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It was a great weekend. Johnny Gage, Roy DeSoto and Sam Anderson were in Johnny's Range Rover traveling through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on the way back home to Los Angeles. The morning was foggy and cold. The Oak trees amazing red, brown & gold colors of the fall and the tall majestic fir trees shone through the fog like ghostly sentinels lining the quiet road. There was a small amount of snow on the edge of the road from the flurries the night before. It reminding them all of how cold that early November morning was. Johnny drove slowly. It was nearly 9am. The fog was thick and made landmarks very difficult to see. But in order to make it back in time for their shifts the next day, they needed to be on the road already. Even, with the not so great driving conditions.
The Trio was very pleased. It had been a fantastic Emergency Responders Conference. The fact that the conference was being held in Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada State Line, and that LA County Paramedics were specifically requested to be there was exciting. It meant that Nevada was interested in the possibility of adding a Paramedic program in their State too. There were so many questions. Even the Nevada Governor spoke to Johnny and Roy at length. The three were feeling really good. If only Dr. Brackett could have made it to the conference, that would have made the weekend perfect. He could have added a dimension to the conference that no one else could. No one had Dr. Brackett’s experience or reputation when it came to Paramedics. Even so, the whole weekend was spent answering questions.
During meals and walking through the casinos, Johnny, Roy and Sam were constantly stopped to shake hands and ask questions. Paramedics being at the conference was a big deal. Johnny and Roy continued to talk excitedly about the weekend and the potential for the State of Nevada. But Sam seemed a bit distracted. She sat in the backseat staring out the window, apparently, deep in thought. Fortunately, they didn't have to work the whole weekend. A special treat was that the early snow this year gave them an unexpected chance to ski too. Being outside in nature gave them all a bit of peace away from all the questions. For Sam, it was her first opportunity to try downhill skiing unlike the other two who tried to make it to Big Bear every chance they could get.
"That powder was incredible," Johnny said. "We were pretty lucky that there was such an early snow this year. Would you want to head up to Big Bear after Thanksgiving? Maybe we can get in some more skiing."
"That sounds like a great idea," Roy said. "Chris loved it the last time we went. I think this time maybe we should bring Joann and Jenny too. Jenny is at a great age now to learn to ski."
Johnny looked back at Sam sitting in the backseat and smiled to her. He tried to pull Sam out of her funk by getting her to talk. "I'm not sure what you were doing could be called skiing though Sam," Johnny said. "You spent more time on your butt than you did on your skis."
Sam suddenly seemed aware that the conversation shifted to her. She didn't take the kidding with her normal ease. "You know, it was my first time," She said in an annoyed tone.
"I'm sorry Sam, I was just playing with you," Johnny said.
Johnny smiled. At least that got her talking a little.
"I thought being from Alaska you would have spent plenty of time skiing," Roy said.
"Sledding, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, and even cross country skiing," Sam explained, "But this was my first time downhill skiing."
"It's too bad Alex couldn't make it," Roy said. "The weather was perfect for skiing. He really missed out."
"I know," Sam agreed. "Alex really wanted to be here, but he was so sick during the last shift, I'm kind of glad he decided to stay home. I'm not interested in catching the flu."
Since Sam completed her paramedic training six months earlier, she was assigned to Squad 36. Sam went into every new station with a little bit of anxiety. But, her partner, Alex Martinez, was a great person to work with and made her transition into station 36 a pretty smooth one. Everyone had warmly welcoming to her, even though she was a girl. In fact, being able to do something even though she was a girl, or in the case of the others... A boy, became an inside joke among her crew mates. Another thing that was helpful to her fitting in was the reputation she built from training at 51.
The one story that stood out to many was that Sam had rescued both Johnny and Roy from a burning building. When Alex unknowingly teased Chet afterwards about having a girl at the Station, Chet was pretty upset and gave him an earful about how great she was and her singlehanded rescue of the guys. Alex learned right then, that Sam was a force to be reckoned within the department. So, when she was assigned to work with him, he felt he was pretty lucky. Being partner with the only woman paramedic in the department had led to a few great opportunities too, including the conference. Alex was suppose to come, but developed a bad case of the flu and had to back out at the last minute. That left just the three on the trip. Although Johnny felt bad that Alex was sick, he was pleased to be able to spend some quality time with Sam. He had spent quite a bit of time with her when she was injured during her last rescue as a trainee 6 months ago. She was injured so badly, she spent a month in intensive care and nearly died.
With no family alive to help her during her recovery, Johnny stepped in and took good care of Sam for her first month back at home. They had really begun to get to know each other. But since Sam recovered and was assigned to 36, their time together had been limited. In addition, Sam seemed to be more depressed and introverted lately. She wasn't talking much about what was bothering her except to say it had nothing to do with her work or the department. No one quite knew what was bugging her, including Johnny. But he hoped that the trip would cheer her up. Or at least being stuck in the car for hours on end, he could find out why she was upset.
Roy looked down at the map in his hands and looked around for landmarks of the area. It was still very foggy and hard to see anything.
"Johnny, are you sure we're on the right road," Roy asked. "I haven't seen any cars on this road for a while."
