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Celebration of Life

An Emergency Story By

Golden Waterfall
 

 

**Co-Written by BarbaraLee

 

*Shortly after 4am on 5 September 1972, eight heavily armed militants from Black September, a faction of the PLO, arrived on the outskirts of Munich and scaled a perimeter fence protecting thousands of athletes sleeping in the Olympic Village. 

 

Carrying assault rifles and grenades, the Palestinians ran towards No 31 Connollystrasse, the building housing the Israeli delegation to the Munich Olympic Games.  Bursting into the first apartment, they took a group of Israeli officials and trainers hostage. 

 

In another apartment, they captured the Israeli wrestlers and weightlifters [and] an Israeli-American law graduate. When the tough Israelis fought back, the Palestinians opened fire, shooting [two Israelis] dead.  The other nine were subdued and taken hostage.  The Palestinians then demanded the release of 234 prisoners held in Israeli jails. 

 

So began a siege and a tragedy that remains one of the most significant terror attacks of modern times. The assault, and the nature of the Israeli response, thrust the Israeli-Palestinian crisis into the world spotlight, set the tone for decades of conflict in the Middle East, and launched the new era of international terrorism. Olympic events were suspended, and broadcasters filled the time … by switching to live footage from Connollystrasse.  A TV audience of 900 million viewers in more than 100 countries watched with lurid fascination. 

 

Initially the Palestinians seemed to relish the attention.  They felt the world had ignored them for decades.  But after a day of missed deadlines, "Issa", the Black September leader, wearied of negotiations.  During the evening he demanded a plane to fly his men and the Israelis to the Middle East.  German officials agreed to move the group in helicopters to Fürstenfeldbruck airfield base on the outskirts of Munich, where a Boeing 727 would be waiting to fly them to Cairo.  Secretly, however, the Germans began planning a rescue operation at the airfield. 

 

Just as the Palestinians and Israelis were about to land at Fürstenfeldbruck a group of German policemen on the 727 took a fateful decision and abandoned their positions.  Five German snipers were then left to tackle eight well-armed Palestinians.  The hostages and terrorists landed at the airfield at 10.40pm.  Issa realised it was a trap and the German snipers opened fire, missing their targets.  A gunfight began, and bullets sliced through the control tower … . Then a stalemate developed and … the Germans had no idea what to do. 

 

An hour of sporadic gunfire ended when German armoured cars lumbered on to the airfield.  The gunner in one car accidentally shot a couple of men on his own side, and the Palestinians apparently thought they were about to be machine-gunned.  A terrorist shot four of the hostages in one helicopter as another Palestinian tossed a grenade inside.  The explosion ignited the fuel tank, and the captive Israelis burned. 

Another terrorist then shot the Israelis in the other helicopter.  Germans present at the airfield still remember the screams.  Eleven Israelis, five Palestinians and one German police officer died during the Munich tragedy.  The unprecedented attack, siege and massacre had a huge impact.  In many ways it was the 9/11 of the 1970s.  Suddenly the world realised terror was not confined to the Middle East. i  

 

*The 11 days of these Games were perhaps the greatest Olympic festival ever.  However, on the morning of 5 September, the Games were interrupted when eight Arab terrorists, representing the militant group Black September entered the Olympic Village, took hostage and then killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team -- all this only 20km from Dachau.  The Olympic Games were suspended for 34 hours and a mass was held in the main stadium to commemorate the victims.  But the Games continued at the insistence of the IOC President Avery Brundage, who famously said "The Games must go on!" ii 

 

*There were hundreds of journalists from all over the world covering the 1972 Olympics, so the Black September assault and the murder of the Israeli athletes was, in fact, the very first time that a terror attack was reported and broadcast, in real time, across the globe. 

In the end, 17 people died during the Black September attack: six Israeli coaches, five Israeli athletes, five of the eight terrorists and one West German policeman.  Three terrorists were captured, but were later released by the West Germans.  iii 

Page Break 

 

 

Celebration of Life 

 

PROLOGUE 

 

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August 26, 1972 

 

“Come on, Roy,” Johnny shouted over his shoulder as he turned on the television. 

 

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Chet griped as he poured his coffee.  “It’s just a track meet.” 

 

“It is not ‘just a track meet,’ Kelly,” Johnny argued, “these are the best athletes in the world coming together in the name of sportsmanship and healthy competition.”  Chet laughed. 

