Uh…With what?” Charlie asked.

 

“Revenge…He should have stayed in jail,” he growled. “He won’t get away with killing my Anna. I’ll make him pay.”

 

Charlie almost crowed with delight and choked back his laughter. He now had a perfect way out, he mused, unaware that Johnny had already been cleared by the police. “That’s so unfair Walt,” he commiserated in sympathetic tones. “He should really pay for what he’s done,” he added, thinking if all the imaginary slights that had been dealt to him because of the ‘handsome’ and ‘heroic’ John Gage.

 

“Oh he’ll pay alright,” Walt assured him.

 

Charlie grinned maliciously. “Well…If there’s anything I can do…?” He offered graciously.

 

A technician passed them pushing the portable X-Ray unit and the men stopped talking until he was out of earshot and then Walt continued.

 

“Well; since you work here…I thought you’d be able to find out something useful,” the older man stated.

 

Charlie tilted his head as though he was deep in thought. “Well…I know he works out of station 51,” he volunteered.

 

Walt shook his head. “Too public.”

 

Charlie frowned. “Well I don’t know where he lives or anything,” he said in disappointment.

 

“Keep your ears open and ask around. Someone has to know,” Walt snarled.

 

Charlie glanced down the hall and saw Sharon not far away. He’d bet money half these nurses not only knew where the Paramedic lived, but had at some point been in his apartment or even in his bed, he mused angrily, imagining John Gage as the biggest lothario in history.

 

The door to the treatment room currently being occupied by the object of their conversation opened and Dr. Brackett, Dixie McCall and John’s partner, Charlie thought his name was Roy, stepped from the room.

 

The blonde paramedic glanced in their direction and Charlie noted that the blue eyes were giving him and his companion a hard look over and decided he and Walt better get out of sight. If something happened to John Gage, Charlie Marsh didn’t want to be associated with Walt Grady.

 

“Hey Walt…I have a break coming. Why don’t we go to the cafeteria for coffee and talk somewhere more private,” he suggested, taking the older man’s elbow and steering him up the hall and away from Gage’s room and the inquiring looks of his nosey partner.

 

 

Roy finished his coffee and handed the empty mug to Dixie. His blue eyes traveled repetitively up the hall to where his partner was being X-Rayed. Roy knew John would be anxious and uncomfortable without him and he wanted to get back to him the moment they were finished.

 

It would take a day or two for his young friend to get his head on straight but Roy had no doubt that he would. John was emotionally fragile but mentally and physically, he was as tough as nails.

 

John had opened up a lot since he’d first met him, but he knew he was still keeping so much inside him and he just wished John would talk to him instead of burying his feelings as he usually did, but he knew Johnny wasn’t ready for that yet. Roy knew his ‘little brother’ would battle his demons and come through victorious; he always did.

 

He glanced up the hall again and this time he was rewarded when the door opened and Malcolm pushed the portable unit out into the hall. “He’s done Doc,” Roy said over his shoulder and without waiting, headed down the corridor.

 

Dixie and Kel shared an amused grin at Roy’s concern and protectiveness for his young partner and then they followed the blonde paramedic down the hall.

 

Roy was already at John’s side when they caught up with him and they could just make out the softly spoken words.

 

“Hey partner, how you doing?” He questioned, laying his hand on John’s arm.

 

John turned his head, giving his friend a half hearted smile. “Cccan I go home nnn…now,” he asked, barely audible.

 

“We need to wait for the X-Rays Johnny,” Kel answered, letting Roy off the hook for an answer. John glanced at the dark haired physician; his arms were folded over his chest in what Dixie, Roy and John recognized as his professional ‘I won’t yield an inch’ stance.

 

Johnny lifted his eyes to meet Roy’s and the anxiety in them was plain. He didn’t want to stay here and he was barely holding it together.

 

“I dddoan wanna ssstay,” he whispered.

 

Roy reached out slowly so he wouldn’t startle John. He gently swept the dark hair away from his forehead, drawing an embarrassed blush from Johnny, but he didn’t push his hand away. The reassuring touch from his best friend was more important than his dignity right now.

 

Kel and Dixie smirked and deliberately took an inordinate interest in looking at John’s chart, and hiding their grins at the tender gesture from the normally ‘cool as a cucumber’ senior paramedic.

 

 “I promise Junior, if the X-Rays come back negative, I’ll get you out of here and…,” his voice trailed off as the door opened and a nurse slipped inside.

                                                                                                       

 “His X-Rays doctor,” she said simply as she handed them over, she turned away and headed out the door.

 

Roy squeezed John’s arm and gave it a pat as they waited for the doctor to vIew the X-rays and give them his verdict.

 

Kel slapped the first one into the light panel. His lips pursed as he studied the shot of John’s cranium. He finally snapped the flimsy film free and turned to face Roy and Johnny.

 

“Well?” He questioned, patting John’s arm reassuringly.

 

Kel’s mouth twitched and he sighed. John had a nasty bang on his forehead but there was no sign of fracture or any other significant damage…A mild concussion at best. His eyes were equal and reactive and he was alert and focused, despite the quiet and introverted demeanor that followed a withdrawal.

 

He had been a bit unsteady on his feet but that was most likely from the beating he’d taken and shock at the whole situation, he wasn’t showing any sign of weakness, dizziness or nausea which he usually did when he suffered a head injury and that was a good sign that it wasn’t a severe injury.

 

His doctor’s instincts told him to keep him overnight for observation, but John was in distress and on edge and he’d benefit more by being with Roy or better yet, letting Roy take him somewhere where he would feel at peace and relax.

