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Rated PG-13 for violence and language.
A friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself…
“V-FIB!” The urgent shout rang out from twenty four year old Paramedic John Gage as the two ambulance attendants wheeled the gurney through the emergency entrance at Rampart. They stopped long enough for the young paramedic to step up on the rails and begin chest compressions, before continuing on.
There were several people in the corridor and everyone stopped to watch as they ran past them toward the treatment room, where a crash team was waiting.
Twenty six year old Orderly, Charlie Marsh was one of them. He heard the commotion and turned to see what was happening. The utility cart he’d been pushing was now standing dead center of the hallway.
“Get that cart out of the way!” Nurse Sally Lewis snapped, reaching out to push the cart to one side, while shooting Charlie and annoyed glare.
These orderlies were told to clear the hall during an emergency, the pretty blonde nurse mused sourly, but Charlie seldom followed the rules. He tended to be arrogant and lazy and he gave Sally the creeps the way he leered at her sometimes.
“Treatment three,” she directed the group as she trotted beside them. They spun the gurney and pushed it into the treatment room and the door swung shut behind them.
The hallway remained silent for several long moments, while people contemplated what they’d just witnessed and wondered what life and death struggle was taking place behind that door. Finally, everyone resumed whatever they’d been doing before the action had occurred.
Sally stepped back out into the corridor. Dixie and Nurse Betty Miller had it under control and she wasn’t needed for now. She was joined a moment later by Sharon Walters.
Sharon was a young student nurse that Charlie thought was gorgeous…Come to think of it, so was Sally, but neither woman would give him the time of day.
His dark brown eyes watched the pair as they walked toward him up the hall. He frowned irritably as pieces of their conversation wafted to his ears.
“Did you see him Sally…He looked like such a hero doing that,” the young, auburn haired girl gushed with a mooney eyed look.
The pretty blonde nurse smiled at the girl. “I saw him…He looked pretty impressive up there didn’t he?” She teased her friend. Sally was joking with Sharon but she, like so many others, also admired the young paramedic, though she’d never tell him so, after all...John Gage had a bit of a reputation among the nurses here at Rampart.
Sharon nodded. “He’s so cute,” she said but then she sighed, “But he doesn’t even know I’m alive,” she added forlornly.
Charlie perked up a bit; Maybe Sharon would be open to dating him if the high and mighty paramedic wasn’t interested in her. “Hi Sharon,” he said hopefully as she and Sally passed him.
The two women shot him a sideways glance. Oh hi…um…?” She paused, giving him an apologetic smile that she couldn’t remember his name.
“Charlie,” he ground out between teeth clenched in anger. She didn’t even know who he was, while she fawned over that paramedic.
“Oh right…Charlie; I’ll see you around,” she added dismissively, turning back to Sally to continue their conversation.
“So, have you asked him out?” Sally asked as they walked a bit further up the hall.
“Oh no …He’s got so many other girls; I can’t even get him to notice me,” she said forlornly as they stopped walking and continued to chat.
Charlie glared at the pair; He knew exactly how she felt.
Sally giggled at her young friend’s hopeless look. “Don’t feel bad Sharon…He doesn’t notice me either,” she pointed out. “Besides, he’s cute and super sweet but he does have an uh…reputation for being a bit of a lothario,” she reminded her.
“I know,” the girl sighed.
“Besides, you’re a really pretty girl…You could have your pick and he should be begging you for a date not the other way around,” she added.
Sharon shook her head. “He’s so handsome and brave…and I think he sees me like a little girl…I’d probably have to pay him to get him to go out with me,” she said dejectedly.
Charlie shook his head…Women could be so shallow sometimes; all they cared about was a uniform and a handsome face. Even threatening to pay the guy; they were all tramps, he reflected spitefully. Tease a guy with their smiles and tight clothes and batting eyes and then turn their back on him.
He glared at the pair once again. Here he was, willing and interested and all they could talk about was Gage; falling all over themselves to get his attention just because of his uniform, he mused, thinking that’s all it would take to get their attention.
A door opened up the hall and the object of their conversation stepped out of the room along with his partner and the head nurse of the Emergency department, Dixie McCall. He wiped the sweat from his brow before turning his head toward his blonde friend, Roy DeSoto.
Sally sighed as they walked up the hall toward them and Sharon giggled, poking her older friend in the ribs. “You think he’s as nice as I do,” she accused with a grin.
Sally waggled her eyebrows suggestively. “Yes I do, but Johnny likes to play the field and I want someone who’s serious. He’s not ready to settle down yet,” she finished, dropping her voice to a conspiratorial whisper as the two men got closer.
Charlie clenched his teeth angrily. He settle for either one of these girls and they couldn’t even remember his name while they mooned over Gage, he seethed angrily, throwing a glare over to where the man and his partner were now standing at the base station, oblivious to the two women gawking over him.
The pair threw Dixie a wave and a smile before they headed up the hall toward the girls.
“Hi Johnny,” Sally greeted, giving Sharon a light push to prod her into talking to him.
“Uh…Hi…Um…J…Johnny,” the young woman stammered nervously.
“Hi Sally, hey Sharon,” he replied absently, throwing the pair his trade mark crooked grin before he and Roy continued walking, engrossed in their own conversation about the last victim, relieved that the doctors were pretty sure he was going to make it.
Sharon sighed at that smile and Sally giggled. “I love that smile too,” Sally said, patting Sharon on the shoulder.
Charlie’s temper simmered once again. She’ couldn’t remember him, but she couldn’t even spit Gage’s out without stuttering, he sneered to himself.
Sally and Sharon had turned to watch John walk away; Sally caught the angry glare the man was throwing at Johnny’s back and then the narrowed gaze he shot toward them a moment later.
“Come on Sharon,” she said, gripping the younger girls arm and steering her away from the surly looking orderly. She shuddered a bit; Charlie Marsh gave her the creeps.
Dark gray clouds and the haze of smog covered most of the stars glittering in the Los Angeles predawn sky.
Twenty five year old Tara Seton paced impatiently in the darkness alongside the highway. She stopped in front of her disabled vehicle. She pushed her dark brown hair from her eyes and used the headlights of her car to check her watch for the third time in the last ten minutes.
She looked up the road, hoping to see the flashing yellow lights of the tow truck she’d called for over an hour ago, but she was disappointed. She kicked her high heels off and leaned against the car in annoyance, lifting one foot to inspect the blister that had formed from walking the mile and a half to the nearest call box for help when her car had sputtered to a halt, not to mention the return trip.
She threw her white sports car an angry glare at the predicament the traitorous vehicle had left her in before she sighed at her own foolishness at being angry at a hunk of metal that neither knew, nor cared that she was upset.
She glanced hopefully up the highway once again. Traffic was light at this early hour of the morning and had the tow truck been on its way, she’d be able to see it, but there was no such luck.
Headlights lit the area briefly as cars passed, but they all continued on. She slipped her shoes back on to continue her annoyed pacing.
One vehicle came toward her and a moment later it began to slow, crossing three lanes of freeway to pull off on the shoulder of the road where Tara was parked.
It pulled up in front of her, effectively blocking the car and keeping her from driving away, even if her car had been running.
A maybe six foot tall, slender, dark haired man climbed from the driver’s seat of a white pickup truck and sauntered toward her. Tara squinted into the darkness, trying to get a look at the man’s face, but it was shrouded in darkness, not to mention the baseball cap pulled down low over his brow, adding to her inability to see his face clearly. All she could make out was a thin mouth and a straight nose beneath the brim.
Tara moved to her car and slid inside, before locking the doors. The man scowled, but then forced a smile as she cracked the window down enough to talk to him. He gave her a grin. “Hi,” he greeted in a friendly manner. His mouth curling up at the corners, revealing slightly crooked teeth, but still, he seemed pleasant enough; not threatening at all and she relaxed a bit.
“Hi,” she replied.
“What’s the problem?” He asked.
“I don’t know; it just quit,” she replied with a shrug.
“Let me take a look,” he offered, trying to open her door for her to exit the vehicle.
Tara tensed nervously; glad she’d thought to lock it. “No; that’s okay, I have a tow truck coming,” she assured him quickly.
The smile fell away and the man’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not bein real friendly,” he sneered, before he caught himself and tried to smile reassuringly. “It’s just that you’re a real pretty girl; you shouldn’t be out here all alone in the dark. Bad things could happen,” he warned
“I’ll be fine…Just go away,” Tara said, sounding scared now.
Fury colored the man’s face and he began to yank on the door handle, while his left hand snaked through the small opening of the window, grasping the glass and trying to rip it free; Tara frantically tried to roll it up. She screamed loudly.
“OPEN THIS DOOR!” The man shouted at her.
“GO AWAY!” She shrieked, pounding at his hands with her fists, but it seemed to barely bother the now enraged man.
“WHATSA MATTER,” he sneered. “NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?” he screeched.
Tara’s heart was pounding in her chest in terror. Her eyes were suddenly caught by a flash of yellow in her rearview mirror and she almost wept in relief as the tow truck she’d called for suddenly slowed and pulled off the road behind them.
A man’s voice shouted. “HEY YOU…WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?”
Her attacker punched the window with frustrated rage, giving her an angry sneer. “BITCH!” He yelled as he turned and fled back to his truck.
The tow truck driver ran after him but he was too late. The dirty, white truck threw out a spurt of dirt and gravel as the man floored it and pulled away, the back end fished tailed wildly for a moment before he regained control and sped up the highway, his tail lights receding into the predawn gloom.
The tow truck driver turned and ran back to the shaking, sobbing girl. “Are you alright Miss?” He asked.
She nodded and quickly unlocked her door before she jumped out and practically threw herself into her rescuers arms. “Thank you,” she wept as he led her back to his truck and helped her into the passenger seat.
He went around to his own and picked up his radio to get his dispatcher to call the police.
Two days later:
Roy and Johnny had been on the go all morning, starting just after roll call, with one run after another. They hadn’t even had time for coffee between calls and they were both tired and hungry by the time they dragged in from the latest call out…A cardiac case that had gone sour.
Hank and the crew had been on the run with them and had watched the pair of paramedics work tirelessly to save the woman, but in the end, all they could do was watch their crew mates speed off toward the hospital, still doing CPR and hoping they’d get her back before it was too late.
The pair backed the rig into the bay and climbed out. “Man, I need some coffee,” Johnny said tiredly.
“I want something to eat,” Roy added.