"I think so," Johnny answered. "I know we needed to make a left to get to the Freeway. But, it’s so foggy I...." Before Johnny could finish his sentence, his range rover hit a large patch of black ice and started sliding around. The Rover seemed to be picking up speed. Johnny fought for control of the car but as hard as he tried, they went off the side of the road and down into the trees.
"Hold on," Roy yelled. Roy reached out to the dashboard to brace for impact. The car rolled, bounced then flipped end over end before coming to rest, right side up, in a bunch of fir trees. The tire from the hood of the rover rolled off into the distance. Then, everything was quiet. The engine smoked and sizzled a bit from the impact.
Johnny opened his eyes. He blinked a couple times as he tried to focus and clear the cobwebs from his head. He had a splitting headache. His hips and side hurt from the seatbelt and his back and neck were stiff. A trickle of blood was running down his face from where he hit his head on the steering wheel. Johnny reached up and touched the blood dripping down his face. He looked at his hand and saw the blood on his fingertips. As he took a deeper breath, Johnny noticed the soreness of his left side.
Johnny looked over at Roy seated next to him. Roy was still unconscious. Johnny unbuckled his seat belt and looked around behind him for Sam. The back passenger door was ajar and their luggage was strewn around everywhere inside the back.
Johnny was afraid that Sam had been thrown from the vehicle. He got out of the car quickly and immediately regretted his speed as his head began to swim. Johnny grabbed the side of the car to steady himself and took some breaths to fight the nausea.
When he recovered his senses, Johnny started walking around the back end of the Rover looking for Sam. "Sam," Johnny called out.
"Over here," Sam called back quietly.
Just outside the open front car door, Sam was sitting in the snow. She looked up as Johnny came around. "Are you Ok?" Johnny asked.
Sam looked up at Johnny. "I'm all right," she answered. "I must have banged my head. I was coming over to check on Roy. After getting the door open, I started to get dizzy and thought it was best to just sit down. "He's ok," Sam said. "Just unconscious. But I didn't check on him much further than that."
She paused for a moment then asked Johnny, "Are you ok?"
"Yeah," Johnny said.
Since Sam was so dizzy, Johnny did a quick check on her. He was sure she had a concussion just as he was sure that he probably did too. He tried to find the bump on her head. He reached around behind her right ear, but she pushed his hand away.
"OUCH! Yeah, that's a bump," Sam said.
Johnny smiled. He was relieved that she didn't seem too bad. Sam got up and climbed back into the back seat giving room for Johnny to check on Roy. She found the drug box that they brought for the conference and the first aid kit that Johnny always kept in his car. Sam knew that at least Johnny would need some medical attention and maybe Roy too. Johnny was feeling a little wobbly himself but he had to do a more thorough check on Roy. As Johnny moved to the open door, Roy was beginning to regain consciousness. Roy looked up at Johnny.
"Are you ok partner?" Johnny asked Roy.
"Yeah, I'm ok," Roy answered. "I think my arm is broken though. Where's Sam?"
"I'm here," She answered.
Johnny checked Roy's eyes, back and limbs. It looked like he had a good bump on his head and broken right arm as Roy suspected.
"You’re right. It's broken," Johnny agreed. "Just above the wrist."
Sam grabbed the equipment that they had brought for the conference. She handed Johnny the splint. He carefully splinted Roy's arm and wrist. Then he took out the triangle bandage and created a sling to keep his arm still and stable. When he was done with Roy, Sam pulled Johnny aside. "Now it’s your turn. Johnny, sit and let me look at that head."
Johnny traded spots with Sam and sat inside the open door of the back seat. Roy climbed gingerly out of his seat and stood behind Sam to watch her work on his partner. Sam looked at his head, then taped a gauze pad to stop the bleeding. Johnny flinched and complained as she taped it down. "It looks like you banged your head pretty good on the steering wheel," Sam said. "You're probably going to need a few stitches. How's your back and neck?"
"A little stiff, but not that bad," Johnny answered.
Sam checked Johnny's ribs and found a tender spot on the left upper rib cage and chest from hitting the steering wheel and arm rest "You may have some cracked ribs and maybe a cracked sternum too. Let me get you wrapped up."
Sam carefully helped Johnny get his shirt off then tightly wrapped his ribs. When she was finished with Johnny, With Sam's help, Johnny gingerly put his shirt and wool sweater back on. Sam sat on the ground in front of Johnny and Roy sat on the front seat of the rover with his legs hanging out.
"Man, I'm sorry about this," Johnny said. "This is all my fault."
"Don't worry about it Johnny," Roy said. "We all know it was just an accident. The big question is, do you know where we are?"
Johnny was rubbing his ribs and thought. He looked around. "I thought I did, but now I'm thinking we made a wrong turn."
"Roy, can you hand me the map?" Johnny asked. Roy reached for the map that was on the passenger seat and handed it to Johnny. He started looking at it.
"I think we're about 20 miles from the main road," He said. Johnny pointed to the spot where he suspected that they were. There was an old logging road that was also used as fire access in the heavily wooded area. Johnny believed that he turned on that road by mistake.
"The last time I saw a car go by was right before the turn off. Right about here."