 

Kel sighed in resignation. John was always a special case when it came to any kind of treatment, whether because of his past, Aspergers or his low tolerance for some drugs. “Alright Roy… Johnny; I’m going to let you go home,” he said giving John’s arm a light pat.

 

“Thanks,” he mumbled.

 

The door opened drawing their attention away for a moment as an orderly stepped into the room. Roy threw him a quick glance, and even though this particular orderly gave him a hinky feeling whenever he was around, particularly after the way Roy had caught him glaring at Dixie, he wasn’t here for anything to do with Johnny and Roy dismissed his presence and returned his attention to John.

 

Kel also gave the man a hard stare and a curious quirk of his dark eyebrow. Charlie saw and rushed to explain his presence.

 

“I’ sorry to interrupt but uh I need...I mean Dr. Morton needs the wheelchair in three,” he sputtered out to the surly looking doctor.

 

“Fine,” Kel replied curtly. He wasn’t sure why, but this particular orderly rubbed him the wrong way. Perhaps it was because Dixie had told him about his run in with Sally, but it was more in the man’s demeanor, he mused to himself…Arrogant and disrespectful; as if the world owed him something. Brackett shrugged, as long as he did his job, he’d deal with it.

 

Charlie nodded and leaned down to release the brakes but froze as Roy began to speak to his young partner.

 

“Hey Junior; Dr. Brackett said it would be okay for me to take you somewhere for a couple of days,” he said cheerfully.

 

“Where?” John mumbled, giving his friend a wary glance.

 

“I thought may be Temescal Canyon…It’s your favorite,” he suggested.

 

“Ok…kay,” John whispered back grateful that his partner understood him and his need to clear his head even before Johnny had asked.

 

Charlie fumbled with the brakes, forgetting what he doing in his excitement. Walt Grady would love to hear about this little tidbit of information.

 

“Aren’t you done with that?” Brackett snapped, interrupting his musings.

 

“Uh…Sorry doctor, I couldn’t get the brake to unlock,” he explained lamely, finally unlocking the wheel and spinning the chair around. He pushed it quickly to the door. He need to hurry and catch Walt Grady before he left the cafeteria where they’d just had coffee and he’d promised the older man to get any information he could about Gage. This was perfect.

 

 

He shoved the chair into the hallway, almost hitting Dixie and the black officer walking along beside her.

 

“BE CAREFUL!” Dixie barked, jumping back to avoid being hit. Vince dodged to the side as well to avoid the conveyance.

 

Charlie swallowed heavily at the sight of the man’s uniform, wondering what the cop was doing here? Maybe he’d come to get Gage, he mused; at least he hoped it was Gage and not himself. Maybe they figured out where Walt was and came to talk to him. Either way, he didn’t want to call any more attention to himself. He gave them a sheepish wince. “Uh…Um...Sorry ma’am…Officer,” he stammered, resisting the urge to turn and run.

 

Vince’s dark eyes swept over him, taking in the bandaged wrist and the man’s similar build and coloring to Johnny's and his suddenly very nervous demeanor. “Hope you don’t drive a car the same way you drive a wheelchair,” he said drily. “You’d have fewer injuries if you slowed down,” he advised, giving the young man’s wrist a pointed stare.

 

Charlie’s eyes narrowed, but he caught himself before he could make a biting retort. “Yes sir…I’ll work on that,” he growled, before backing the wheelchair up and going around the pair, heading off down the hall.

 

Vince glanced at Dixie. “He’s got a bit of an attitude,” he murmured to the nurse.

 

“Hurumph,” Dixie almost snorted. “Tell me about it. He’s got a few of the nurses around here more than a little annoyed with him, that’s for sure,” the added with a grin.

 

Vince frowned at that. He turned and watched the orderly half run down the corridor. The man practically shoved the wheelchair at the nurse standing in the doorway of treatment room three, before he turned and hurried toward the doors that led to hospital cafeteria.

 

The man’s look and attitudes were sending some odd signals and Vince’s cop senses were tingling. “What’s he been doing to upset the ladies?” he asked casually.

 

Dixie threw him a curious glance at why Vince would be interested but shrugged. “He just doesn’t seem to have much respect for women,” she replied.


“Really? Tell me about it. “

 

Dixie frowned again but answered him. “He just comes on real strong with them…As if he’s doing them a favor by being interested. He’s just aggressive and he gets offensive if they say no.”

 

“Was he on duty the day John’s shirt went missing from the base station?” He asked her thoughtfully.

 

The orderly was as tall as John and very slender but definitely a bit heavier through the gut and less muscular across the chest. John was thin but his profession gave him strength beyond what one would expect of such a slim build. Then there was the bandage on his arm…What had caused the injury? He didn’t know but it was enough to fuel his suspicions. He returned his attention to the pretty blonde nurse.

 

Dixie was staring thoughtfully into space as she remembered back to that day. She finally nodded her head. “Yes he was,” she said with certainty, remembering that she’d seen him outside the treatment room door when she’d brought John’s shirt out. She’d almost run into him.

 

“I don’t suppose you know what he drives?” He pressed.

 

Dixie shook her head. “No...but I can find out. It would be on the security guards list so he knows whose cars belong here,” she said, turning around to head back to the base station.