Captain Hank Stanley stepped from his office before the pair could make it to the kitchen. “Hey guys…How’s the lady?” He asked.
“She arrested twice more on the way to Rampart but Johnny did a helluva job of CPR and they got her going again before we left,” Roy replied, giving his young partner a proud thump off the shoulder.
John smiled his appreciation at his friend as Hank reached out and gave his youngest crew member a slap on the back. “Good job pal; that’s two for two,” he complimented the dark haired paramedic.
“Thanks Cap,” he replied with a pleased grin as the three men headed toward the kitchen.
“What’s for lunch? I’m starved,” Roy questioned as they walked.
“I think Mike is making fried chicken,” Captain Stanley told them.
John’s face lit up. “Good deal,” he said enthusiastically.
Linesman Marco Lopez was setting the table as they came into the room, while Mike was busy placing the chicken pieces on a serving platter. “Move it Kelly,” the handsome Hispanic man growled, as he attempted to put a plate where his partner had his newspaper spread.
Chet appeared not to hear as he continued to read whatever article had caught his attention. Marco finally set the plate down on top of it.
“Hey Marc; I’m reading here,” Chet protested indignantly.
“Relax Chet, I’m sure he just didn’t realize you knew how to read,” Johnny said with a snicker. He plucked a French fry from the bowl and popped it in his mouth, with a waggle of his dark brows and throwing the curly haired fireman and impish grin.
“Cute Gage,” Chet growled, pushing the plate aside.
“So what’s so interestin?” John asked curiously, plopping himself down at the table next to his partner. He grabbed the milk and poured himself a glass. He poured one for Roy as well before setting the carton down. He took a sip of his own before returning his attention to the Irish fire fighter. He looked at Chet expectantly, drawing a snicker of amusement from the curly haired linesman at the milk mustache decorating Gage’s upper lip. “What?” John questioned, looking annoyed.
“I know you’re too young to grow a real one John, but that looks tacky,” he said with a taunting laugh.
John’s frown of confusion only made the Irish man laugh harder.
Roy sighed and shook his head at his young partner. John was such a kid sometimes, but still; Roy was incredibly fond of his friend. He handed John a napkin. “You have a milk mustache junior,” he told him.
John rolled his eyes at Kelly in aggravation, before he used his arm instead of the napkin to wipe the milk away.
“Gross Gage,” Chet groaned.
John shrugged, seeing no need to waste the napkin when his arm would do just as well. John had been raised on an Indian Reservation for most of his young life and hadn’t been required to learn the ‘niceties’ of the white society. It was something his Aunt had despaired of teaching her nephew after she’d taken him in at fourteen, that and talking with his mouth full, though he could mimic her manners precisely when and if he chose too.
Roy shook his strawberry blonde head, well used to John’s bad manners and was usually unconcerned unless his kids were around. He didn’t want them picking up their ‘uncles’ bad habits.
“What’s so gross?” John asked indignantly around a mouthful of French fries.
“Well that for one,” Chet sneered, looking disgusted.
”Oh shut up Chet,” Johnny growled after he’d swallowed. “So what’s so important?” He questioned, nodding toward the newspaper.
“Oh…Just that we seem to have some psycho running around out there attacking women on the freeway,” he explained.
“Seriously?” Roy asked worriedly; his mind turning to Joanne. He’d have to be sure she stayed off the freeway until this guy was caught.
“Yup…Says here that it’s usually real early in the morning and he finds them broken down on the highway or something and pretends to want to help them. It’s warning all women to be careful of who approaches them.”
“Wow,” John murmured around a mouthful of chicken. “How many have there been?” He asked.
"So far…Three,” Chet replied.
“Has he hurt any of them?” Roy asked.
“Nope; not yet…He comes off like he wants to help them but so far the women have all been pretty cautious and managed to get away.”
“Well that’s good anyway,” Mike said.
“Guess he’s pretty insulting too…Calls them names and stuff.”
John threw him an incredulous look. “Well I don’t imagine he’d be real flattering while he was attacking them,” John said snidely.
“Well I didn’t write the article Gage, I’m just telling ya what it said,” he shot back.
Hank saw the argument heating up and spoke before John could retaliate. “Well, we all need to keep alert on any early morning runs,” he suggested.
“Any description of the guy?” Marco asked, thinking of his sisters being on the road.
“Tall, thin and dark haired is all it says…Oh and he drives a white truck,” he added.
“Could be describing you amigo,” Marco teased, looking over at Johnny.
John gave him an indignant look. “Hey…I don’t have to attack any one…I’m a lover not a fighter,” he reminded them.
Chet snorted. “A lover? Of what? Mike’s fried chicken?” He taunted.
“You’re just jealous,” John replied smugly. “The only thing that’ll date you is an Irish Setter,” he said with a smirk.
Chet opened his mouth to reply but Hank intervened. “Boys…Let’s play nice,” he said firmly, shooting both of them a stern look. Hank sometimes felt like he was running a playground full of recalcitrant school children. He shot both of them a no nonsense glare and they subsided, recognizing Hanks tone and that it brooked no argument. They returned their attention to their plates. “Besides…Irish Setters are very smart dogs…They wouldn’t date Chet either,” he added knowingly before taking a bite of chicken.
John almost spit his milk across the table as the others broke into laughter, all except Chet who threw his Captain an indignant scowl.
The SCU tones began to sound. Station 51…Vehicle accident with injuries…,” Sam Lanier’s voice began.
John took a final bite of his chicken before he grabbed his navy blue jacket from the back of his chair and ran for the squad.
He slid into the passenger seat next to his partner just as Hank handed the senior paramedic a slip of paper with the address on it. The tall Captain ran for the engine and the two vehicles pulled out into traffic, sirens wailing.
John wiped the chicken grease on his fingers against his navy blue pants before he plucked his green pen from his pocket and logged the time on the sheet of paper.
Roy shook his head at the gesture but said nothing as they drove on. The blonde paramedic pulled up at the scene a short time later.
One car had blown through the stop sign and broadsided the other. There was shattered glass and two twisted hulks of metal. John and Roy exchanged a glance at the sight, knowing the injuries from this were going to be bad.
They quickly climbed from the cab and Roy ran around to help Johnny gather their equipment from the side compartment before they trotted toward the wreckage.
The smell of gasoline permeated the air and John turned toward his Captain, but he hadn’t needed to worry; Hank had already noticed it too.
“Marco, pull an inch and a half and start hosing down that gas,” he called to his handsome Hispanic linesman.
“Right away Cap,” he called back.
Chet was already standing near one of the vehicles with a pry bar. “Doors jammed,” he informed John as he approached.
Johnny nodded. “Keep trying with that and I’ll go around a check the other door,” he replied, casting a glance toward his partner.
Roy was leaning inside the shattered window of the other vehicle and John could tell he was checking for a pulse. The blonde turned. “Cap; I’m gonna need the jaws over here,” he yelled, warning John that his victim was alive and pinned inside the car. Hank threw him a hand wave of acknowledgement before he turned and ran for the squad to retrieve the requested item.
John turned his attention back to his own injured patient. Chet was using the pry bar on the other side with little success and could see the blood on the leg of the female driver of the car. A large shard of glass was imbedded in her thigh and from the amount of blood, John knew she most likely had a nicked artery and was in real trouble. He needed to move fast.
He pulled his spanner from the small hook on the front of his turnout and began knocking the broken glass clear of the frame before using his gloved hand to tug away the last few stubborn pieces.
He finally had it clear enough to slide his body through the opening and into the passenger seat of the car. He leaned over the woman’s lap to get a better look at the injury but refrained from touching it for the moment.
His dark eyes scanned the wound. It was bleeding heavily but not spurting as it would be if the artery had been severed clean through. That at least was a blessing, but he was still pretty sure it had been nicked and the glass was acting like a plug.
“Chet…I’m gonna need a tourniquet and the trauma box,” he called over to the Irish fire fighter.
“Okay,” he agreed, followed by…. “Got it,” he grunted as the door finally gave up the fight and popped open. He dropped the tool and ran for the squad to get the Trauma box.
Roy and Cap had managed to get inside the other car and were working on the elderly man trapped inside. Chet could see the C-collar was already in place and Roy was taping a bandage over the wound on the man’s forehead.
“Roy?” He called out to the senior paramedic.
The blonde glanced up and looked toward him. “Yeah?”
“Johnny’s got a real bad wound over here and he’ll need you to relay for him,” he told him.
I’m almost done here…Tell him I’ll be right over as soon as I get him on a backboard.”
“Got it…I’ll tell Gage,” he assured him, before he turned and trotted back over to where John was working.
The woman was slowly beginning to regain consciousness and was moaning softly. Chet set the box down and squatted next to the victim. “How’s she doin?” He questioned. Noticing John’s hands were coated in blood at this point.
“She’s bleeding bad…You got that tourniquet?” The young fire fighter questioned.
“Yeah,” he replied, popping open the box and rummaging through it until he located the narrow strap. He handed it to John.
The young paramedic had to release the pressure he was holding on the wound to take it and when he did, blood spurted, leaving a thin trail over his face and down the front of his shirt. Chet turned a mild shade of sickly green but Johnny never hesitated as he snapped the tourniquet from Kelly’s hand and quickly got it in place around her thigh before tightening it.
“Don’t puke Kelly,” he growled in annoyance. “I need you to get me a couple of 4X4’s and some gauze so I can secure this glass,” he began to speak.
Chet swallowed heavily, prepared to stick it out and help. “Yeah,” he mumbled but the items suddenly appeared before him and he blew out a relieved breath. John glanced up and looked into the blue eyes of his partner and grinned. They worked together so well that they usually already knew what the other would need before it was asked for.
John took the items from Roy and set to work on wrapping the wound and securing the glass shard, while Roy got a blood pressure and pulse. Chet had retreated from the immediate vicinity but had stayed to set up the biophone.
“Rampart, this is squad 51,” he spoke quietly.
“Go ahead 51,” The reply came back quickly and Chet assumed that Roy had already informed them of the second victim and had them on standby.
“Rampart; we have a female, approximately thirty…She’s been involved in a vehicle accident. She has a piece of glass about six inches long imbedded in her right thigh.”
“What are the vitals 51?” Brackett’s voice questioned.
“Stand by Rampart…Gage and DeSoto are checking her now,” he replied.
“Chet…” Roy called.