The three looked at the map where he was pointing. They looked around at where they were. The Rover rolled to a stop a few hundred yards off the road in a grove of three story fir trees and ferns. With all the trees and brush, and the distance they were from the road, there was no way they were going to be able to be seen from the road or from the air. Then the fog made everything worse. The fog gave an ethereal feeling to the whole area. Being that it was still morning in the mountains and snow on the ground, there was a chill in the air and the fog made everything feel moist. Sam shivered a little.
"Well," she said. "I'm pretty sure we all have at least a concussion. Between the fog and the trees, there's no way we are going to be seen down here."
"No one is going to miss us for at least 12 hours," Roy said. "Even when they do, they won't know to look for us here. It's going to get below freezing again tonight and the news this morning said another storm system is coming in. The storm should be here by this afternoon and is expected to dump a foot of snow. We wouldn't last more than a day, maybe 2 just waiting around here. Then, there won't be any search, for a while anyway, because of the storm."
"I know it's best to stay with the vehicle, but considering everything, I think the only thing we can do is to start walking," Johnny said. "It's early enough in the day. If we start walking right away, even with our injuries, we should be able to make it to the main road before dark."
In this circumstance, they all agreed, Johnny was right. It would be a long hard road. But they needed to do some walking if they were going to survive. Each of them began gathering supplies. They grabbed the snacks they had bought for the road trip and the canteen Johnny often kept for just in case. Sam pulled out her clothes and things from her back pack and put all those needed supplies inside. She also went through the medical supplies for the blood pressure cuff, the penlight, bandages and anything else she thought they might need as they walked. Then they went through their suitcases to find all the warm clothes they had on their trip. They each slipped their ski clothes over their jeans, grabbed their gloves, hats and scarves and when they were bundled up and had their supplies gathered, they started their trek up the hill toward the road. It was quite a climb to get up to the road.
The climb started easy enough. It was steady uphill. But as they came closer to the road, it became steeper and harder to find secure footing. There was no way to go around or avoid the climb. Sam grabbed a hold of Roy behind his back and secured her hand around his belt. With one arm to work with, he was having a really hard time maintaining his balance. Falling on that broken arm could make things much worse.
Johnny tried to help but with his ribs, there was little he could do to help without making his injuries worse. Sam waved him away and wouldn't let Johnny help. They continued to climb slowly up until they finally reached the road. Johnny, Roy and Sam all sat at the edge of the road for a minute while they caught their breath. Roy's face was bright red from the hard climb. Sam was panting hard and very pale. Suddenly, she scurried away from the boys to the edge of the road. She leaned over the edge and vomited.
Sam exerted so much energy helping Roy up the steep incline that her head was throbbing by the time they reached the top and caused her to lose her lunch. Sam rubbed the sleeve of her red ski coat across her mouth and nose.
"Are you okay," Johnny asked her.
Sam smiled at them and answered quickly. "I'm fine. The climb took a bit more out of me than I thought. But we better get moving. It's going to be a long walk."
Sam stood up and reached down to help Roy to his feet, then she started walking.
Johnny stood up and he and Roy began following her. They all knew that getting started right away would be the best. They still had adrenalin in their system which would push them a bit until the injuries started to have a greater effect. And being that they were already in such good shape before the injuries. That would help too. Sam moved ahead of the other two so that she could walk alone. Johnny looked over at Roy. Their looks to each other spoke volumes. They both knew something was really bothering her and Roy knew that Johnny would find out what it was before the day was over.
They had walked for a little more than an hour. Johnny and Roy talked easily about all kinds of things, as they usually did. They talked about skiing, camping, Roy's kids and what was new at the station. They talked about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the meal that Joann had already started planning. Roy described the placemats the kids had made in school and how excited they were for everyone to use them.
"Roy, there are so many times I envy you," Johnny said. "Joann and the kids must make holidays like Thanksgiving incredible."
Roy smiled, "Yeah, it really does," Roy agreed. "All except for the mother-in-law factor. She is planning to be there for Thanksgiving too."
Johnny giggled a little at that. They looked up ahead. Sam continued to walk quietly, well ahead of them, deep in thought. It was still very foggy and cold, even though it was nearly 11am, but bundled up and moving, the chill was slight. They had been walking for a little more than an hour and were all beginning to feel tired and sore. Johnny noticed Sam had a small of a mis-step and also seemed to be limping a bit. He pointed it out to Roy and the two of them increased their speed some so that they could catch up with her.
"How are you doing Sam?" Johnny asked.
"I’m fine," she answered and just kept walking. She seemed aggravated. Sam wavered a bit again and Johnny stopped her.
"How about we take a little break?" Roy said. "We've been walking for quite a while already."
"Are you doing ok?" She asked and looked to both Johnny and Roy.
"Yeah, we're fine," they both answered.
"Then let’s keep going a little while longer," Sam said.
"Sam, come on. I can tell you’re having some trouble," Johnny said. "Your starting to limp and you look like you might be a little dizzy."
"Besides," Roy said. "I wouldn't mind taking a few minutes and having some water and maybe some aspirin. My arm and head are really starting to ache. I think the adrenalin is starting to wear off."
Sam realized that they wouldn't give up and that they were probably as tired and sore as she was.
"Ok," she agreed. "My head is thumping pretty good too.