 

Vince followed, waiting patiently while she picked up the phone and called the security office. “Hello Ed….This is Dixie McCall from Emergency,” she began. “I’m fine Ed…Hey can you tell me what that new orderly here in the ER drives?” There was a brief hesitation. “His name is Charlie Marsh,” she replied to the man on the other end. She waited briefly looking at Vince. “He’s checking,” she advised him, covering the receiver with her hand.

 

Vince nodded. “Do you know when he cut his arm?” he asked the pretty nurse.

 

Dixie frowned, trying to remember. The door down the hall opened and Mike Morton followed his patient and the nurse pushing a wheelchair out of the room.  He spoke to them briefly before heading over to the base station and a much needed cup of coffee.

 

Dixie glanced at Vince. “Ask Mike; he treated him for it,” she advised, once again covering the mouthpiece. “Sally was assisting him and that’s when he got a bit aggressive with her,” she added.

 

Mike glanced between the two. “Ask Mike what?” He questioned.

 

Vince turned toward him. “The orderly that works this floor…Charlie Marsh.”

 

“Ah yes…The infamous Mr. Marsh,” the young, black intern retorted.

 

Dixie and Vince both nodded but Dixie’s attention was diverted back to the call a moment later. “A white pickup truck?” She clarified, looking at Vince. The plate number is 918 BTX.”

 

The officer’s eyes widened a bit as his suspicions grew. He jotted down the number. “Thanks Dix,” he said as she hung up the phone. He turned to Mike.

 

“What can I help you with?” Mike asked, folding his arms over his chest.

 

“Nurse McCall said you treated an injury on an orderly named Charlie Marsh?” He questioned, glancing up from his notebook to look at the intern.

 

“Yes sir?”

 

“Can I ask what was wrong with it?”

 

Mike pursed his lips, deciding after a moment that it wouldn’t violate patient confidentiality to answer. “It was a cut across his wrist and forearm,” he replied perfunctory.

 

“Did he say how he cut it?”

 

“Said he cut it on a broken window?”

 

“Did you believe him?” Vince questioned.

 

Morton shrugged. “I thought the angle was wrong for the explanation he gave, but it wasn’t any of my business to pry any further,” he answered, sounding a bit defensive. “Why the interest?”

 

Vince didn’t answer the question but instead asked one of his own. “What do you mean the angle was wrong?”

 

Mike turned his arm and showed him the direction of the cut. It looked as if something had slashed downward from beside him, not up the arm the way he said it happened,” he replied.

 

“I see…Do you remember anything else about the incident. Anything he might have said?”

 

“Well; he seemed uptight about something before I treated him…Got angry that I insisted on looking at it.” Vince’s eyes narrowed as Mike continued. “And he was very angry, insulting really to one of our nurses.”

 

“How so?”

 

“He said she was stupid and accused her of leading him on,” he explained.

 

Dixie nodded in agreement. “She reported the incident to me after and I contacted his supervisor.  She suspended him.”

 

“And he killed the next woman,” Vince murmured to himself.

 

“Mike’s pugnacious stance dropped away as he stared first at Dixie and then at the officer. “Excuse me? What did you say?” He demanded.

 

“Nothing…Just thinking aloud. Do you remember what day it was?”

 

Mike pursed his lip, his head tilting sideways as he thought about it. “Two or three days ago. I can look it up.”

 

“Two days,” Dixie said with certainty; remembering Sally standing there in near tears while she repeated what he’d said and done. “He tried to touch her and when she told him to keep his hands to himself, he got angry and said something like… ‘Bet you’d let John Gage touch you,’” she repeated Sally’s tale.

 

“Doesn’t sound like he likes John much?” He mused aloud. “But the date is right on.” The day after Heather Price was attacked and had cut the man’s wrist.

 

Mike and Dixie shook their heads and shared a worried look. “What - did - he - do?” Mike asked very succinctly.

 

Once again he didn’t deign to answer the young doctor’s question. “Can you show me where the employees park their cars?” He asked Dixie.

 

“Sure,” she replied, waving her hand for him to follow. They headed off down the hall, leaving the young doctor to wonder what the heck was going on.

 

Dixie walked him out to the rear of the hospital and out to where the employees parked their cars. Vince glanced around and sighed. There were several white pickup trucks and he’d have to go to each one to check the plate.

 

“Thank you Miss McCall. I’ll come back in as soon as I locate the vehicle,” he told her, not wanting to hold the nurse up any longer.

 

Dixie nodded. “You think he’s the stalker don’t you Vince?” She asked point blank.

 

Vince gave her a hard stare but didn’t reply…Dixie understood. She nodded and turned, heading back to the ER; she needed to talk to Kel.

 

 

Vince wandered through the parking lot checking the plate numbers of each vehicle until he found the one he was looking for. The battered truck was covered with dust and bore a few rust spots and dents.

 

Vince moved around and leaned over to look at the tires. He was unsurprised to note that the treads bore the same arrow pattern as the ones at the crime scene, though the technicians from the crime scene team would have to verify that.

 

Vince moved around to the driver’s side door and peered through. There was nothing to raise his suspicions. He started to turn away when a dark smudge on the seat cushion caught his eye. The officer’s eyes narrowed as he squinted through the window…It looked like blood.

 

He started to back away, his dark eyes swept across the interior one last time. A flash of pale blue peeked out from behind the seat. Vince grinned as he realized it was the same shade as a paramedic’s uniform shirt.

 

He tried the door but it was locked. He glanced around the parking lot but there were only a few people about and none looked like the orderly he now firmly suspected was the highway stalker.