“BP is 90/60…She’s losing a lot of blood. Her pulse is weak and thready; respiration 16 and shallow,” he called.
Chet nodded and dutifully reported the results to Rampart. “10-4 Squad 51…Has the bleeding been stopped?”
“They have applied a tourniquet Rampart but there is still some bleeding. Gage is stabilizing the glass shard before we can transport,” he replied.
At the base station, Brackett grinned at Dixie. She arched a blonde eyebrow in amusement. “Saves me the trouble of telling them to do that,” he quipped to his long time friend and former lover. She nodded and he returned to the call. “10-4 51…Tell them to start and IV...Ringers Lactate wide open. Is there any sign of a head injury?” He questioned.
“Give her .5 mgs of MS…Immobilize her as a precaution and transport.”
“10-4 Rampart…IV Ringers and .5 mgs MS…Immobilize and transport,” he affirmed, catching Roy’s eye to be sure he’d heard. The blonde paramedic nodded but he’d already had the IV solution in hand.
John finished wrapping the leg and the glass to keep it from moving and held out his hand even without looking up. Roy handed him the MS and quickly got the IV started himself. “You about ready to move her?” He questioned his young partner.
“Yup…MS is in; let’s get her on the backboard.”
Roy waved Chet and Marco over with the board and they slid her carefully onto it before lifting her out and setting her on the gurney. Roy glanced at Johnny; the younger man’s hands were covered in blood and shirt and face sported a thin red striping of the crimson liquid. “Why don’t you go with the ambulance…You can clean up some on the way in,” the older man suggested.
John glanced down at his own hands as if noticing their caked appearance for the first time. His dark eyes took in the stains on his shirt and he sighed. “Man…I hope the cleaners can get that out,” he said ruefully, adding the cost of replacing the shirt up in his head.
Roy grinned, knowing how uh… ‘thrifty’ Johnny could be. John had been raised in poverty and had been taught early on that he better take care of what he had because his family would make sure he’d know their displeasure if they had to replace it, and even being taken in by rather wealthy Aunt when he was fourteen hadn’t broken that mindset; it had been beaten in.
“Maybe Dixie’ll have something that’ll take that out,” Roy suggested, giving his young partner a gentle push toward the ambulance.
John climbed inside and Roy slammed the door, giving it two hard slaps to let the driver know it was okay to pull out before he turned and trotted toward the squad.
Johnny did a quick check of the patients IV and her pupilary reaction before he sat back and reached into the drug box for a couple of alcohol wipes. He managed to clean some of the sticky liquid from his hands, but the rest would have to wait until they got to Rampart.
Thankfully the ride was only a few miles. It only took a few minutes before he felt the ambulance make the wide turn into the emergency bay and reverse direction to back into the parking space. The attendants whisked the doors open and quickly pulled the gurney out.
Dixie was waiting to wave them into treatment room four where Brackett was waiting. “Don’t transfer her,” he ordered as they wheeled her inside. He snapped up a pair of scissors and quickly cut the bandages away. He looked over the wound, refraining from touching the glass shard.
His dark brows furrowed over his nose in an expression John had come to recognize as deep concentration. He finally stood up straight. “Take her up to OR 3,” he told the attendants.
They nodded and reversed course, taking her out into the hall, glancing about uncertainly; Brackett followed. John was close behind him. The doctor spotted an orderly. He’d seen him around but couldn’t remember the guy’s name. He snapped his fingers to get the man’s attention.
He turned around and spotted the arrogant doctor and the ‘hero’ paramedic who just grated on his nerves. The dark haired man scowled at the rather rude gesture but quickly covered up the sneer.
“Show these two men to OR 2,” he barked without any niceties, before turning back to John. He reached out to pat John’s shoulder. “Good job out there Johnny,” he said with a grin as Dixie joined them. The compliment set the orderlies teeth to grinding in annoyance.
He jerked his head toward the elevators and the pair of attendants pushed the gurney down the hall.
Brackett’s eyes scanned the blood stained blue shirt. “Why don’t you see if Dixie can get the blood out of that,” he suggested, “I need to go scrub up,” he added before he also turned and headed toward the elevators.
Charlie gave Brackett and Gage a sneer of contempt as he walked toward the elevator with the attendants. The high and mighty doctor didn’t even know his name, but fawned over that skinny paramedic just like all those nurses and those other women that turned their noses up at him, but fell all over themselves to win Gage’s attention.
Even the head nurse, Dixie McCall hung on his every word and never even noticed Charlie. He’d make them pay attention, he mused scornfully. Women were definitely noticing him now. He almost chuckled at the thought and the fear he saw reflected in their faces. They’d never forget him again.
Brackett left the paramedic and headed toward them and Charlie schooled his features to the blank look he usually wore. The elevator doors closed, cutting off the view of the irritating paramedic and the blonde nurse.
John glanced down at his blood spotted shirt and grimaced; afraid he’d never get the stains out. Dixie took his arm. “C’mon handsome…Let’s go see what we can do to clean you up a bit,” she said, steering him back into the room. “Let’s get that off so you can wash up,” she suggested, reaching for the buttons.
John flushed in embarrassment and tried to brush her hands away. “I can do it,’ he murmured.
Dixie chuckled at the look he gave her and the color that rose on his high cheekbones. “Relax handsome; this is pure laziness,” she teased the young paramedic, refusing to move her hands. “I don’t want to have to clean any more off it than there already is,” she added, nodding at his still blood stained fingers.
The scarlet color of his cheeks got even deeper at the reminder of his rather messy appearance and it grew worse as the door opened behind her and Roy walked in. He saw Dixie’s fingers popping open the buttons and cocked a dubious brow. “Am I interrupting something?” he asked flippantly, drawing a giggle from Dixie and a scowl from his partner.
“No, you’re not interrupting anything,” Johnny replied with a mocking tone. “I just have blood on my hands, so she's taking it off so I won’t get more on it,” he explained unnecessarily. John wasn’t always able to tell the difference between joking and serious comments and he was a prime target for peoples teasing.
Roy grinned, knowing he’d hit the mark and Dixie snickered at the byplay, well used to their bantering and John’s naïve nature. She pulled the shirt off and looked at it appraisingly. “I think some peroxide should get this out. Why don’t you wash up and I’ll take this to the base station and see what I can do,” she suggested.
“Thanks Dix,” Johnny replied gratefully, pulling his equally blood stained tee shirt off over his head.
Dixie headed for the door and Roy pulled it open for her to step into the hall. She almost collided with an orderly standing just outside. She was intent on her task and brushed past him, as if he were invisible and headed for the base station.
The dark haired orderly glared at her retreating back, drawing an eye narrowing scowl from Roy at the hateful look being thrown at the head nurse, but the man saw him watching and quickly moved away.
Roy watched him go for a moment before he closed the door and turned back to Johnny who was standing at the sink, scrubbing at his hands and the dried stains still on them. “I wonder what that guy’s problem is?” Roy mused with a shake of his blonde head.
“Whose problem?” Johnny asked over his shoulder.
“Just some orderly out there,” Roy explained, waving his hand toward the door.
“What did he do?” John questioned, raising his hands to his face to wash away the blood on it.
“I just didn’t like the way he looking at Dix is all,” Roy told him.
“Maybe she gave him hell this morning for something,” he suggested, splashing water over his face to rinse away the lather.
“Maybe,” Roy agreed. “But still…It was disrespectful,” he said with a shrug.
“He better hope Dix doesn’t catch him,” Johnny giggled. “He’ll know what hell really is,” he added. Roy chuckled and leaned against the wall while John dried his hands and face. “Hope she can get the stains out of my shirt,” he added worriedly glancing at his watch. “Hope she hurries,” he continued. “We gotta get back and finish lunch.”
Roy chuckled. John loved to eat. The pair waited a few more minutes before the door opened and Dixie poked her head inside. Her blue eyes raked over Johnny who stood at the sink, bare from the waist up. “Did you take your shirt?” She asked.
Dixie left the treatment room with John’s pale, blue uniform shirt in her hands. She brushed past the new orderly they’d hired a couple of weeks ago… Charlie or Charles something, she mused absently, preoccupied with how she planned to get the blood out of John’s shirt.
She quickly put the young orderly out of her mind as she grabbed a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide from the shelf behind her, along with a handful of cotton balls and paper towels. She plopped herself down on her stool and set to work, using the peroxide and cotton to blot the stain through the material and onto the paper towels she held on the other side.
She was so engrossed in the task that she never noticed the sneering glare Charlie tossed at her and lucky for him that she hadn’t. Charlie moved to the next treatment room to pick up the soiled linens, gowns and towels they threw in the large tub in the corner of the room before moving on to the next room up the hall.
Dixie was just about finished with the shirt by the time he reappeared in the hall. She heard a commotion and the sound of running feet and glanced up quickly to see a woman running toward her with a child in her arms.
“He fell,” she cried loudly. “I can’t wake him up,” she added, beginning to weep.
Dixie set the shirt aside and glanced around. The dark haired orderly was there but he wasn’t who she needed. She spotted Sally coming up the hall from the other direction. “Sally…Get Dr. Early to treatment room two,” she directed as she came around the base station and waved the woman toward the door.
“Yes Ma’am,” Sally replied as she turned and fled toward another door up the hall where Early was finishing up with another patient.
“This way,” Dixie said to the young mother. They slipped inside and the door swung closed behind them.
Joe Early quickly ran from treatment room five and trotted rapidly down the hall with Sally right on his heels. The pair rushed past Charlie, half shoving the wheeled conveyance out of their way in their haste.
The young man’s teeth clenched in anger at the brusque mannerism as the door practically swung shut in his face. He continued up the hall to the base station where the pale blue shirt and the twinkle of a silver badge caught his attention. He eyed it assessingly for a long moment.
Everyone recognized the uniform of an LA County Fire Fighter/Paramedic and they’d trust someone wearing the uniform. A wicked smirk curled the corners of Charlie’s mouth. Not only would the uniform enable him to get close to the women he pursued, they might actually welcome his attentions if he was wearing it, not to mention that if it didn’t it would cast an ugly light on those arrogant firemen as well.
Charlie glanced around furtively, and seeing no one about, reached over and snatched the shirt from the counter, stuffing it down deep under the rest of the towels and linens in the laundry cart.
He snickered to himself and pushed the cart up the hall. Those big shot paramedics were in for a big surprise when they became the main suspects in the highway stalkers evening adventures.