Johnny saw a place just ahead off the side of the road where a tree came down leaving a log that they could sit on. Johnny walked over and gently sat. Roy put his good hand down and helped to lower himself down. Sam pulled the backpack off her back and set it down between her and Johnny, then she sat too. As they sat there, Johnny pulled the canteen out of the backpack. They passed it around and each took a sip. Johnny dug through the first aid kit for the aspirin and handed a couple to Roy who drank them down. Then pulled out a couple granola bars. Roy and Johnny both had one, but Sam waved it away. Her stomach was still bothering her more than she liked.
"You need to eat something," Johnny said.
"I know, I know," Sam agreed. "Maybe in a little bit. I'm still not quite ready for food."
Johnny and Roy both knew that a concussion does all kinds of things to the human body. Headaches and nausea being he top two. But with a twenty mile hike, she needed to eat. They would need to keep a close eye on her.
"Sam, You have been awful quiet this morning," Roy said.
"This morning," Johnny interjected. "You've been quiet all weekend.
"Anything you want to talk about?" Roy asked.
"You know, we're going to be walking a while longer." Johnny smiled. "Might as well tell us about it. You know we're not just going to let it go."
Sam knew Johnny was right. She couldn't just keep going and not say anything.
"It’s really not that big of a deal," she explained. "It’s just that, today is my Dads birthday. I found him in His store the day after his 47th birthday. It's been almost two years now since he died."
"I'm sorry," Roy said. "I didn't know."
"It's ok," Sam said. "How could you have known? It isn't like I talk that much about him."
"2 years?" Johnny asked.
"He died six months after Vinnie and Becca," Sam explained. "He had a massive MI." Sam started to think about those events and her emotions began to take over.
She reached up and rubbed her forehead. The pain in her head had become as constant as a toothache and was starting to really play with her emotions. Tears started to stream down her face. Sam grabbed the backpack, swung it onto her back and started walking again. She worked hard to compose herself. Sam always felt embarrassed about showing her emotions. She was suppose to be as strong as the guys. But with this headache she was losing her battle with those emotions. Johnny and Roy stood up and started walking on either side of her.
"Sam?" Roy said.
"I was seven when my mom died," Sam explained. "My Dad was never able to have any more kids. He never got to have the big family he always wanted. He thought of Vinnie as the son he never had. It broke his heart to see him buried. Not that there was much to bury after the explosion. I was still in the hospital when they had the funeral.
In a way that was a good thing."
Sam paused, deep in thought. "We were all always so close. We did everything together. Me and Becca and Vinnie. She was like my sister. Vinnie was like my brother. They couldn't have been closer to me if we were born in the same family. Vinnie's Mom was like my surrogate mother after my mom died. I knew her my whole life." Sam took a deep breath and tried again to calm herself. Vinnie's Mom came to the station a few days after I came back to work." Sam rubbed her hand on the side of her face remembering what happened.
Vinnie's Mom came to the station. The Captain led her to the Rec Room where Sam was with the men on her shift. They were just talking and drinking coffee. Sam saw her come in. She got up and walked stiffly to her. Sam still was a little sore from the injuries she sustained in the explosion. Sam smiled as she walked over but Vinnie's Mom just scowled. When Sam was close enough, instead of the usual hug, she slapped Sam across the face leaving a red imprint of her hand across Sam's cheek.
"He trusted you," she screamed. "You were suppose to be protecting him. You let my Vinnie die!" Sam stood there, in shock from what was being said. The men pulled the grieving woman away. Sam remembered how angry Vinnie's Mom was and the slap across the face for letting her son die. The men on the shift all said Sam did nothing wrong, but Sam didn't seem to hear them at all.
"That was the last time she spoke to me," Sam said. "My job was to protect Vinnie. I was the one watching his back. Every time I think about it... I go over everything. I don't know what I could have done differently. There had to be something I could have done differently. I..."
Sam was sobbing. Johnny grabbed her arm and stopped her. He looked right into her face. "Sam. stop it." Johnny forcefully interrupted. "None of that was your fault."
Roy said. "There was nothing you could do for Vinnie or Becca that you didn't do. We know that and you know that. You also know a massive heart attack takes years to come to that point. Your father didn't die of a broken heart. He had a disease. You know these things. Stop blaming yourself. You didn't kill them."
"It was never the same again," Sam said.
Johnny put his arm around her shoulders and tried to comfort her. "Sam, Roy's right," Johnny said. "You did NOTHING wrong."
Sam didn't seem to see or hear him through her tears that began to heavily flow. She was defenseless to stop it and began to sob as all the emotions she held in for the past two years flowed out. She pulled away from Johnny and started to back away. Sam stumbled and fell back onto her bottom. She grimaced, was in pain and frustrated.
"They were angry that I lived when the others died. They were my family. I loved them. I didn't want them to go. They died right in front of me. Vinnie was blown to pieces before my eyes. It tore me apart inside. I tried to be strong. I tried to be strong for his crew, for his Mom and my Dad. For Becca's family. But they treated me like a criminal. They treated me like I killed them on purpose. Do you know what that's like to be so rejected? To be so hurt by the people who were suppose to Love you." Sam screamed at Johnny then put her head in her hands and just cried.
Johnny stared at her for a moment and sighed. "Yes I do," he quietly said.
Sam began to calm and looked up at him, finally seeming to her what he had said.
"What?" She said.