 

As much as he hated leaving the vehicle unattended and possibly allowing the suspect to get away, he knew he needed to do this right. He had to call Frazier and get a warrant and the crime scene team down here to search the truck. 

 

He turned and ran across the parking lot. He slipped back inside and walked quickly to the base station but there was no there. He snapped up the phone, knowing Dixie wouldn’t mind him using it.

 

Ten minutes later Detective Frazier was on his way to get a search warrant and the crime scene team was on their way to Rampart.

 

Vince waited patiently for Dixie to return. His dark eyes scanned the waiting room for any sign of Charlie Marsh or Walt Grady but neither of them made an appearance.

 

Dixie finally stepped out of a treatment room up the hall, and to Vince’s relief John Gage and Roy DeSoto followed her out.

 

Johnny seemed to be okay, though he was moving stiffly and stayed as close to Roy’s side as he could get without actually touching him.  Vince suspected he wasn’t quite back to his normal exuberant self, but he knew better than to ask. If Roy and Dixie knew anything about the odd behavior Johnny had exhibited, neither of them would betray the young paramedic.

 

Roy spotted Vince and gave him an acknowledging nod before he turned his friend in the direction of the emergency entrance. Dixie watched them for a moment before she headed for the base station.

 

“Hey Vince; any luck?” She questioned.

 

“Depends on what you mean by luck,” he said drily. “But I think we have our guy. The vehicle matches the description given by a witness. The tire track pattern is the same and there is blood and what appears to be a piece of blue material behind the seat,” he told her quietly.

 

“Oh my God,” she muttered distressed that someone who worked for this hospital could be capable of something so awful.

 

“I’ve got a team on the way. Any idea where Mr. Marsh is right now?” He asked.

 

Dixie shook her head. “I’ll call his supervisor and ask.” She picked up the phone and dialed a number. She asked the woman who answered if she knew where their missing orderly might be found. There was a pause and then Dixie said. “Right…Thanks.” She hung up the phone. “She said he’s probably on his break.”

 

Vince sighed. They couldn’t arrest him until Frazier showed up with the warrant but he had at least wanted him detained until that happened. “Can you get a security guard to go keep an eye on the parking lot and be sure our Mr. Marsh doesn’t slip away.”

 

Dixie nodded and made the call.

 

 

 

Charlie cleared the double doors and broke into a run. He needed to find Walt Grady and let him know what he’d overheard. He ignored the odd looks being thrown at him as he ran down the hall with an odd smirk on his face.

 

This would solve a couple of problems. First; Walt Grady would kill Gage for the murder of his wife which would in turn land Walt in prison for killing the paramedic, and with Walt in prison, he’d never have to worry about him coming after him, and with Gage dead, the police would also most likely halt the investigation, since they already assumed they had their man, or so he thought.

 

He shoved through the door to the cafeteria, almost bowling over Sharon Walters as he burst into the room.

 

The pretty, auburn haired, student nurse gasped and staggered a step backward in surprise, and Charlie reached out to grab her.

 

“CHARLIE!” She snapped in annoyance, shaking the man’s claw like grip from her arm. “Slow down before you hurt someone,” she advised, rubbing her now bruised arm.

 

“Sorry Sharon,” he mumbled, red faced that everyone in the room was now watching them. .

 

“It’s alright I guess…But we never run at Rampart,” she told him, remembering Dixie telling her that once before.

 

“”I’ll remember that,” he muttered, glancing around and spotting Walt Grady. “I gotta go,” he added, brushing past her, leaving the young nurse staring after him in annoyance.

 

She finally shook her head as she watched him slide into the seat opposite a man in a camouflage jacket. He watched for a moment longer as the two men engaged in what appeared to be a heated discussion. She finally shrugged and turned to deposit her empty tray on the rack, before pushing the door open.

 

She tossed one last glance at the two men as the older of the pair suddenly shot from his chair and grabbed Charlie by the arm. He pulled the orderly to his feet and shoved the protesting orderly toward the back doors.

Sharon frowned and then shrugged. It was none of her business but Charlie Marsh sure was an odd one and so were his friends. She pushed through the doors and headed back to work.

 

 

Charlie slid into the seat opposite Walt Grady. The man was staring absently into space as he stirred a cup of coffee in front of him. The look on his face gave Charlie the shivers and he suspected that he was plotting his revenge on John Gage and that suited Charlie just fine.

 

“Hey Walt,” he began, reaching out to touch his arm.

 

The older man jumped as if he’d just realized that the dark haired orderly had joined him. “What do you want?” He muttered, still looking like a thundercloud.

 

“You’re gonna love what I just overheard,” he whispered.

 

“Well…What is it? He barked, not in the mood for games. “I just saw Gage; he’s still pretty shook up about his little stint in jail,” he said with a smirk.

 

“Aaw…You’re breakin my heart,” he sneered.

 

Charlie leaned closer. “His partner is planning on taking him camping up in Temescal Canyon,” he informed him quietly. Glancing around to be sure no one else was listening.

 

“When?” Walt barked.

 

Charlie waved him down. “Shhh,” he warned the furious older man. He waited for the older man to resettle before he continued. “He said he’d take him up there today for a couple of days.”

 

“Where in Temescal Canyon?”

 

Charlie looked taken aback. “I uh…I don’t know exactly.”

 

Walt frowned but then shook his head.  “I’ll track him down just like any other animal,” he growled. “Let’s go,” he said, standing up and grabbing Charlie’s arm. He pulled the other man out of his chair.

 

“Wwwwhere?” Charlie stuttered.