A few minutes later, Dixie left the treatment room and returned to the base station. Sally had the situation under control and Dixie was no longer necessary. She sat on the stool and glanced around for Johnny’s shirt, but it was nowhere to be seen.
She frowned and glanced toward the treatment room where the boys had been. Maybe they’d been called to a response and John had grabbed his shirt on the way out. She pushed off the stool and headed over to the door. She shoved it open but paused as she spotted John Gage standing bare chested at the table with a towel, drying his hands.
The two young men glanced over curiously as she came inside. “Did you take your shirt?” She asked.
John shot a worried glance at his partner. Uh no…We haven’t left this room,” John replied.
“Why?” Roy asked in concern.
“I left it at the base station while I took a patient to the treatment room and now it’s gone,” she said with her hands on her hips, looking extremely annoyed.
John hung his head. “Not again,” he moaned, remembering when someone had stolen his jacket another time and now his shirt too.
“Sorry Johnny; I’ll ask around and see if one of my nurses moved it.”
“Thanks,” he replied with a sigh. He looked at Roy. “Man…They got my badge and my name tag,” he said worriedly.
“We’ll report it to headquarters when we get back to the station junior,” Roy soothed. “You have another set, right?” He asked.
“Yeah; a couple, but now I’ll have to pay for those AND a new shirt,” he said grouchily, before he glanced down at himself. “Not to mention that I don’t have anything to wear back to the station,” he added ruefully.
Roy chuckled and removed his navy blue jacket. “That I can fix,” he said handing it to his partner.
“Thanks,” Johnny replied, shrugging into the garment and zipping it up to his chest.
“Well don’t worry too much John,” Dixie said soothingly. “I’m sure it’ll turn up. Maybe one of my nurses took it for a trophy,” she teased with a smirk.
“Funny,” Johnny grumbled as he snatched up the handy talkie and headed for the door.
Roy and Dixie exchanged grins before he turned and followed John out.
Roy backed the squad into the bay and threw it in park before the pair climbed out and headed toward their captain’s office. John knocked and Hank glanced up from his paperwork.
“What’s up pal?” He questioned, frowning as he noticed the bare skin showing beneath the jacket. “Where’s your shirt?” He asked with an amused quirk of his lips.
“It got stolen Cap,” John replied, sounding disgusted at the idea.
“Right off your back and you didn’t notice? That musta been some trick John?” He teased.
John rolled his eyes and Roy chuckled in amusement behind him. His young friend threw the senior paramedic a glare before turning back to Hank. “I wasn’t wearin it at the time Cap,” he explained sarcastically.
“Oh! Sorry…So what happened?” He asked, trying not to laugh at the disgruntled junior paramedic.
“I got blood on it at that last rescue, so Dixie took it to try and get the stains out,” he explained.
“O…kay…,” he dragged out, his tone implying that the young man should continue.
“She had to go help with an emergency and she left my shirt at the base station.”
“Go on,” Hank prodded, sitting back in his chair.
“Someone stole it Cap,” John said, looking affronted at the idea that anyone would do such a dastardly thing.
“So that’s why you’re out of uniform?”
“You sure some nurse didn’t take it for a trophy?” Hank asked with a grin.
Roy hooted with laughter while John scowled at his best friend. “That’s what Dix said,” Roy explained after he’d gotten himself under control.
Hank shrugged with a grin. “Most likely suspects pal,” he said with a smirk. “Do you have another shirt here?” He asked, hoping he wouldn’t have to take the squad out of service while John ran home.
“Yes sir but,” he let the sentence hang for a long moment.
“But what?” Hank urged suspiciously at the hesitation in John’s voice.
John looked at him sheepishly. “Uh…My badge and name plate were on my shirt,” he admitted.
Hank hung his head for a moment. “You know I have to report that it’s missing pal?” He warned him.
“I know Cap,” John replied.
“You’ll have to pay to have them replaced.” John nodded unhappily. “I’ll call them and let them know. Do you have a spare here?” He asked.
“Yes sir; it’s in my locker.
“Okay pal,” Hank said, reaching over to pick up the phone.
John sighed, wondering what a shirt, badge and name plate were going to cost him.
The two paramedics left the office. “Why don’t you go get changed and I’ll go pour us some coffee,” Roy suggested.
“Thanks,” John replied as he headed for the locker room.
The next morning:
Heather Price drove down the 405 Freeway. She’d left her house at 5:20 AM and she needed to be in Bakersfield by seven.
It would be tight, but at this hour of the morning there would be little traffic and few police to slow her down. Her foot hit the accelerator and the car quickly began to pick up speed. She’d only gone a short distance before she heard a distinctive ‘pop’ as if she’d hit something in the road. A moment later her tire began to thump. The car began to lose speed as the tire went totally flat.
Heather groaned in frustration as stepped on the brake and began to steer her now limping vehicle toward the breakdown lane and the shoulder of the road, knowing she’d never make it to her meeting on time now.
She stopped the car and climbed out to go inspect the damage. As she suspected, the left rear tire was flat as a pancake. She sighed heavily and walked back to the front to get her keys before reversing course to go the trunk and unlock it. She pulled her spare and her jack out and sent up a silent prayer of thanks to her father for teaching her how to change her tire before he’d let her drive by herself.
She knelt by the rear tire and pried the hubcap free and then began to loosen the lug nuts. She’d managed to get the first couple undone when the glare of headlights coming toward her caught her attention.
She shaded her eyes from the blinding beams, squinting to see who it was. The door opened and she could see a booted foot and the bottom of a pair of dark slacks as the man stepped from the truck.
Heather rose to her feet and moved toward the front of her car, prepared to get in and lock the doors. She’d read in the papers about a guy that had attacked a woman who’d been broken down on the side of the road and she was taking no chances.
The man stepped into the beam of his lights just as she put her hand on the door handle. She saw the light blue uniform shirt and the twinkle of silver as the light winked off a badge and a name plate. She sighed in relief. The man was obviously a cop or something and she relaxed.
“Hi there,” he said amiably.
“Hi,” she replied, smiling at the man.
“You got a little problem huh?” He questioned, gesturing to the tire with an almost smug grin. He couldn’t believe that just having put on this shirt was enough to get this girl to trust him. No wonder that paramedic had all the nurses sighing over him just by walking down the hall in it.
Heather suddenly noted the gloating look on the man’s face and tensed worriedly. “Yeah, but I think I can handle it,” she replied uneasily.
The man’s smile fell away and his eyes narrowed bit. A sneer turned down the corner of his lips. What had gone wrong? She’d been alright a moment before, but now, even in the uniform, this girl was giving him the cold shoulder and turning him away. He quickly forced the smile back in place as her hand reached once again for the door handle.
Heather’s heart beat a bit faster as the man’s face suddenly took on an annoyed scowl as if she’d offended him by rejecting his help. She started to open the door of the car, but then his smile returned, showing his slightly crooked teeth and she once again relaxed.
“Well, since I’m already here, you might as well let me do it,” he suggested, stooping to pick up the lug wrench.
“Well…Okay,” she finally agreed, not wanting to upset the guy again, besides; she didn’t really want to get her outfit all dirty in case she could actually get to her meeting in time. She took her hand away from the door and moved closer to watch as he set to work.
He quickly finished loosening the lug nuts and then jacked the car up. He made short work of removing the tire and setting it aside before he suddenly stood up and dusted his hands on his pants.
Heather looked at him curiously as he turned toward her, knowing she couldn’t drive away and was now trapped and helpless.
“So, what’s your name?” He questioned, giving her a leering once over with his dark eyes.
Heather gave him an uncomfortable smile, hoping the guy was just taking a breather from the work. “Uh…Heather,” she replied nervously, taking a step back as he moved toward her.
He frowned at her obvious retreat but tried again. “Heather? That’s a real pretty name,” he said.
“Thank you,” she replied hesitantly as she continued to retreat, no longer comfortable being out here in the dark with this guy. She wasn’t sure why, but badge or no badge, he was scaring her.
“You know Heather, you’re a real pretty girl and I’d love to get to know you better,” he said softly, once again allowing his eyes to rake over her.
“Uh…I’m sorry…but, I’m too busy with work to date right now,” she explained, hoping he’d take the hint that she wasn’t interested.
“Well…I’m busy too,” he said looking down at his uniform, trying to remind her that he was someone she should be impressed by. She looked at the shirt and noted that it didn’t quite fit him right. The material was stretched over his stomach, pulling at the buttons and was loose and sloppy over his chest and her heart began to race fearfully as he continued. “But you know you do owe me for changing the tire for you,” he suggested with a leering grin.
“I um…I don’t have much money,” she replied, hoping that’s all he was after.
“Oh, I don’t want money sweetheart,” he chuckled, reaching out to grab her wrist in a bruising hold.
Heather twisted her arm in his grasp, trying to open the car door with her other hand and get inside.
The man reached out with his free hand and slammed it closed before she could open it enough to slip through. “LET GO OF ME!” She screamed, swinging her left hand toward his face. She clipped his chin but it wasn’t hard enough to make his loosen his hold on her arm.
His leering smirk disappeared as reached to grab her by the shoulders and slam her backward against the car, pressing close to her…His breath hot and rancid in her nostrils. “Whatsa matter…Not good enough for you?” He sneered, silently cursing Gage under his breath. He bet the tall paramedic didn’t have this problem. Those women fell all over themselves to get HIS attention.
“NO!” She shrieked in answer to his question, trying to turn her face away from him. He jerked her sharply toward him and then slammed her backward. Heather cried out as her back was slammed painfully into the cars door handle.
“Maybe I should give you twenty bucks…Is that it? Is that what you want? You bitches are all whores,” he sneered angrily.
Heather sucked in her breath in a mixture of fear and indignation at the innuendo but right now her freedom was more important than being insulted. She lifted her knee with all her might and caught her attacker square in the groin.
He grunted in pain, doubling over as a knifing agony ripped through his belly and nausea welled. He staggered backward with his hands clasped over his crotch before he fell to his knees, struggling not to vomit.
Heather quickly pulled her car door open and slid inside, slamming it shut and the locking the door. She glanced around her car for a weapon, cursing herself for not grabbing the tire iron. She snatched up her purse and dumped the contents on the seat, but there was little to help her.
She caught a motion from the corner of her eye and turned to see the man stagger to his feet, holding the tire iron in his hand. His eyes blazed with fury and she was sure she was about to die.