"I got to watch my parents die right before my eyes," Johnny explained. "We were in a car accident. My Dad died instantly and I held my Moms hand as she took her last breath. I was the one left behind and alone. I was blamed for my mother’s death just because I was born. I was punished for living when they died." Johnny continued. "To the Lakota I was a dirty halfbreed. To the whites, I was a good for nothing Indian. As an adult, it's easier to understand the grieving, anger and bigotry. As a ten year old boy, it's just confusing."
Sam just stared at him and was suddenly ashamed by her outburst. "I'm sorry Johnny."
"Everyone has something from their past that hurts," Johnny said. "But we can't change the past. We just need to keep moving forward."
Johnny kneeled down and gave her a hug. Her emotions started to calm down again.
"I'm sorry," she said again.
Johnny just looked at her and smiled. "It's ok."
"Speaking of moving forward," Roy interrupted. "We should probably get moving again. We still have a long way to go and it feels like it’s getting colder."
Johnny grabbed Sam's hand and steadied her as she got back to her feet. They continued to walk slowly forward. Sam rubbed her head and squeezed her eyes tight.
Johnny noticed what she was doing and asked her, "Is your head really bothering you?"
"Yeah. It really hurts," Sam said. "And I have another bit of a problem. I can't seem to see anymore."
Together both Johnny and Roy exclaimed, "What?"
Johnny guided Sam to the side of the road and stood her with her back against a tree to steady her. He and Roy took the backpack from her and sat her down at the base of the tree. Johnny scooted onto one knee. He dug through the pack until he found the penlight. He took Sam by the chin and lifted her head so she was looking toward his face. Sam seemed to be looking over Johnny's shoulder. Johnny waved his hand in front of her face and she didn't react at all. She obviously couldn't see his hand. Then he flashed the light at her eyes to test her pupillary response. She didn't respond to the light either. Johnny gave a worried look to Roy then went on to check the side of her head again and her ears.
"Pupils are unequal," he said to Roy. Johnny checked her head better whether she liked it or not. Sam squirmed with the prodding. "And there’s some fluid in her ears," he reported to Roy.
Johnny turned back to Sam. "Sam, you don't have a concussion. You have a skull fracture."
Sam didn't say anything. Between the nagging headache, nausea and emotional outburst, she already suspected that. But they were still at least an hour walk before they could get back to civilization. They all knew, Sam would just get worse the more she walked. But they would all die if they stayed too. The sky was getting darker, the air was getting colder and a wind started to blow. The storm was coming into the area and they all knew it. It was a difficult decision that none of them really wanted to make. They sat there for a minute contemplating the next move. Sam made the hard decision for them.
"You know, we can't stay here and none of us is well enough to be able to walk alone or stay alone," Sam said. "We have to keep going."
Johnny was still kneeling in front of Sam when she stood up and practically knocked Johnny over as she did.
"So am I going alone?" Sam asked.
Johnny took Sam's hand and they continued to walk along the long road. He moved carefully and led her around anything that could trip her up. They were all hoping that they would be found soon. They all were walking silently. All they could hear was the crunch of their shoes in the small bit of snow on the ground. Even the animals were quiet.
Sam walked up the porch and into a small white house. The house was quiet and dark. "Daddy," Sam yelled.
Sam hung her coat on the hook next to the front door and kicked off her shoes. She walked further into the house and put her shoulder bag on the kitchen table. She switched on the light. Sam was wearing the uniform of the Fort Yukon Fire Department.
"Daddy!" She called again. But the house remained quiet.
Sam went back outside, pulling her coat tightly around her body to protect herself from the November Chill. The street was quiet. Lights could be seen through the windows of the homes along the street and smoke poured out of many of the chimneys. A storm was coming. Sam bounded up the stairs of the store. The lights were on and it was warm inside. She looked around as she walked further into the store but it seemed that no one was there. She threw her coat onto the counter. "Daddy!" She called out again.
Sam walked through the store. She didn't see him down any row or behind any counter. Sam walked into the storage room in the back. There was a box laying in the middle of the aisle. It didn’t belong there. Sam walked over to the box and looked curiously at it lying in such an unusual place. As she got closer, Sam noticed her father lying next to the box. "Daddy!!!!" Sam screamed. She kneeled down next to her father and rolled him onto his back. She checked his carotid pulse. There was no heartbeat. Sam gave him a pre-cordial thump and began CPR. Sam continued CPR, crying as she did so. She knew it was too late but refused to give up. "Daddy, No."
Sam stumbled and she went to her knees, practically jerking Johnny to the ground with her. She was falling face first to the ground. Johnny held on tight to keep her from falling too hard. He grunted and grabbed his side as he lowered her down. Johnny let Sam's hand slip from his and he stood up straight and started trying to take some easy shallow breaths as he moved around. Johnny felt those cracked ribs shift and the pain of the movement caused Johnny to have his own waves of nausea. Sam put her hands in the snow and vomited. Roy saw the exchange and knew that Johnny did some further damage to his ribs. Roy came up to Sam and rubbed her back with his good hand. Sam finished and sat back unsteadily on her heels. She put her hands to her head. Johnny finally started feeling a bit better and looked over at Roy and Sam.
"Roy, we need to move her over there near those trees," Johnny hoarsely said. "It will be warmer there."