 

“I’m gonna get that little creep and you’re gonna help me.”

 

“ME?” Charlie gulped.

 

“You’re my friend. You were Anna’s friend,” he reminded him.

 

Charlie swallowed guiltily. “Now wait Walt…I um…I’m working.”

 

“You can call them from my house. Tell em you got sick or something,” he told him, pushing him toward the back door.

 

Charlie worried his lower lip with his teeth. He didn’t want to get in any more trouble with his supervisor and he certainly never intended to get involved with murder. Anna had been an accident after all, but the lure of seeing that arrogant paramedic get what Charlie thought he had coming was too enticing to pass up; besides, Walt wasn’t exactly giving him an option.

 

“Alright Walt. Let’s go,” he agreed, following the man out.

 

 

Roy helped John into his truck. The young paramedic seemed to be doing better now that he was leaving the hospital and appeared to be more aware of his surroundings.

 

“How ya doin junior?” Roy asked, reaching in to pat his friends shoulder.

 

John tensed beneath his hand but Roy was relieved that he didn’t shrink away as he had earlier. “I’ll bbbe fine,” he mumbled, refusing to look at his partner, His face flushed in embarrassment at the reactions he couldn’t stop or control. “I’m sssorry,” he added, throwing his friend a sideways glance.

 

Roy reached over to cup John’s chin. “Look at me John,” he said firmly, turning the young man’s face toward him, ignoring the tense posture and crimson stained cheeks.

 

The dark eyes rose to meet the worried blue of his best friend. “You know you’ve had a Hell of a morning Junior and you have nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. You got arrested for something you didn’t do, got manhandled by the cops and beat up in a jail cell and got accused of something pretty heinous to boot. I’d be pretty shook up myself and I don’t have ASD or the past you’ve had to live through,” he soothed.

 

John sighed and gave him a slight nod. “I ggguess…I just hhhate being a burden,” he whispered.

 

Roy gave him a poignant smile. “You aren’t…You never will be.”

 

John’s eyes locked with Roy’s while he worried his lower lip with his teeth. “Really?” He asked in disbelief.

 

“I’m incredibly proud to be your friend and big brother, don’t you know that yet?” The sable head shook in the negative and Roy sighed. Sometimes he worried that he’d never be able to get this through to his young friend.  “We’ll I am,” he assured him.

 

“Thanks Rrroy,” he whispered, his face coloring once again, but this time it was with pleased embarrassment and not shame.

 

Roy gently tousled the sable hair, earning him a half hearted swat from John. The older man grinned in relief. Johnny was coming around…Slowly, but it was happening.

 

Roy closed the door before running around to slide behind the wheel. They pulled out and headed for home.

 

 

Vince had been waiting patiently at the front desk while the operator had repeatedly paged Charlie Marsh to Emergency, but he hadn’t responded.

 

He’d sent one of the security guards to watch the pickup truck until the crime scene team arrived to be sure he didn’t take off with it, while another pair searched the hospital, but without success. The man seemed to have vanished. Vince was afraid he’d been tipped off somehow and had slipped away. Now he stood tapping his foot and looking at his watch for the tenth time, he mused. He was finally rewarded with the sight of Detective Frazier finally pushing through the ER doors, search warrant in hand.

 

He shook Lance’s hand. “Glad you made it Lance…The trucks out back. I have someone watching it but we can’t seem to locate Mr. Marsh.”

 

Lance frowned. “You think he suspects?” He questioned worriedly.

 

Vince shrugged. “Don’t know…I met him in the hallway when we first spoke but I don’t think I gave him cause to worry that I was on to him. I mean…At the time I wasn’t so…,” he let the statement hang.

 

“Okay…Guess if he’s our guy, we’ll know it soon enough and then we’ll put out an APB on him. Let’s go take a look at the vehicle.”

 

“Right.” Vince turned to Dixie. “If he shows up, could you find something for him to do that will keep him contained here in Emergency…?” He asked.

 

The blonde nurse nodded her head, figuring she’d just send him in to clean up a few treatment rooms while they searched the truck, after all, how long could it take to search one vehicle?

 

Lance plucked his walkie talkie from his belt and directed his crime scene team around back and then he followed Vince through the double doors that led to the employee parking lot.

 

The guard was still lounged against the wall watching the beat up white truck with a bored expression. “Thanks man; appreciate your help,” Vince told him.

 

“Sure thing officer,” he replied, before heading back inside.

 

The pair walked across the lot to where the vehicle was parked and very shortly the white van carrying the CSU team pulled up behind it. The team rolled open the doors and piled out.

 

One took several photographs of the vehicle from every angle including the tires, while another inked up the treads and carefully took an impression onto white paper.

 

Once that was done, it took them about fifteen seconds with a slim Jim to pop the lock and open the vehicle doors. More photos were taken of the interior before one of them really started looking at the seats and the dashboard area. It didn’t take long before one them waved Lance and Vince over.

 

He pointed at the steering wheel. “Take a look at that sir,” he said letting the men peer at the wheel. There was a perfect finger print in what appeared to be blood. He pointed at the seat to the stain that Vince had seen earlier. Lance waved the camera wielding technician in to pop off a few shots before allowing another to ‘lift’ the print.

 

The man then allowed another to swab the residual for a hopeful blood typing match to one of the victims.

 

He backed out and Vince pointed out to Lance the small patch of blue he’d seen earlier. Lance gave Vince a wry grin before he reached behind the seat with his gloved hand and pulled his prize into view.