The dark haired man pressed his face into the dirt as he gagged helplessly for several long minutes before the pain began to ebb enough for him to push himself upright, He knew that tramp was laughing at him but he’d make her pay for this.
He grabbed the tire iron from off the ground and managed to get to his feet. He wobbled unsteadily for a moment before he shot a look of pure venom at her through the window. He raised the heavy steel bar and gloated at the look of terror in her eyes. She wasn’t laughing anymore, he mused spitefully.
Heather screamed and threw up her hands to shield her face as the steel bar shattered the side window of her car. The man quickly unlocked the door and yanked it open. He leaned inside and grabbed her shirt; the thin material ripped under the strain as he jerked her toward him.
Heather struggled desperately to get away and her small hand reached for anything to use as a weapon. Her fingers closed over a small bottle that she’d dumped from her purse. She pointed it at him and pressed the top. A sweet flowery smell suddenly filled her nostrils as the stream of perfume shot straight into her attacker’s eyes.
“ARRGH!” He cried as he staggered backwards. He dropped the bar, his hands flying up to paw at his stinging eyes.
Heather pushed herself from the seat and cried out as a large shard of glass bit into her hand. She pulled it free but instead of tossing it aside she took a better grip, holding it like a dagger as she shot from the car, prepared to run for her life.
He grabbed at her ankle as she passed. She screamed and slashed at his hand with the glass, leaving a crimson trail across his wrist and he let her go. Heather ran toward the road and began to wave her arms frantically.
There were few cars on the road at this early hour but one of the oncoming sets of headlights suddenly crossed three lanes of traffic, slowing down as they approached and them stopping.
“HELP ME!” She half screamed and half wept as she ran toward the vehicle. Her attacker had been running after her, but he staggered to a halt as he saw the vehicle pull up near her. He turned and hobbled painfully back to his truck. A moment later it roared out onto the highway, spurting gravel and dirt from beneath its tires.
Heather threw herself into the arms of the elderly man who’d jumped from his car to come to her aid, weeping and trying to tell him what had happened. “H…he att…acked mmme,” she stuttered hysterically.
By the time he understood, the white truck was long gone. “Let me drive you to a call box and we’ll call the police,” he offered.
Heather stared at him hesitantly, afraid now to trust anyone, but she didn’t want him to drive off and leave her here alone either. She finally nodded and let him lead her to the car and help her in. “What’s your name?” He asked her, as he pulled out into traffic.
“H…Heather,” she stammered, huddling against the door and shaking from shock.
“Okay Heather…I’m Tom and you’re gonna be alright,” he soothed. “You just relax.”
She nodded but tears continued to well and trickle down her cheeks. He wanted to reach out and pat her arm comfortingly, but he was afraid the gesture would be mistaken and only frighten the girl worse. He finally pulled up by a highway call box. “You wait right here and I’ll call the police,” he said.
She nodded again, grateful to be alive and thankful that Tom had come along when he did. The older man returned to the car and slid in. “They said to go back to your car and they’d send someone right away,” he told her before he pulled out onto the highway once again.
A police car arrived a short time later and pulled up behind them. An older black officer stepped out from behind the wheel, while his young dark haired, rookie partner jumped from the passenger seat and hurried around to join him before they walked toward the car.
“Sir; did you call?” The older man asked.
“Yes sir…I’m Tom Morrisey and I was just driving up the road here and all of a sudden this girl come runnin out waving her arms and jumping up and down, so I pulled over and she was cryin and scared and then this white truck went tearin outta here and she was telling me some man attacked her, so I drove her to the call box and called you guys,” he blurted out in a rush, pointing at his car where Heather sat waiting.
The cops eyes shifted toward the car just as the door opened and the disheveled young woman in question jumped out. She half ran, half staggered toward the group, practically falling into the officers arms. “Oh thank God you’re here,” she cried.
“Yes ma’am; this gentleman was telling us what happened. I’m Officer Howard and this is my partner, Officer Doug Warren.” Vince noted that her hand was bleeding and slipped his arm about her, taking hold of her injured arm. “Why don’t you come sit in the car and tell me what happened while I wrap up that hand and call the paramedics,” he suggested consolingly, using a soft voice to try and calm the frightened girl. She nodded and let him lead her to the police cruiser. “Doug…Why don’t you get Mr. Morrisey’s statement while I talk to this lady,” he instructed the young officer.
“Yes sir,” he replied briskly, wishing he could be over there with Vince, learning the more important details of the crime instead of handling the guy who came after the fact.
Vince quickly put in a call to his dispatcher for a crime scene team and paramedics to roll before he got the first aid kit from the trunk. He carefully placed a large gauze pad over the wound and closed her hand over it.
“That should help until the squad gets here,” he soothed. “Can you tell me what happened?” He asked, plucking his notebook and pen from his pocket.
“I had to get to Bakersfield this morning,” she began in a small voice. “I think I musta hit something up on the road because my tire just all of a sudden began going flat and I pulled over. I got out to change the tire and,” she hesitated.
“Go on,” Vince urged.
“I pulled the spare out and I was loosening the lug nuts when this truck pulled over,” she explained as Officer Warren rejoined them. Vince gave him a warning frown. Not wanting the over eager rookie to interfere and make the girl more nervous than she already was.
“What color was the truck?” Doug asked urgently, his note book at the ready.
Heather leaned back away from the aggressive young cop.
“Officer Warren,” Vince said quietly. “Let me handle this please,” he ordered.
The young blonde frowned unhappily but stepped back to let the senior officer continue.
“Did you get a good look at the truck?” Vince asked softly.
She shook her head negatively. “It was white though,” she informed him.
Vince nodded, hoping their other witness had gotten a better look at it and had given his partner a good description.
“Can you tell me what he looked like?” He asked.
“He was tall… Maybe five eleven or six feet.”
“Good…What about his hair?”
“It was dark brown or black,” she replied.
“How about his eyes?”
“I…I’m not sure…It was dark and hard to see but I think,” she hesitated, remembering those leering eyes staring lewdly at her. “I think they were dark,” she added.
“Good…anything else?” He prodded gently.
“He was wearing a uniform…That’s why I thought I’d be safe,” she whispered forlornly before she began to cry once more.
Vince patted her shoulder comfortingly.
“What kinda uniform?” Officer Warren asked, his eyes sparkling with excitement now and sure they were about to crack this case wide open.
“I’m not sure…He had a badge like a cop or a security guard…It was light blue and it had a yellow patch on the sleeve,” she said, her eyebrows furrowing over her nose as she remembered.
Vince sucked in his breath at that information but turned to his young partner. “Doug, I’ll handle the interview please,” he snapped.
The younger man threw him a glare of annoyance. “But Vince…that’s a paramedic patch,” he said excitedly.
“I’m aware of the uniforms distinction,” Vince growled, not wanting the young officer to fill in details that wanted the victim to remember on her own. “Why don’t you get the camera out of the squad and take some pictures of the scene,” he suggested. “And don’t forget the tire tracks,” he reminded him.
The younger officer looked disappointed but he finally took the hint. “Yes sir,” he grumbled unhappily as he moved away.
Vince pursed his lips and shook his head at the girl. “I’m sorry, he’s only been on the job a couple of weeks and he’s a bit over eager,” he explained. She nodded, giving Vince a small, half smile. “Can you tell me anything else?”
She frowned, trying to remember now that her train of thought had been interrupted. “Oh yes…The uniform. It didn’t fit him very well.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was tight across his belly and real loose over his chest. Like it wasn’t the right size for him,” she explained. Vince jotted that down. “Oh…and his teeth; they were crooked.”
“Top or bottom?” He asked.
“Top,” she said with certainty, shuddering as she remembered the snake like smile.
Officer Howard nodded. “What happened after he stopped?”
“He offered to change my tire and at first I told him no, but then he seemed so nice and so I let him. But halfway through he…he stood up and said he thought I was pretty and then he said I owed him for changing the tire. I started to get really scared and I tried to get in the car but he…he closed the door so I couldn’t. I tried to get away but he slammed me into the car,” she sobbed.
Officer Warren returned with the camera hanging from a strap around his neck as she continued on with her story. “He offered me money; He said all women were whores and that’s when I got my hand free and I hit him and then I kneed him…,” she hesitated and blushed a bit. “You know in the groin,” she half whispered in embarrassment.
“Good girl,” Vince assured her.
“Anyway,” she began, reassured that the cop wasn’t angry with her for that. He was after all a man himself and might commiserate with the attacker. “I got in the car but then he was really mad and he hit the window with the tire iron and broke it. I grabbed my perfume and squirted him in the face and then I tried to run but he grabbed my ankle.” She held up her hand and showed him her bloody palm. “I had a piece of glass from the window and I slashed at his arm with it,” she admitted.
Flashing lights lit up the darkness as a tow truck pulled up behind the damaged car. “Doug…Go tell them not to touch the car until CSU get here okay,” he told the rookie officer. Doug sighed at once again being shuffled off instead of being able to get in on the action, but he turned and headed off to stop the tow truck driver from contaminating the crime scene. “Go on,” Vince prodded the girl. “Where did you cut him?”
“On the wrist,” she answered with certainty.
Vince nodded and wrote that down but before he could continue, a fire department rescue squad rolled up on the scene; a crime scene unit followed and the area became a bit hectic. Two uniformed paramedics trotted toward them and Heather eyed them warily.
“These two men will take a look at you,” he warned her.
She shuddered at the memory of that man’s hands on her and his breath in her face, but reluctantly nodded her head.
Vince patted her arm reassuringly. “They’re the real thing,” he assured her, turning to face them.
“What have we got Vince,” Bob Riley from station 147 asked.
“Another victim of that stalker guy,” he explained. “She’s got a glass cut on her hand and a few smaller nicks on her face from where he broke the glass. She said he banged her up against the car, so be careful of her back.”
“Got it,” Bob said as he squatted next to the girl. She held out her blood caked hand and the pair set to work.
Vince leaned over them. “Thank you Miss Price. I’ll finish this up with you at the hospital alright?” She nodded at him. “Good…Then maybe when you’re up to it, you can come down to the station and look at some mug shots,” he suggested.
“Alright,” she agreed as the Paramedics finished wrapping her hand and helped her over and on to a gurney before they took her away.
Vince turned to Warren. “Did you get everything we needed from Mr. Morrisey?” He asked, spotting the lead detective on the case, Lance Frasier arriving in his unmarked police car. He’d go over and give him his notes so he could go and talk to the girl himself later.