The two helped Sam stand up on wobbly legs. Roy grabbed one of Sam's arms and Johnny grabbed the other. They rushed her over to the trees. As they were nearly to the trees, Sam's legs gave out on her again and nearly pulled the two men to the ground creating another wave of pain for Johnny. They gently laid her down on her side in the bed of fir needles at the base of the tree. Roy helped Johnny carefully slip the backpack off his back.
"My head really hurts," Sam said as she rolled on the ground.
"I know honey," Johnny answered. "Just hang in there."
Roy kneeled down next to her and brushed her short brown hair from her face. Sam's eyes were closed and she had no reaction to the touch. "She lost consciousness," Roy said. "Johnny, she can't go any further."
"I know," Johnny said.
Johnny stood up and looked around "We've got to be less than six miles from that main road. I'll run the rest of the way and bring back help."
He was about to go when Roy stopped him. "Johnny, you’re not going to get far with those ribs," Roy said. "I'll go. You stay with Sam."
"Roy," Johnny said.
"No arguments junior," Roy said. "I'll be back as fast as I can."
The snow started to fall as Roy began to walk quickly away. The storm they had been expecting all day had finally arrived. Roy knew that time was short, not just because Sam was getting worse, but that if he didn't hurry, they would all freeze to death.
"Roy, be careful," Johnny said.
Roy nodded and rushed into the storm. Johnny watched Roy until he walked out of sight of the grove of trees. Johnny then moved to Sam. He held his side as he sat with his back against the tree. He took a few breaths to help steady his breathing. every movement now was painful. Johnny helped Sam lay with her head across his lap. He brushed the hair out of her face. Johnny checked Sam's pulse and breathing. She started to stir a bit. "Johnny?"
"I'm right here Sam," he answered.
"Roy," she asked.
Johnny answered, "Roy went ahead to get help."
"Johnny, I'm sorry." Sam explained, "I didn't want you and Roy to get stuck out here because of me and I'm sorry for yelling at you earlier."
"Knock off the blame," Johnny said. "I'm as guilty for this whole thing as you are. Even more so, since I was driving. I turned on the wrong road and you couldn't help being hurt any more than I could."
Sam started to moan a bit. "Johnny, I think I'm..."
Johnny brushed the hair gently from her head, "Take some nice deep breaths. The nausea will pass."
Sam took a few deep breaths and started to relax a little bit again. "Johnny, tell me about your childhood."
He never really wanted to share much about his childhood with anyone. The only one he really ever shared with was Roy. But he knew she was looking for a distraction to get through the next hour or so until help came. Johnny started to think about it. He remembered his parents and his childhood and started to tell the story.
"My mom was very beautiful. She loved to sing, cook and she was very creative...."
Johnny was about ten years old. He was in his room putting away his clothes. The moccasins his mother made for him when he was born sat in a place of honor on top of his dresser. Johnny carefully made his bed and lovingly pulled the quilt his mother made for him up. He laid the pillows in their place and gently smoothed out the quilt. The house smelled of bacon eggs, toast, and coffee; Johnny's fathers favorite Saturday breakfast. As Johnny came out of his room he could hear his mother singing. As he came closer to the kitchen he heard the quiet giggles of his parents. Johnny snuck a peek around the corner and watched his parents sing together and dance in the small square kitchen and around the table. The room was sparse. Just a simple dining set with a small table and four dining chairs. A red and white checkered table cloth covered the table. His father started to sing too, but didn't have the beautiful voice that she did.
Johnny smiled as he watched the two of them together. His father had his hands wrapped tightly around his mother’s thin waist and she had her arms around his neck. She was wearing a beautiful white dress with simple salmon colored beading. Her long straight black hair hung loosely down to her waist. His father was tall, thin and strong.
He was wearing jeans and a red flannel shirt with the arms of the shirt rolled up to the elbow. He was wearing his boots and the rodeo belt buckle he won at the local rodeo just a couple months ago. Johnny's father had short black hair and smiled with the same crooked smile that he shared with his son. Both of Johnny's parents were smiling and looked so happy. Momma looked over and spotted Johnny watching them.
"There you are my little one," she said. "Come on over here and let's get some breakfast into you. It's going to be a big day."
Johnny walked over to his mother. She mussed his scruffy black hair and kissed him on the forehead as he looked up to her. She poured Johnny a big glass of milk and he began to eat the food on his plate. Johnny's parents both sat at the table with him and worked on their breakfast too. They talked as they ate.
"So what do you know about the horses they have there?" Johnny's mother asked.
Johnny's father answered. "I think we can find a couple of great breeding mares. It's going to be a great day."
Johnny was riding in the back seat of the car as they drove down the road. Johnny's parents were talking quietly to each other. Johnny was quietly playing with a small toy horse as they drove. All of a sudden Johnny's father said "What the hell!!!"
The car swerved. Johnny slid across the backseat of the car and hit his head on the window. The car catapulted off the road and Johnny felt himself launched from the car. Johnny landed on his arm and felt the bone snap as he hit. Johnny continued to roll down the hill and finally came to a stop in the grass. He grabbed his wrist and started to cry. After a few moments, the pain started to ease and Johnny started to look around for his parents.
"Momma? Daddy?" He called out. "Momma? Daddy?"