 

“Well, well; what do we have here?” He jested, already knowing before he shook the garment out to reveal a paramedic’s uniform shirt. The badge was still on it along with several small spots of blood. The badge twinkled in the sunlight and the number on it was clear…330.

 

That’s John’s,” Vince said with certainty.

 

They glanced to right breast pocket where the name plate had once been attached and noticed the material was slightly torn, where something had obviously been forcefully removed. There were small blood stains on the collar.

 

The camera whirred and clicked again as the technician snapped more photos. “I’d guess we got our man,” Lance said, smirking triumphantly at Vince.

 

“Yeah,” Vince said drily, as he stuffed the shirt into an evidence bag. “Now all we have to do is find him.”

 

 

Roy pulled into his driveway and threw the truck in park. “We’re home Junior,” he said to his partner.

 

John looked up and seemed to finally notice his surroundings before he glanced at his best friend. Roy knew he’d been worrying something around and sat patiently waiting for John to talk to him.

 

He was right; John had been worrying the whole way about what Joanne and the kids would think if they saw him this way; So hesitant and unsure and not the cocky, over confidant persona he usually showed around them.

 

He knew Jo was aware of part of his past, but he didn’t know she’d actually been present both times that he’d broken down in his friend’s arms and told him the story of his childhood early in their partnership.  She’d stood quietly in the darkened doorway, listening and crying softly as he’d confided that horrifying secret to his best friend. She’d wanted to go to Montana and beat ‘Uncle George’ senseless for what he’d done to her ‘baby brother,’ but John hadn’t seen her and Roy had never told him she’d heard almost all of it.

 

It had been bad enough that he’d been so unsure and withdrawn after Scott Jackson and his friends had kidnapped him, but that time he’d been badly beaten and he figured she’d just chalked it up to the stress he’d been through, and the nightmares it had caused, since she’d never actually seen him withdraw, or so he thought. He had no idea she knew the truth.

 

But now he was afraid of what she’d think if she saw him like this, timid and afraid…and what of the kids. Would Chris think less of him if he saw his Uncle as less than the tough and cool fire fighter he thought his Uncle was?

 

And what about the fact that his ‘problems’ were always becoming Roy and his family’s problem’s to deal with. How many times had Joanne had to take care of him while he’d been sick or injured and recovered in her house?

 

John had to battle these demons and those insecurities about himself and his relationship every time his past and that damn Asperger’s reared its ugly head. He wasn’t sure he could hide it from her this time. Not after ‘that memory’ had been resurrected…He shuddered again at the feel of their hands running over his body and remembered Uncle George and his assault on him that night.

 

He finally looked to Roy. “You can tttake me home,” he whispered, not wanting to face Joanne and have her guess the truth and cause any more upheaval for his partner and his family.

 

“Why would I want to do that” Roy asked his friend. His head cocked to the side as he waited for an answer, already knowing where his ‘kid brothers’ head was at right now.

 

“You and Jjjo don’t need to bbbabysit me,” he stuttered. “I’ll be alright…I jjjust need…I just nnneed some tttime.”

 

“I know, and I plan to see you get that, but it’s not babysitting. I just don’t think you need to be alone right now. I know you partner and you’ll just pull into yourself and I don’t want that to happen,” he said simply.

 

John threw him another worried glance. “Dddon’t ya ever get ttt…tired of me and mmm...my hang-ups, “he whispered uncertainly?

 

“No John; No I don’t, because anyone who’s been put through what you have in your life, isn’t ever going to just let the memories go and move on junior, but you’ve managed to go on with your life despite them. You don’t make me tired my friend” he assured him. “You impress the hell outta me,” the blonde paramedic finished

 

“What about Jjjo…?

 

“What about her?”

“She mmmust get tired of me mmmessing up your lives all the tt…time,” he mumbled, staring at his hands.

 

Roy stared at him shock. “John: She adores you. You’re her little brother the same as you are mine,” he reassured him, understanding his friend’s insecurities better than Johnny did sometimes and where they stemmed from.

 

John didn’t look convinced. “I’m sss…sorry about all this,” he murmured unhappily.

 

“Me too. You shouldn’t have had to go through any of it.”

 

“I mmm…mean messing up your dddays off. You hhh…had things to dddo,” he added.

 

Roy’s mouth dropped open in shock. “YOU MESSED UP MY DAYS OFF?” He barked incredulously, with a raised eyebrow. John flinched at the tone and shot him another uncertain glance.  “Like some over eager lone ranger yahoo didn’t have something to do with that?”He barked.

 

John gave him a sideways look and the barest hint of the infamous Gage smile at the description of officer Warren. “I sss…should be able to ttttake care of my…myself,” he stammered, his face coloring in embarrassment.

 

“Cut it out John,” Roy said simply. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about and we all need help once in a while,” he added.

 

John tugged at his lower lip for a few seconds. “I ssseem to nnneed it more often th…than most,” he stuttered, glancing away. “I’m such a pppain in the ass and I hate being a bbburd…”

 

“DON’T finish that sentence Junior,” Roy interrupted sternly.

 

John remembered how much Roy hated it when he said things like that. “I’m sss…sorry,” he mumbled.

 

“And stop apologizing all the time,” Roy added, reaching to turn John’s face toward him. The younger  man twitched nervously but finally allowed Roy to turn his head toward him. “You’re my best friend and my kid brother right?” He stressed, forcing John’s head up and the dark eyes to lift and meet his. Johnny nodded. “You’re family and we take care of each other right?”