 

 “What’s so funny?” 

 

“You sound like Howard Cosell.  'This is John Gage, reporting on the Olympics live from Station 51',” he droned nasally in a passable imitation of the famous sportscaster.  He came over and stood in front of the television.  “What are you so excited about now?  No one’s competing yet, it’s just the opening ceremony.” 

 

“He does have a point,” said Roy as he came into the kitchen and headed for the coffee pot. 

Johnny spun to face him.  “Are you kidding me?  Roy, this is the Olympics!  The Olympics, Man!”  He had joined his partner at the counter before he noticed the grin.  He accepted the coffee Roy had poured for him and, with a glance at Chet, lowered his voice conspiratorially.  “I could’ve been on this team.” 

 

“Which team?  You mean the Olympic team?  You could have made the U.S. Olympic team?” 

 

Unnoticed by both paramedics, Chet had made his way to them just in time to overhear Johnny’s statement. 

 

“Yeah, Chet, almost,” Johnny said with pride. 

 

“Hey, guys,” Chet called as Mike and Marco came into the room, “get a load of Gage.  He says he was going to be in the Olympics.” 

 

“Why don’t you go play in traffic, Kelly.”  Johnny left Chet snickering to the others as he made his way back to the television and settled in. 

 

“Leave it alone, Chet,” Roy firmly advised as he followed his partner across the room.  He took the seat to John’s left.  “You were really good enough for the Olympics?” 

 

Johnny smiled.  “I could have been.  My high school coach thought I could compete." 

 

"Weren't you still in high school during the last Olympics?" 

 

Johnny rolled his eyes, but his smile never dimmed.  "I graduated that spring, the games weren't until October.  It was too late to make the team, though.  I wouldn't have been ready for Mexico City, but Coach said that with some hard work and the right training I would make the next U.S. team.  This year’s team.” 

 

“Wow.”  Roy grinned, genuinely impressed.  “You said you were good, not that good.  Why didn’t you go for it?” 

 

“I couldn’t train for the Olympics and the Fire Department,” John explained matter-of-factly.  “But Roy, some of this year’s competitors were here, in California, back then.  Not just the U.S. team, either.  I knew some of those guys.  Before I started at the Academy I got to run with them.  It was incredible!” 

 

“Not incredible enough to change your mind, though.” 

 

“No,” Johnny’s smile widened.  “Since I was a kid all I ever wanted was to be a fireman.  I was right there, you know?  Graduation, my birthday, then straight to the Fire Academy.  But man, for a minute … I was world class.” 

 

“Has it started?” John Smith, 51's current captain, came in from his office, leading the way as the rest of the crew joined the paramedics in front of the television. 

 

The men settled in to watch.  A few announcements in German from the television, then the music began. 

~~~~~  

August 29, 1972 

 

Johnny entered the locker room as Roy was changing into his uniform.   “Good morning, good morning, good morning!”  He clapped Roy’s shoulder before heading to his own locker. 

“You’re in a good mood this morning.” 

“Well why not?  I had a great day.  Great sports, great friends, great food.” 

“You spent most of the afternoon watching the Olympics with Chris.” 

“He’s a terrific kid.  And who’d have thought a kid his age would love the Olympics.” 

“I don’t know if it was the Olympics or just watching it with you, Junior.  He did enjoy it."  Roy chuckled.  "It didn’t hurt that you let him blow out your candles, or that you passed him a second piece of cake.” 

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"You caught that," Johnny smirked.  “He has a heck of an appetite for a kid his age.  For any age.” 

“Like someone else I know.” 

“Chris is lucky, though; he gets Joanne’s cooking every day.  At least the baby's not eating solid food yet, leaves more for him … and me, of course,” Johnny teased. 

Before Roy could respond, he added, “Seriously Pally, thanks.  It was a really great way to spend my birthday.” 

“Let’s do it again before the games are over.  I’m sure Chris would have a good time even without the birthday cake.” 

“Why no cake?” 

Roy grabbed his shoes from the bench, tossed them into his locker and closed the door.  “If you want cake, you bring it.”  He moved to the door.  “Hurry up if you want coffee before roll call.” 

With another laugh, Johnny turned to finish dressing. 