There was no answer to his calls. Johnny looked around more. He saw the car at the bottom of the hill. It was on fire. He could hear some sirens in the distance.
Johnny stood up and looked around more. He spotted his mothers white dress in the grass. Johnny crawled over to where his mother was laying. Her head was bleeding and her breathing was ragged. She looked up as Johnny came to her. She smiled at him.
"There you are my little one," she said.
Johnny was crying. "Momma," he said. "I don't know where Daddy is."
"Johnny, don't be afraid. Everything is going to be all right. I love you my little one," she said. "I will always love you. No matter what, remember. Mommy and Daddy love you."
She reached up and wiped the tears from his face with her thumb and held his face in her hand. Johnny cried even harder. Even at his young age, he seemed to know that her time with him was coming to an end. She lovingly smiled at him. Then the smile faded. Her hand slipped from his face. She closed her eyes as she took her last breaths.
"Momma, no," Johnny said as he cried.
Johnny could hear the fire truck and men come up behind him and the water began to spray over the car to control the beginning of the brush fire. The water blew back at Johnny wetting his face and body. The spray of the cool water mixed with his hot tears.
The snow was coming down much harder now. It was hard to see. The sun was fighting to keep light in the sky. Roy was slogging through the now almost foot deep snow. He could see the main road ahead. A few cars drove by but the road was much quieter now that the storm had arrived in force. It was hard to even hear the cars as they drove by. The snow in the air and on the ground seemed to muffle all sound. Roy waved at the cars as they drove by, but no one was stopping. Roy shivered from the increasing cold. He looked down the road one way, then the other. He saw the light from a small diner not too far down the road. Roy moved quickly, almost running to the diner. There were only a couple cars parked in front. Roy pushed through the door and into the warmth of the diner, looking for someone to help him. A police officer seated in the booth toward the back of one side of the diner got up and walked forward.
"Mr. DeSoto," the officer said. "I thought you were headed home this morning?"
The officer took a better look and noticed the splint and bandages on Roy's arm.
"What the hell happened to you?" He asked as he looked Roy up and down.
"We were in a traffic accident about twenty miles down this road over here, going south," Roy answered.
"That's an old logging road," he said, "What were you doing on that road?"
"We took a wrong turn in the fog this morning," Roy answered. "Listen, Johnny and Sam were pretty badly hurt. Can you call an ambulance and we go get them?"
"Yeah, sure," he said. "Come on."
Roy and the officer rushed out to his car parked on the far side of the diner and got on the radio.
"Dispatch, this is car 933. I have a traffic accident down the Mill Creek fire road. three victims. Send an ambulance ASAP. They are reported to be about 5 miles south of the highway. I'm on my way there now."
"10-4, 933," dispatch answered.
The officer put on his sirens as he drove out of the parking lot then turned down the fire road. The car was sliding a bit on the new fallen snow.
"We've been walking for hours trying to beat the storm," Roy said. "Sam collapsed and I had to leave them about five miles back."
Sam started to shiver. "Johnny, it's getting colder."
"Yeah," he said. "It's been snowing for a while."
He pulled another sweater out of the backpack and covered her with it. They were both shivering some now and the wind seemed to cut through them like a knife.
"There was a point that I used to like snow," Sam said. "I don't like it as much as I used to."
Sam started to get more drowsy. She was fading in and out of consciousness. Her eyes closed again and her breathing began to get slower.
"Sam!" Johnny said. "Sam, hang on now. Roy will be here anytime now."
Johnny checked Sam's pulse. It was fast but getting weaker. He could hear the sirens in the distance and knew that help was on the way. "Sam," Johnny said. "Do you hear the siren Sam? Help is on the way. They are coming."
Roy and the Officer pulled up. "There they are!" Roy yelled.
The officer pulled the car over to the side of the road. He could see them sitting at the base of a large fir tree, surrounded by snow. He leapt out of the car and ran over to where Johnny was sitting with Sam. Roy got out slower, in obvious pain and followed the officer to them.
"The ambulance is on the way," the officer said. "It should be here any time now."
"We cant wait for the ambulance," Johnny said. "Roy, she's unconscious now.
She's been fading in and out of consciousness for about twenty minutes." "Her breathing is slower and her pulse is getting weak. I'm afraid we may lose her."
The officer Picked Sam up off Johnny's lap and carried her shivering form over to the squad car. Roy reached down and took Johnny's hand, helping him to his feet. Johnny rushed to the squad car as fast as he could. He sat down in the back seat of the squad car and the officer laid Sam down with him. Johnny made sure she was positioned well and was able to breathe easily. Roy got into the front seat with the officer, they made a u-turn and headed back down the road and to the hospital, sirens blaring.
"Can you contact the hospital?" Roy asked the officer?
"Sure," the officer answered.
He called into dispatch. "Dispatch, this is 933."
"Go ahead 933," Dispatch answered.
"One of the accident victims has been seriously hurt, we can't wait for the ambulance so I'm transporting to the hospital in my unit. I have those Los Angeles paramedics with me. They wanted me to contact the hospital."
10-4 933," Dispatch answered. "What do you want them to know?"
The officer handed Roy the microphone and Roy passed on the information about victims condition. "We have three victims of a traffic accident. Victim one is a female, 23 years old. She has a bad bump behind her right ear. Possible skull fracture. The injury is affecting her vision. She has fluid in both ears and is now unconscious. Pupils unequal. Respiration is 15 and shallow. Pulse is 120 and weak."