 

John nodded but his eyes shifted away. “When’s it mmmy turn to take cccare of you?”

 

Roy stared at him incredulously. “Are you kidding?” He asked, before continuing without waiting for an answer. “How many times have you pushed me outta the way so I didn’t get hurt? Who sat by my hospital bed for days while he was bleeding internally because he didn’t want to leave me alone? Who almost fell off a roof hanging onto me so I wouldn’t fall or left the hospital with two broken ribs to come find me in the middle of a brush fire?” He finished half out of breath from the recitation.

 

John chewed his lip nervously as his partner reeled off the list.

 

“It’s been a mutual partnership all the way Junior,” he stressed, once again forcing John to look at him.

 

John saw the sincerity in the blue eyes locked with his. “Okay,” he finally murmured.

 

“Good…Now let’s go inside. I’m starving and you need to change and get some rest before we take off. It’ll be a long hike and you can use some sleep before we go,” he added.

 

John nodded. He wasn’t very hungry at this point but he was exhausted and his head was aching.

 

Roy climbed from the truck, certain he’d straightened his friends thinking out once again.

 

 

Joanne was standing in the living room when the pair entered the house. She’d been getting worried that something was wrong when Roy hadn’t gotten home and assumed it had been an early morning call out that had held them up.

 

She’d heard the truck pull in and had breathed a sigh of relief that he was finally home and that must mean that everything was okay or he would have called. She was starting to get a bit worried when he hadn’t come in. She’d glanced at the clock in the kitchen and had realized that almost twenty minutes had passed.

 

She decided to go out and see if everything was okay when she saw the pair coming up the walk. She had no problem with the fact that John was with him and assumed that they’d been talking and that was what had held them up. She started to go back to the kitchen to begin making lunch for the pair but she stopped as the door opened and turned to greet them.

 

Roy hadn’t had the opportunity to call and warn her so the look on her face when she saw Johnny wasn’t a surprise. Her eyes widened in shock at the bruises and the torn shirt.

 

“What happened to you?” She gasped, her blue eyes shooting an accusing look at her husband. “Why didn’t you call and tell me Johnny got hurt?” She questioned, angry that John had been injured and that she’d been left out of the loop.

 

John stood looking downcast while Roy held up his hand to stop the barrage of questions he knew would be forth coming, not wanting to put John through it all again while he explained. “Everything happened so fast babe. I didn’t have time to call. I’ll fill you in on everything while I eat but Johnny is really tired and he needs to get some sleep, right Junior?” He suggested, knowing if he told her the truth, she’d go to John to try and coddle the young man and he knew John would resist her efforts.

 

Her hands landed on her rounded hips and her jaw set determinedly. “Tell me now,” she stressed with a raised eyebrow, her blue eyes flicking between the pair suspiciously.

 

John’s eyes were locked on the floor and his cheeks flushed in embarrassment.

 

Roy sighed. “There was a misunderstanding with a cop,” he said quietly.

 

Jo’s eyes narrowed warily. “What kind of misunderstanding?” She asked, walking toward the pair.

 

“Jo; can we please talk about this later?” He pleaded, shooting a  warning glance toward John.

 

She shot a ‘not a chance’ look at her husband. Something was wrong with her ‘boy’ and she  wanted some answers…Now.

 

She reached up to gently cup his cheek. The young man tensed beneath her fingers but didn’t pull away. It didn’t matter. Jo felt the reaction and saw the wary look in the dark eyes. “Oh baby…Are you okay?” She asked, looking up into his face.

 

John’s shoulder’s lifted in a half hearted shrug, trying desperately to hold it together. He gave her a small nod. “I’ll bbbe okay,” he stuttered, not wanting to lose it completely and fall into the arms of this woman who’d become his big sister and the occasional surrogate mom and totally humiliate himself.

 

She didn’t give him an option. Joanne saw the flush of color, the averted gaze and she heard the stutter loud and clear, despite the softness of his reply. Her heart melted as it always did around this young man she’d taken into her home and her heart.

 

She rose on tip toe and put her arms around his neck, hugging him to her.

 

Roy heard the distressed hitch to his young partner’s breaths as he struggled to hold on to his control of his emotions and he was almost glad. That meant John hadn’t retreated behind those cold walls he’d erected around his heart in the past.

 

Jo rubbed his back gently and to Roy’s surprise and relief, he didn’t pull away. He welcomed the embrace and the peace he felt with this woman and in knowing that Roy had been right. She didn’t resent him and his problems, she loved him and cared about him. He returned the hug.

 

The dark eyes finally lifted to meet Roy’s and the older blonde saw the unshed tears he couldn’t blink away, but he also saw the more relaxed features and smiled. For an orphaned child, raised without tenderness and love and had only known abuse, Joanne and her ‘mothering’ instinct had been just what John needed right now.

 

She finally stepped back, reaching up to smooth the dark locks away from the bruise on his forehead. “Are you okay? Did a doctor take a look at that?” She asked worriedly.

 

John nodded. “Yeah…It’s a real mmmild con...concussion,” he told her. “But Bbbrackett said I’d bbbe okay?” He mumbled, red faced at the stutter he couldn’t control.

 

“Are you hungry?” She asked.

 

John shook his head. “Just wwwanna lie down for a wwwhile,” he replied.

 

“Okay sweetheart,” she agreed, shooting a look toward her husband.

 

Roy could tell she suspected something more had happened than a bruise or two and she was going to want answers. He nodded his silent agreement to give them to her after John was asleep.