~~~~~ 

September 6, 1972 

Roy backed the squad in after returning from a run.  He reached for the door and noticed Johnny hadn’t moved.  “Are you ok?”  He wondered if Johnny even heard him. 

“Yeah, just give me a minute.” 

Roy nodded his understanding and exited the squad.  He spotted Captain Smith in the office doorway.  With a nod toward Johnny, Cap asked, “What’s with your partner?” 

“You saw the news last night, didn’t you?”  Cap nodded.  “It hit him really hard.  And this run didn’t help matters."  Cap simply raised an eyebrow.  "He was fine on the run, completely professional," Roy quickly volunteered.  "It was nothing, a twisted ankle.  At the University track.  Just give him a minute,” he reiterated Johnny's request and went to the day room. 

Cap watched Johnny for a minute, then deferred to Roy and returned to the office. 

Unnoticed by them all, Mike Stoker heard the exchange from the cab of the engine.  He dropped the cleaning rag on the seat beside him, then he, too, watched Johnny for minute.  Finally he climbed down and moved to the passenger side of the squad.  John still did not notice.  “Johnny?” 

“Huh?" he jumped, startled from his thoughts.  "Oh.  Hey, Stoke.” 

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"You ok?" 

"Of course," Johnny replied glibly.  "Why wouldn't I be?"  Mike said nothing.  Johnny looked to the engineer, then turned to again face front.  They remained like that for several long minutes; Johnny staring blindly out the squad's windshield, Mike watching him.  Johnny finally broke the silence.  “I had dinner at Roy’s last night. 

After we ate we all sat down to watch the Games.”  There was another long silence.  Mike waited patiently, and finally Johnny continued on his own.  “Later, Chris had a-a nightmare or something and came back into the living room.  Joanne tried to pick him up but he wouldn’t let her, so she went to make him some cocoa and Roy tried to hold him.”  A small, sad smile crossed Johnny’s lips.  “Chris ran over to me.”  He finally looked up at Mike.  “He climbed up in my lap and held onto me like his life depended on it.” 

Stoker nodded knowingly.  “What time was it?” 

“Um … t-ten something,” Johnny replied, confused.  “Why?” 

“About the time the news broke?” Mike asked socratically.  

“But even if he could've heard the television, would he even u-un-understand what he was hearing?” 

“Kids that age are pretty sharp,” Mike told him.  “When someone they care about is hurt, they hurt.  You were hurting.” 

With that the dam broke.  Johnny informed Mike of his Olympic aspirations, short-lived though they’d been.  “I-I got a chance to-to meet some of this year’s a-athletes, to-to work with them.  Coach was p-pushing pretty hard mm-my senior year, so …”  He inhaled deeply, pushing down the emotion and attempting to tame the stutter.  “Mike,” he spoke slowly, calmly, “it wasn’t just Americans.  The I-Israeli track coach — he … he wasn't a coach yet.  He was studying here, a-a-at the University.  I-I ran with him; I trained with him.  I knew his family.  His-his wife, E-Esther, she … they'd jus-just had a-a-a little girl. Wh-what if they don't … what if … what if he doesn't …" 

With a sad shake of his head, Mike gently laid his hand on Gage’s shoulder.  “I’m sorry, Johnny.” 

They stayed together like that in silence while Johnny gathered himself.  A short time later they went into the kitchen together, where Chet was at the stove stirring his chili and Marco was setting the table around Roy, who was doing paperwork.  With Mike right behind him, Johnny went to the television and turned it on. 

Sportscaster Jim McKay appeared on screen.  “The latest word we get from the airport is that, quote ‘all hell’s broken loose out there,’ that there’s still shooting going on, that there — that there’s a report of a burning helicopter— ” 

The tones sounded.   

Nearly two hours later, six hungry firemen sat down to the dinner they had abandoned.  Roy and Mike both watched Johnny carefully, subtly, neither wanting Johnny to notice, thereby hiding their concern from each other as well.  Both saw that he was barely eating, both realized now, in front of the others, was not the time to address it, and both resolved to talk to Johnny later, at the first available opportunity, in private. 

When the meal was done, much to everyone’s surprise, Johnny volunteered to do the dishes.  The rest of the crew gathered to watch TV.  For what seemed a very long time, the television and the running water were the only sounds in the room.  Only Mike looked up when the water stopped.  