“Yes sir,” he said with a nod and slap of hand on his notebook. “It’s all right here.”
“Good…Did he give you a better description of the truck the guy was driving?” He asked, reaching into the squad car to pick up the mic and put an APB out on it.
Doug’s face flushed a bit in embarrassment. “I uh…I didn’t ask him,” he admitted, shame faced.
Vince rolled his eyes in annoyance. “I told you to get his statement,” he said in exasperation.
“I just…I thought…I guess I thought she’d know,” he mumbled.
“First off…NO. She only saw that it was a white vehicle and some kind of truck. The headlights were blinding her and it came up behind her. Second, we needed him to corroborate what she saw and he had a better view since he came up behind it,” he said, giving the rookie officer a shake of his head.
“I’m sorry sir,” he mumbled.
“You did at least get a phone number and his address didn’t you?” He asked sarcastically.
Doug blushed. “Yes sir.”
“Good…Then I can call him and get that information.
“I’m sorry Vince…I just wanted to hear what the girl had to say and I…,” he trailed off at the less than sympathetic look on the senior officers face.
“That wasn’t your assignment was it?” Vince asked.
Officer Warren looked shame faced that he’d messed up so badly and resolved to do better with the next task his partner gave him. “No sir,” he muttered.
“Every part of an investigation is important,” Vince reminded him. “You can’t take anything for granted…Even the littlest detail could be what solves it...Understand?” Warren nodded repentantly. “Good…Let’s get to the hospital and finish up with her and then I’ll call Mr. Morrisey for a description of the vehicle,” he said, hanging up the mic. “I can’t really put out an APB on white truck…Make and model unknown,” he mused with a sigh.
He walked over to the detective and spoke to him briefly, waving his notebook and promising to send him the woman’s statement as soon as he got back to the station. He returned to the squad car and the two officers climbed in. They pulled out and headed for Harbor General.
The dark haired man slammed the top of the first aid kit he kept behind the seat. He’d cleaned the cut on his wrist from where that little hell cat had scratched him with the broken glass and tossed the bloody gauze on the floor. He pressed another pad over the still oozing wound and awkwardly wound some gauze around it, hoping no one at work would question the injury.
He unbuttoned the pale blue shirt and shrugged out of it, wadding it up and stuffing it behind the trucks seat before he pulled the white shirt on over his head. He glanced around quickly, making sure there was no one about before he opened the door and skinned off the dark trousers. He slipped on the looser white ones of his own profession and shoved the navy blue slacks behind the seat.
He checked to be sure there was no telltale bits of anything showing anywhere that would give away anything he’d been doing, before he locked the door and headed inside.
John and Roy woke with the tones and rolled from their bunks along with the rest of the crew. They tugged up their bunker pants and shrugged their suspenders into place, before trudging across the apparatus bay and into the kitchen.
They slid into their chairs, all except Mike and Johnny. The young Paramedic went to the sink to start the coffee while the engineer opened the back door to grab the paper.
The stations mascot Boot, sat behind Gage waiting for his own breakfast. John grabbed a glass and filled it from the tap and took a sip before he turned to retrieve the dogs bowl, not realizing that Boot was behind him.
There was a simultaneous yelp from the injured canine and a WHOOOA,” from John as he tripped over the animal and fell. He landed hard on his knees. He threw out his hands to stop himself from falling on his face, forgetting that he was holding the glass. Water splashed across the floor and the glass shattered beneath his palm.
“OW!” He cried as the shards bit deeply into his hand.
Roy shot from his chair and took the three steps that brought him to his young partner’s side. “Let me see,” he demanded as the others began to gather around them.
“You alright Pal?” Hank asked reaching down to help John to his feet. His eyes widened in concern as he saw the blood welling from John’s palm.
“Yeah,” he said with a grimace of disgust at his clumsiness. “Is Boot okay?” He asked over his shoulder as Roy steered him toward the sink and turned the water on to wash the wound.
“Seems to be,” Marco confirmed, checking the dogs foot over. He ruffled the dogs fur and gave him a pat on the head.
Chet came to peer over John’s other shoulder. Making sure the younger man was okay before giving him a shake of his curly head. “Good job there Gage,” he sneered at his young friend. “We’re gonna have to call you Johnny Graceful from now on huh?” He taunted.
“Oh go play on the freeway,” John snapped back. “OUCH!” He yelled; his attention brought back to the matter at ‘hand’ so to speak as Roy plucked a large shard of glass from his palm.
“This is pretty nasty Junior; why don’t I run you by Rampart and let Brackett or Early take a look at you,” Roy suggested worriedly.
“I don’t need a doctor Roy; just wrap it up,” he protested.
Hank gave John a slap on the shoulder. “Don’t argue with your partner Gage; go have it looked at,” he ordered his youngest crew member, his dark eyebrows rising sharply as if daring the boy to argue with him.
John gave his Captain a sheepish grimace. “Yes sir,” he mumbled in defeat.
Roy threw his captain a conspiratorial wink before turning back to John. “Let me wrap that up and we can take off as soon as Dwyer and Carlson get here to replace us,” he suggested tearing open a 4X4 and laying it on John’s palm, before wrapping it securely with gauze.
John winced but said nothing. They were just finishing up when Charlie and Kirk walked into the room.
“Good…They’re here, you two can take off,” Hank directed with a nod of his dark head.
“C’mon Johnny,” Roy said with a wave of his hand toward the door.
“I can drive myself,” he grumbled unhappily.
Roy and Hank both shook their heads, “Not with that hand and a stick shift,” Roy protested.
“Besides; I want to be sure you’ll end up in the ER and not the beach,” Hank growled snidely.
John sighed in defeat. “O…kay,” he groaned, bringing a grin of amusement from his crew mates. They all knew him to well.
Roy opened the door and let John precede him into the parking lot.
Charlie pushed his heavy canvas cart up the hallway of Ramparts Emergency department. He’d been late getting started and now had to hurry to catch up with his laundry pickup to be sure he got it to the service on time. He’d be in for it for sure if the truck left before he got there and the ER ran out of linens.
He was walking rapidly and narrowly missed Dr. Morton and Sally Lewis as they stepped out of treatment room three. Mike grabbed the rim of the cart to keep from being bowled over, but the abrupt stop caused Charlie’s arm to bang against the door frame.
“Argh,” he groaned through clenched teeth as his cut wrist scraped over the sharp wooden edge and sent a burning sensation all the way up his forearm. He clutched at it, but blood quickly began to seep through the gauze from the reopened wound.
“Watch where you’re going,” Morton snapped angrily at the orderly. “You almost ran us down,” he added.
“Sorry Dr. Morton,” he ground out. He intensely disliked the black intern and his arrogant demeanor, but then Charlie disliked anybody that he saw as an authority figure or one that he saw as ‘looking down’ on him which in his mind, was most people.
Morton noticed the blood beginning to show through the makeshift bandage. “What did you do to your arm?” He asked reaching out to grip Charlie’s elbow and take a closer look.
The orderly jerked his arm away. “Its fine,” he ground out, “I just got a little cut,” he muttered with a surly tone, bringing a frown from both Mike and Sally.
Morton’s hands landed on his hips and he leaned forward enough to become almost nose to nose with Charlie, letting him know he’d over stepped himself by letting his temper show.
“Look…If you want to bleed all over yourself on your own time, that’s fine. But I can’t have you working the floor while you’re bleeding, so you can either go home; or you can let me take a look at that.” He snapped.
Charlie grimaced. As much as he’d like to tell Morton what he could go do with himself or that he’d leave, he needed both the job and the money he’d lose if he went home, so he nodded reluctantly. “Yes SIR,” he ground out.
Mike waved his hand toward a treatment room. “Sally, get me a tray set up,” he instructed.
“Yes Doctor,” she replied, brushing past Charlie and disappearing into the room.
The annoyed orderly followed behind her with Morton bringing up the rear. He hiked himself up on the table and held his arm out so Sally could cut away the makeshift bandage.
Morton stepped closer and gripped his arm, turning it so he could see the wound. He picked up the gauze pads that the nurse had left on the tray and began to clean the wound carefully. “This isn’t a scrape…This is a pretty deep gash. How’d it happen?” Morton asked, picking up another antiseptic soaked pad and continuing on.
Sally leaned over the doctor’s shoulder as he worked, ready to hand him whatever she anticipated he’d need next. Charlie was distracted by her nearness and tried a smile in her direction, ignoring Morton and his nosey questions.
“Uh hmmm,” Morton cleared his throat to get the man’s attention. “I asked you how you cut it,” he reminded the younger man.
Charlie froze for a split second, trying to come up with something plausible. “I uh…uh…Broke my window trying to shut it,” he finally finished lamely, wishing he could just tell Morton to mind his own business.
Morton nodded but he frowned at the explanation. From the angle of the wound, the man would have had to be standing on the window sill. Mike shrugged off his misgivings at the explanation. It was none of his business he supposed.
He covered the wound with antibiotic cream and re wrapped it securely. “Have you had a tetanus shot recently?” He questioned. Charlie shook his head. “Sally; get Mr. Marsh .5 mls of anti tetanus vaccine IM please,” he instructed.
“Yes Doctor,” she replied, turning away and moving to the drug cabinet.
“I’ll be back to fill out the chart,” Morton said quietly to Sally as he headed for the door. “He can go back to work when you’re done.”
Charlie watched him leave and waited till the door was closed behind him before turning his attention to the pretty blonde nurse standing next to him. “Thanks for taking care of me,” he said, trying a crooked grin and hoping Sally would find it as charming from him as she did when Gage did it, but it came out more like a leer.
Sally nodded and turned her face away from the slightly sour smell of the man’s breath. "It’s my job Carl,” she replied briskly as she drew the syringe full of liquid.
The smile fled his face. “It’s Charlie,” he ground out angrily. She couldn’t even remember his name.
“Oh sorry…Charlie,” she corrected herself, tearing open a small alcohol wipe.
Charlie clenched his teeth. Maybe she’d remember him if he showed her how much he liked her, he mused. His reached out his hand to grip her wrist, while the other lifted toward her to touch her cheek. Sally shook her arm free and drew back from him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She snapped indignantly.
“I just….I mean…I just think you’re so pretty,” he stammered.
“Thank you...Feel free to look but keep your hands to yourself okay?” She instructed, giving him an annoyed glare.