 

“C’mon then Junior…Let’s get you settled,” he suggested, taking hold of John’s arm and steering him toward the small bedroom off the dining room that he used whenever he spent the night. It had long ago been dubbed ‘Johnny’s room’ and he’d spent many nights in it recuperating from an illness or injury.

 

The young man gave him a grateful look as he led him inside, but he’d only gone a couple of steps inside before he stopped.

 

Roy gave him an odd look. “What is it Junior?” He asked in concern.

 

John’s dark eyes shifted around the small enclosed space, feeling as if the walls were being drawn in around him. He stepped back and spun about, almost knocking Roy over in his haste to exit the room.

 

“I cccan’t stay in hhere,” he whispered, a desperate look back in his eyes.

“Why? What’s wrong Johnny?” Roy asked, looking around the harmless seeming room in concern. John had slept here many times.

 

“Too sm…small…Cccan’t,” he stuttered.

 

Roy suddenly understood. Being locked in that tiny jail cell had really freaked John out. “C’mon Johnny. It’s a nice day out, maybe you’d sleep better out on the deck,” he suggested, leading him away from the room and pushing the sliding doors open.

 

John gave him a grateful look. “Yeah…Yeah; Gggood idea,” he breathed out in relief, almost bolting past his friend and out onto the deck.

 

Joanne gave Roy a confused glance as her young friend raced past her and out the door. Her husband shook his head and followed John out.

 

The young man stood at the edge looking out over the back yard. His breaths came in short gasps and his hands were white knuckled as they clutched the railing. Roy came up beside him and John gave him an embarrassed sideways glance. “I’m sorry,” he panted, looking almost sick.

 

“Don’t be,” he said quietly. “I understand,” he said, reaching over to slowly rest his hand on John’s back.

 

“I know you do,” he mumbled.

 

Roy gave him a light pat. “Tell ya what. You lay down right here on the lounge chair and try and get some rest and when you wake up, we’ll head up into the mountains and all that fresh air and wide open spaces,” he suggested. “It’ll give you the chance to really clear your head,” he added knowingly.  

 

John nodded eagerly. “Good idea,” he breathed out in relief, hoping a couple of days of peace would give him time to come to grips with past and present and clear his head of the old memories. Setting the past back where it belonged. Hidden away where no one else could see the pain and fear he normally kept deep inside.

 

Sometimes he wished he could tell Roy everything, but it was just too painful, too humiliating and even though he’d shared some of what had happened with Roy, he was afraid that the whole story would be too much for his cool as a cucumber friend to handle and he’d walk away. John wished he could just walk away too, but the ghosts of memories followed him everywhere.

 

Roy watched the play of emotion cross John’s features and wondered what was running through his young friends head. He wished that John would just unload it all to him and clear the hurt and embarrassment of his past, but he knew John wasn’t ready to open up that part of him yet.

 

Maybe someday when Dr. Hightower thought he and John were ready, he’d ask her to teach him how get John to open up and trust him with all of his heart and his pain.

 

He waited for John to get settled and close his eyes before he stepped back inside and slid the door almost closed…Leaving it open enough to hear Johnny if he needed him.

 

Joanne was waiting when he turned around. Her blue eyes looking over his shoulder at the young man lying on the chaise for a long moment before turning back to him. “Alright…Spill it,” she demanded unceremoniously.

 

Roy grinned and led her to the table where he spent several minutes explaining the mornings events.

 

Jo was spitting mad by the time he was through. “How could anyone think John was capable of such a thing?” She snapped angrily. Roy shrugged and shook his head. “Are they gonna do something about this jerk?” She demanded.

 

“Yeah…I think Vince was pretty mad himself,” he told her.

 

“Well I should think so,” she growled. “He’s known Johnny almost as long as you have. He knows John isn’t capable of that.”

 

“Yeah, he knows.”

 

“So what are you planning to do?” She asked, starting to calm down a bit.

 

“Well you saw how he reacted to being in his room?” She nodded her head. “So I thought I’d take him up to the mountains for a couple of days. Give him a chance to sort this all out in his head, if you don’t mind?” He clarified, giving Jo a hopeful look.

 

“Of course I don’t. If Johnny needs some time, then that’s what you need to do,” she replied simply.

 

Roy blew out a relieved breath that his wife understood John so well and wasn’t upset about him taking off with John and leaving her alone with the kids and a list of unfinished honey do’s.

 

“Sorry to abandon you babe,” he said softly.

 

She grinned and pushed herself to her feet before she leaned over to kiss him. “You just take care of our boy,” she said against his lips.

 

A snort of laughter erupted from Roy’s mouth before he got it under control. “You know I love you babe,” he said, grateful that she cared about John as much as he did and understood their friendship better than he and Johnny did sometimes.

 

He reached up to catch her mouth with his own, letting his lips play over hers for a long moment before he broke the kiss. “I love you babe,” he said softly.

 

She grinned. “I know you do; I love you too,” she said turning away and heading for the kitchen to finally get Roy’s lunch.

 

She returned a few minutes later. “So what are you going to do now?” She asked as he ate.

 

He swallowed the bite before he answered. “I’m gonna call Cap and tell him what’s going on and then we’ll get ready to head out for some peace and quiet,” he said softly.

 

 

To Be Continued in Part 4....

Posted to Site 1/23/16

Links to Parts  1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

 

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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order. The characters of Emergency belong to Universal and Mark VII but the stories themselves however, are the property of the author and ANY alteration is a copyright infringement.

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