Roy continued with Johnny, "Victim 2 is a male, 26 years old. He has a bad bump and laceration over his left eye. Probable concussion. He also has pain in his left chest. Probable broken ribs and possible broken sternum. Victim three is a male, 29 years old. Also probable concussion and broken right humorous above the wrist. The break is splinted. ETA is about..."
Roy looked at the officer and the officer answered, "Two minutes."
Roy repeated the ETA. Dispatch transmitted the information to the hospital. The hospital was prepared as soon as they arrived. The doctor met them at the door and started to check on Sam as they walked down the hall to the treatment room. Johnny and Roy followed right behind Sam into the treatment room. Once they got in, Johnny got the oxygen and put the mask on Sam as the doctor started to look her over better.
"Get X-ray in here Stat," the doctor said. "I want a full skull series. Is O.R. set up?"
"All ready when you are," the head nurse said.
One of the nurses was getting the vital signs. The doctor looked over at the two men who had stepped back and were watching. He nodded at the woman who was obviously the head nurse. The nurse came to both Johnny and Roy.
"Dr. Miller will take care of her," She said, then ushered them out of Sam's treatment room and into their own.
It had been several hours since they arrived at the hospital. The doctor came into the room to find Johnny and Roy both sitting in their hospital beds. Johnny was shirtless and had his ribs tightly taped and he had a fresh bandage on his head. Roy had his arm in a cast and resting on a pillow in his lap.
"Gentlemen, I'm Dr. Miller. I believe I spoke to you both at the conference. I'm head of Emergency Services and neurosurgery here. How are you both doing?"
"We're doing much better Dr. Miller," Johnny answered. "How's Sam?"
"She's doing fine," Dr. Miller answered. "She has a skull fracture as you suspected and came through surgery with no complications. We have her in ICU now where we can keep a close eye on her. She's still unconscious, but much more stable now. The swelling seems to be going down and as it does I'm sure her vision will return. If everything continues as it has been, we may be able to release all three of you by the end of the week."
Johnny let his head fall back into the pillow and closed his eyes. He took as deep a breath as he could. Both men were relieved and thankful to hear that she was doing so much better. Johnny looked over at Roy.
"I really thought we were going to lose her out there," Johnny said.
"I know," Roy replied. "Me too."
"When I heard the three of you speak, to be honest," Dr. Miller said. "I didn't think I would be seeing much about paramedics so soon. Even without your equipment and being injured yourselves, you were pretty impressive."
"Thank You," both Johnny and Roy said.
"I think we're going to have some more serious conversations about starting this paramedic program here in Nevada," Dr Miller said. "Now, I'll leave you two to get some rest. I'm sure you both must have some pretty serious headaches. I'll keep you updated on Sam."
Both Johnny and Roy smiled at him. Relieved at being together and that Sam was doing better too.
Johnny sat in the darkened hospital room next to Sam's bed. An IV hung from the stand and the heart rate monitor was beeping steadily. Her head was wrapped in a large white bandage. Johnny just sat and stared at her sleeping form. He was no longer dressed in a hospital gown. He was now wearing sweat pants and a red flannel shirt. Roy came walking into the room and saw Johnny sitting there.
"Johnny?" Roy said.
Johnny looked over as Roy walked in. "Joann is here. She picked up our stuff from the car."
"How is it?" Johnny asked.
"The Rover is totaled," Roy said. "The frame is so twisted they had a hard time even towing it. It's hard to believe that none of us was more badly hurt."
Johnny nodded quietly and looked back at Sam.
"I was talking to Joann. I think we're going to get a room at the MGM for a night or two," Roy said. "Johnny, how about you come with us? Dr. Miller and Dr. Brackett both said we all need to get rest."
"I'm getting rest," Johnny explained.
"You have been in here all day and sleeping in that chair," Roy said. "I know you can't have been very comfortable or getting much rest, especially with those ribs. Now come on. She'll be fine for a while."
Sam rolled a little in bed and put her arm over her eyes. "I agree. Go away, and turn off that light on your way out. I have a horrible headache."
Johnny and Roy smiled at Sam. They were both relieved that she had finally regained consciousness and seemed to be able to see again. Johnny held his sore ribs and leaned forward. He pushed the call button for the nurse.
"I'll ask them to bring you some aspirin," Johnny said.
"Thank you," Sam responded. "Now go with Roy and get some rest. I'm ok."
"We'll be back later," Roy said.
The nurse came in to check on Sam and give her a little something for the pain.
Roy grabbed Johnny by the arm and started leading him out of the room. "Come on junior," Roy said to Johnny.
Johnny started to protest but then thought better of it. He knew they were both right. Johnny moved slowly out of the chair. He wrapped his right arm across his ribs, holding them tight as he moved. As they were walking out of the room, the nurse walked past them going back out. Johnny looked back at Sam peacefully sleeping.
"Roy," Johnny said. "How did you know that Joann was the right person for you?"
"What did you say?" Roy said.
"Forget it Roy," Johnny said. He waved his hand a bit to say never mind. Johnny started walking away with a shocked and confused look Roy following behind.
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