Charlie’s face darkened with anger and embarrassment. “Bet you’d let that paramedic Gage touch you,” he sneered angrily, before he could catch himself.
Sally gave him a shocked look that he’d say something like that and then she frowned in aggravation.
“Maybe I would; Johnny’s a nice guy but that’s really none of your business is it?” She snapped.
Charlie opened his mouth to retort angrily but he door opened and Morton stepped back inside. “Aren’t you done yet?” He asked the pretty blonde nurse.
“Sorry doctor, just finishing right now,” she replied, jabbing the needle none to gently into Charlie’s deltoid muscle.
“YEE…OW,” he howled as she pulled the needle free and slammed the syringe into the small metal basin on the tray.
“All done,” she said flippantly, throwing a tight smile and a nod of satisfaction at Morton and a final glare at Charlie before she marched out the door.
Morton threw her a concerned glance before turning to Charlie. “What happened?” He barked at the man as he sat rubbing his sore arm.
Charlie threw a dark look at Morton. “Nothing,” he snarled. “Just these stupid nurses with their teasing looks and then they snub ya; bunch of tramps,” he muttered, jumping from the table and stalking toward the door.
“Hey now,” Morton began to protest, but Charlie continued walking, letting the door close behind him.
He grabbed the cart that was still parked against the wall. He shoved it angrily up the corridor. These damn women, he mused with a flush of rage at the way the pretty blonde had completely humiliated him. They’d be sorry for how they treated him, he promised himself as he pushed through the double doors at the end of the hall.
Morton shook his head at the man as he left but didn’t pursue it further. He’d mention it to Brackett later if Dixie didn’t hear about it from Sally and handle it herself first.
Roy and Johnny walked up the hallway toward the base station. They glanced around the waiting room, hoping it wouldn’t be too busy and they wouldn’t have to wait too long for Johnny to be seen.
Roy had suggested that John come home with him for breakfast with Joanne and the kids. Never one to turn down free food, especially if that food was prepared by Joanne DeSoto, the younger man had readily agreed.
Sally Lewis was talking quietly but adamantly to Dixie as they approached and they could both tell from the look on Sally’s face that whatever they were talking about, the pretty blonde nurse was upset about it.
The conversation ceased abruptly as soon as they saw the two paramedics and all they heard was a name…’Charlie.’
“Hi fellas,” Dixie greeted the pair while Sally gave them a forced smile, her pretty blue eyes flitting to Johnny momentarily, and then looked away as if his presence was an embarrassment somehow. John had always gotten along well with the young woman and gave her a slightly perplexed frown at her attitude. Roy’s hand on his arm as he spoke to Dixie pulled his attention away and back to the matter at hand.
“Hey Dix,” he said reaching out to grip John’s arm and pull him forward.
“Hi Dix,” John greeted as Roy continued.
He gripped John’s wrist and extended the young man’s bandaged hand toward her. “Someone was a bit clumsy this morning and cut his hand on a broken glass,” the older man explained, giving his young friend a teasing grin.
“Must be the day for it,” Sally muttered, drawing their attention.
“Huh?” John questioned.
“Nothing Johnny,” she replied.
Dixie patted the younger woman’s shoulder. “Don’t worry…I’ll take care of that problem. Why don’t you take Johnny and Roy to treatment four and I’ll find Kel and have him take a look at that,” she offered, shifting her attention back to John.
Sally nodded. “C’mon Johnny,” she said, nodding her head at Roy to follow them. The two turned and trailed the pretty blonde up the hall. She pushed the door open and let the two paramedics precede her into the room. Johnny crossed to the examination table and hopped up on it.
His dark brows knotted over his nose as the usually cheerful and smiling nurse began slapping items onto a tray as if she wished it was someone’s head.
“What’s wrong Sally?” Johnny asked, exchanging a concerned look with Roy. He could tell he’d noted her attitude as well.
“MEN!” She snapped, smacking the tray down on the stand next to the table.
John winced at the single word and opened his mouth to pursue the matter, but stopped as he saw his partners pointed, warning frown and shake of his blonde head. Johnny clapped his mouth shut and decided to mind his own business.
The door opened a moment later and Kel Brackett stepped into the room followed by Dixie.
“Hey guys,” the handsome doctor greeted the pair, throwing a curious look at the younger nurse who was standing near the table with an expression that would rival an angry thunder cloud.
Dixie grinned and shook her head. “I’ve got this Sally, why don’t you go get some coffee,” she suggested.
“Thanks Dix,” she replied, realizing that the three men were all watching her warily at this point. “Sorry doctor,” she mumbled before she turned and fled the room.
Kel threw his head nurse a raised eyebrow at the odd behavior. “One of the orderlies got a little TOO friendly with her,” she said simply.
The three men gave each other an enlightened glance and then put the matter out of their mind, knowing Dixie would handle it.
“Let’s take a look at that hand Johnny,” he suggested, picking up a pair of scissors to cut the bandage away. Brackett probed the wound gently. He finally nodded approvingly. “This doesn’t look too bad,” he informed the young paramedic. “Just keep it clean and dry and well wrapped for a few days and it should be fine,” he assured him.
“No stitches?” Roy questioned worriedly, earning a glare from Johnny for bringing up the possibility.
Kel grinned at the scowl before answering the blonde paramedic. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary, but try not to use it too much for the next couple of days until it heals,” he replied, coating it with a thick layer of antibiotic cream and a 4X4 over it before re-wrapping it.
“Thanks Doc,” Johnny replied.
“Okay fellas; you’re good to go. Come back in if it gives you any trouble, otherwise, I’ll see you in a couple of days,” he said, patting John on the shoulder.
“Good deal,” Johnny replied happily that there would be no needles involved in this visit. “Thanks again,” he said, slipping off the table.
Roy gave his friend a slap on the back. “Let’s go Junior; breakfast awaits,” he promised.
John grinned and the pair headed for the door.
Charlie Marsh shoved his cart through the double doors, letting them swing closed behind him. He couldn’t believe that witch Sally. Holding his hand so gently, smiling at him and then recoiling away from him as if he were the dirt beneath her feet.
She’d even admitted that she’d have let ‘John Gage’ touch her, he mused bitterly.
Well he was done being nice and trying to be sweet and charming. From now on, he’d just take what he wanted.
He dumped his load of laundry and headed back out to start on the next floor, whistling merrily with his new resolve.
Two days later:
Anna Grady picked up her purse and threw a glance back at her sleeping husband, his tousled graying, brownish/blonde hair just showing from beneath the bed covers.
She wished she could stay in bed a bit longer herself but she had to be at the Farmers Market and get set up before the crowds began to show up.
Walt and her sixteen year old daughter Sherrie had helped her load up the old pickup last night, but both of them as usual had other plans for their Saturday morning.
Walt was going on his normal weekend hunting expedition as he did every weekend, while Sherrie had plans to meet her friends for a weekend at the beach and a sleepover party.
She sighed heavily, wishing she could afford to skip a day and stay in bed herself, but with Walt out of work, they needed the extra money she could make by selling some of the produce their small farm put out.
A loud snort came from the bed, followed by a raucous snnnnk sound as Walt shifted position and began to snore. She shook her head; just as well that she was going out, she mused. She’d never have been able to sleep with all the racket her husband was making.
She threw her bags strap over her shoulder and headed out into the predawn morning.
Anna bumped along the dirt roads of Laurel Canyon. The shocks in her old truck were worn and as hard as she tried to avoid them, it seemed as if her tires managed to find every pot hole, giving her a jarring ride until she could make it to the paved road.
The right tire dropped into a particularly deep one and Anna heard a ‘crack’ from beneath the vehicle, but the old truck continued on and she thought that perhaps she’d just scraped the bottom. She’d call the County Road Division when she got home tonight and ask them to come out and grade the narrow lane.
She continued on until she reached the main road out of the canyon’s and turned onto it. She noted that her steering seemed a bit sluggish and made a mental note to have Walt look at the struts tomorrow night when he got home. The truck rumbled on into the darkness.
She was about a mile down the road when she felt the wheel jerk and the front end seemed to drop. She struggled with the steering wheel, but quickly realized the vehicle was out of control. It skidded and bumped it’s way along until it hit the easement and came to an abrupt halt, almost throwing Anna into the steering wheel.
She blew out a relieved breath and turned on her flashers before climbing from the car with her flashlight to take a look, grateful that the old truck had at least made it off the road before it died completely. She frowned when she noted that the tail end was still partially in the street and hoped no one would hit it.
She ran her hand through her long dark hair and leaned over to look under the front end. It became quickly apparent what the problem was… She’d broken the front axle. She realized the sound she’d heard earlier had most likely been when she’d cracked it.
She sighed heavily and glanced up and down the street but there were no houses along this stretch of road and very little traffic on a Saturday morning. She knew few of her neighbors would have to come into town on a weekend and resigned herself to the long walk back up the road to her home. Worse, Walt would most likely be long gone before she ever got there.
She glanced at the load of fruit and vegetables in the back of her truck and she was pretty sure that none of it would be here by the time she got back, but she really had no alternative. She’d read in the papers the other day about some guy attacking women out on the highway and didn’t much relish the idea of being out here alone in the dark, but then again…That had been on the highway and not out here on the back roads, but still... She’d just made up her mind to start walking when a set of headlights came around the corner and headed toward her.
Charlie Marsh drove his pickup down the rutted, dirt road. His headlights cast an eerie shadow through the trees and the faint wisps of fog floating on the early morning breezes.
He was still extremely annoyed by his encounter with Sally Lewis two days ago and was steaming mad over the fact that the stuck up witch had run right to the head nurse, Dixie McCall and she had in turn reported him to his supervisor. She in turn had dressed him down for his behavior and suspended him for two days, something Charlie could ill afford.
He’d considered paying the blonde nurse a visit and making her pay for that humiliation but he knew he’d be the first one they’d suspect.
He was still stressed and frustrated by the whole situation and vowed to himself that the next bitch that treated him that way would pay.
He stopped briefly at the intersection before turning right to head for highway. It was still early and he had plenty of time to ‘hunt’ before he had to be at Rampart for his shift. He’d only gone a short distance before his headlights caught the flashing amber hazard lights up the road ahead of him.
He slowed down to take a look at who was driving the vehicle as he passed. He could barely make out a slender, dark haired figure in his headlight beams and grinned evilly. It was a woman and from what he could see, she appeared to be alone.
Charlie slowed and pulled a u turn before pulling over to the shoulder of the road. He threw the truck in park and smoothed the pale blue uniform shirt that stretched across his belly and stepped from the cab.
Anna saw the truck pass her and thought it looked familiar. She watched it make a U turn and hoped it was one of her neighbors and she could get a lift before Walt woke and headed out on his hunting trip. She shaded her eyes from the glare of the headlights and could make out the form of a tall, slender man, and though his face was still in shadow, she could see what appeared to be a blue uniform shirt and the twinkle of her own vehicle’s headlights against a silver badge pinned on the man’s shirt.
Well it wasn’t one of her neighbors since none of them were cops or fire fighters but she still felt relieved that it was someone she could most likely trust.
“Having car trouble?” The man’s voice queried from the darkness as he came toward her.
“Broke an axle…,” she replied as he stepped closer. She shone her flashlight toward him and caught the name plate. J. GAGE PARAMEDIC MOBILE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT. “Maybe you can give me a lift Mr. Gage,” she added after reading the name. She raised the flashlight a bit higher and the beam struck his face and she gasped. “Charlie?” She queried in confusion. “Charlie Marsh? Well what are you doing wearing a paramedic uniform? With someone else’s name on it” She asked with a frown.
Charlie’s face paled. “Damn it,” he growled, half under his breath. This was going to be a problem. He’d known Anna and Walt Grady for years. “Uh…well…I uh…I can explain,” he stammered nervously.
“What are you up to Charlie?” She demanded, giving him a hard stare.
Charlie licked his lips nervously, unable to come up with a plausible explanation for wearing another man’s stolen property. He knew it was in the paper already that the highway stalker was wearing a uniform and if Anna read that and put two and two together, he was in big trouble.
“Anna…I’m sorry,” he began but she interrupted him.
“You shouldn’t be impersonating a paramedic Charlie,” she warned the young man. “You could get into a lot of trouble,” she added solemnly.
“Yeah…Yeah I know that and I wish you hadn’t seen me,” he replied, sighing unhappily.
Anna frowned. “Why?” She questioned and then her eyes widened. The article she’d read had said something about the attacker wearing a uniform. “Charlie…No. Not you,” she breathed out in a mixture of fear and disappointment that someone she knew would do something so horrible. She began to back away from him, afraid of what he might do.
Charlie moved quickly, still uncertain about what to do, but he had to try and talk her out of reporting him. “Anna…Let me explain,” he said reaching out to grab her shoulders.
“Let go of me,” she gasped as she struck out at him, trying to make him let her go, afraid now that he meant to harm her to keep her quiet.
He shook her, rocking her head on her shoulders. “You have to listen,” he pleaded.
“NO!” She screamed back, her hands clutched at his shirt, closing over something that jabbed at the tender skin of her palm. She jerked her hand away and swung at his face with the other, catching him with a solid clip against his cheek just below his eye with her small fist.
“YEOOW,” Charlie bellowed, shoving her away from him, his hand rising to cover his throbbing and bruised orb as involuntary tears of pain pooled in his damaged eye.
Anna stumbled backward. She lost her balance, unable to regain it in the soft sand, she fell. Her head hit the bumper of her truck with a sickening thud and her world went dark.
Charlie finally pulled his hand away from his face and glanced around to try and find Anna. He had to try and find a way to talk her into not telling anyone. His one good eye settled on the still form of the woman lying in the dirt. His heart thumped wildly. “Oh God,” he whispered in shock.
He ran over and knelt next to her. Her eyes were open and vacant and staring at nothing. Charlie thought he was about to be sick. He’d never killed anyone before and now he’d killed a friend. God what had he done? If Walter Grady ever found out who’d done this he’d kill hm and mount his head on the wall with the rest of his trophies.
Charlie ran his hand through his hair in frustration. What was he gonna do now? He backed away from the woman on the ground. He had to leave right now before he was seen by anyone. He’d go home and get cleaned up. Change clothes and hide the bruise below his eye. ‘Oh damn, he fretted fearfully as he turned and ran for his truck.
Dirt spurted out from beneath his tires as he floored the gas pedal and sped away, back toward the canyon road.
Silence and the settling of the dust left from Charlie’s rapid exit settled over the still form of Anna Grady were all that remained.
An hour later Charlie drove by the scene on his way to Rampart. His heart thumped wildly in his chest as he cruised slowly by the police cars and coroners wagon parked alongside Anna’s old truck and the still form of what once was a very kind lady.
His mind whirled with fear that the police would somehow see the guilt on his face as he drove by and would rip him from his vehicle and slap the cuffs on, before hauling him off to jail, but they basically ignored him…Only one young officer even looking his way as he waved him on, keeping the scene traffic and gawker free. Charlie blew out a relieved breath and drove on.
Officer Vince Howard stood with homicide Detective Lance Frasier. The pair gazed sadly down at the body of the very pretty woman lying in the dirt. Her driver’s license indentified her as Anna Grady of Laurel Canyon
Vince was almost positive that she was a victim of their highway stalker, despite the fact that he appeared to have changed his MO and attacked her here on the back roads, and this time he had escalated from assault to murder.
The crime scene technicians swarmed over the scene like bees in a hive and the coroner was busy examining the body. Vince’s partner was sent to handle traffic detail, much to his disgust.
The older officer wanted to keep the over eager rookie on a tight leash until he learned to stay in control of a scene like this one instead of simply barging ahead.
Detective Frasier’s keen eyed glance surveyed the entire scene before he turned to Vince. The two men had known each other a long time and Frasier had ridden with him himself until he’d been promoted to Detective and he valued Vince’s opinion.
“So what makes you think this is our stalker?” He asked the older, black officer.
Vince pointed to a cordoned off area over by the road. “The tire tracks over there. I recognized them from the Heather Price scene and they were pretty distinctive. I’d swear they’re the same,” he explained.
Lance bobbed his head. “I’ll have forensics take a look at them as soon as we get back to the station, but if it is him, we’ve got trouble.”
Vince nodded dismally. “Once he’s killed the first time…,” he said sadly.
“The next one will be easier,” Frasier finished.
The pair walked back to where the coroner was standing and making a few notes. “Got a time of death?” He questioned.
“She hasn’t been here long. Probably about four thirty or five this morning,” he replied.
“Cause of death?” Lance asked him curiously as they leaned over to look at the body more closely.
He nodded. “Blunt force trauma to the back of her head,” he said with certainty. “Looks like she may have hit it on the bumper of her truck during the attack,” he informed the detective as he squinted into the bright rays of the rising sun.
“She was attacked…It wasn’t an accident?” He questioned.
The man shook his head. “She’s got some bruising on her shoulders where he grabbed her, and her knuckles are skinned and bruised. She fought back,” he said with certainty.
They leaned over a bit closer and Vince’s eyes caught a twinkle of silver peeping from between the fingers of her clenched left fist. He squatted next to the body and plucked his pen from his pocket. He reached over and gently moved her finger out of the way.
“What is it?” Frasier questioned, leaning over to see what Vince was looking at.
“She’s got something metal in her hand,” he replied.
Lance scowled. It had still been dark when the CSU team had arrived and they’d obviously missed it. He waved one of them over. “Bring your camera and a bag,” he directed the man.
“Yes sir,” he replied, running over to his car before he came over the small group.
“Take a photo of that,” he ordered, pointing at the victim’s hand.
He dutifully snapped several shots and then waited while the detective carefully opened her hand, before snapping a couple more.
Frasier picked up the item with his gloved fingers and turned the small silver rectangle over in his hand. He and Vince looked at it and the Officer Howard gasped in horror.
“What is it Vince?” Frasier asked, looking at the man curiously.
“I know him. He’s a friend of mine,” he said, looking shocked.
Frasier looked down at the fire department name plate he held in his hand. J. GAGE PARAMEDIC MOBILE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT…winked up at him.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Looks like your friend has been up to no good,” he said somberly.
Vince looked sick for a long moment. He couldn’t believe that of John Gage. A look of dawning realization crossed his features. Heather Price had said the man was wearing a fire fighters uniform…A badly fit uniform at that and he was pretty sure Johnny had been on duty last night. He’d seen him and Roy at the scene of a traffic accident early last night.
Vince suddenly grinned…The expression surprising Lance. He certainly wouldn’t be happy to find out a friend of his was a possible killer.
“What’s so amusing?” He questioned.
Vince glanced at his watch. Well…I hate to tell you this, but I think you’re out of luck on that one,” he replied smugly.
“Why’s that?” He asked.
“The coroner put the time of death at four or five AM,” he replied.
“Yeah,” he prompted.
“I happen to know that John Gage was on duty last night,” he said triumphantly.
“Maybe while he was on a run?” He suggested.
“Well I’ll check the logs of course but Station 51 is clear across town. He’d have been missed, beside…Johnny Gage is one of the gentlest people I know,” he said with certainty. “I’d never believe him capable of hurting anyone,” he defended his friend.
“Well how about you take your rookie and head back to the station…Call the department and check the logs. If he’s got an alibi, ask him if he can shed some light on how this woman got her hands on his name plate in her last moments of life,” he said drily, holding up the name plate briefly, before dropping it into an evidence bag.
“Yes sir…I’ll do that right away,” he replied, happy to be the one to handle this and be sure that Johnny was off the hook and treated fairly.
Detective Frasier smiled at the relief on Vince’s face for a moment before his own face fell. “I have to go notify her family,” he said quietly.
Vince nodded, grateful that he didn’t have to handle that part of this investigation. Vince trotted toward his patrol car. “DOUG!” He yelled.
The young man turned toward him. “Yeah!”
“Let’s go…I need to follow up a lead,” he called.
“FAR OUT!” Doug said excitedly as he ran for the car. “What lead?” He asked, sliding in beside his partner.
“We found a name plate in her hand. I just have to check out a couple of things before I talk to Johnny.”
“Johnny?” Warren questioned with a frown.
“Gage…he’s the paramedic outta station 51. I just need to follow up a couple of things before I talk to him,” he said musefully. There was simply no way he’d ever believe the young paramedic capable of being violent with anyone.
Doug looked over at his partner. He had a dozen questions to ask but he saw that faraway look in his eyes and figured he was planning out his strategy for nailing this fire fighter for this crime, beating the detective to the collar. It would be a sure promotion for the black officer, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt his career either.
Continued in Part 2
Posted to Site 10/4/15
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