 

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On the television were scenes of the Munich airport and the standoff between the Palestinian terrorists and the West German authorities.  Johnny’s back was to the television while the rest of the crew sat engrossed in the unfolding drama.  No one noticed the death grip he held on the counter's edge. 

“When I was a kid,” Jim McKay’s voice was calm, conversational, “my father used to say, ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.’  Our worst fears have been realized tonight."  He turned to look directly into the camera.  Only his eyes revealed the depth of emotion behind the words.  "They have now said there were eleven hostages, two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight.   They’re all gone.”  

It wasn’t until they heard the back door close behind him that the crew realized Johnny was gone. 

 

CHAPTER ONE

April 1, 1973 

For everyone else, the longest day of the year was June 21st; for John Gage it was April 1st.  From the stupid pranks people played resulting in run after ridiculous run to the even more stupid pranks to which he fell victim courtesy of the Phantom, Johnny had seriously considered going home sick.  He didn't.  He did have to change his shirt three times thanks to a series of water bombs, the last one springing from the refrigerator, of all places.  How did he get it in there, Johnny wondered.  When I got the milk for lunch there was nothin'.  Then the whole station was toned out.  When could he?  "Aah!"  He closed his locker to find Chet standing there. 

"The Phantom is everywhere."  Chet grinned and sauntered from the locker room. 

Johnny sighed and plopped down onto the bench.  That is where Roy found him minutes later, staring at the floor, the clean shirt he'd taken from his locker still in his hand. 

"You ok?" 

"Huh?  Oh, hey Roy.  Yeah, I'm ok.  Just thinking." 

"What about?"  Silence.  "Johnny?" 

He carefully laid the clean shirt next to him on the bench and began unbuttoning the wet shirt he wore.  He kept his eyes on his shirt buttons, and away from Roy.  "Remember that house fire a couple of months ago, the old man I left inside?  The blind one." 

Roy moved to the sink so that he was standing directly across from his partner.  He tried to catch Johnny's eye.  "I thought we resolved this.  That wasn't your fault; he lied to you." 

Johnny looked up to face Roy for a quick moment and grinned weakly.  "'A noble lie." 

"Yes.  The baby was your first priority.  He was the old man's, too.  You couldn't have taken them both and he knew that.  You did nothing wrong." 

"I know, but—" 

"No 'buts'.  Don't just take my word for it.  Cap said so, before the old man spoke up and took responsibility, which he did.  And the granddaughter—" 

"Was furious with me." 

"I think she was angry at herself, really.  You had just saved her son, and she was acting like that didn't matter.  She didn't tell us he was blind either.  If she just spoke up before you went in—" 

"I know.  I remember.  I remember everything about that day.  I remember the lies; I remember the people that almost died because of the lies.  Like that couple that blew themselves up.  And what about that boy who crashed his mother's car?  Got himself seriously injured and in trouble with the law because that girl wouldn't tell the mother.  A lie of omission is no less a lie." 

"I remember that day, too.  It was a bad scene, all of it, but it was over and done months ago.  What's really going on?" 

"It's just … So many lies, so much damage.  Then, just a few weeks later, we're practically arrested for something we didn't do.  I mean — they read us our rights, Roy!  A few more weeks and we're at today."  He rose to remove his damp shirt.  "And I knew it was going to be like this," the comment was almost lost as he turned to his locker. 

Roy leaned back against the sink, his arms crossed.  "You knew what was going to be like what?" 

"Today.  The jokes.  I wasn't here for it last year, but I—"  He stopped, his face hidden in the locker. 

Roy waited patiently.  Last year Johnny was in Rampart; severely injured in what had started as, of all things, a practical joke.  In a fraternity hazing gone wrong a pledge was injured and Station 51 had been called to the rescue.  The pledge's injury turned out to be minor, but his "brothers" had spotted Johnny and decided to up their game.  They lied to the crew to separate Johnny from the rest of them, and. when their "joke" nearly killed him, they'd tried to protect themselves with more lies, painting John Gage the villain with ugly accusations that could have ended his career. iv

Roy looked at Johnny with pride.  The physical therapist had said that John would be in rehab at least a year, yet here he was, and had been for months.  No one who knew him had been surprised that he'd returned ahead of schedule, though, truth be told, the young man had exceeded even his friends' expectations.  As far as Roy knew, Johnny had never talked about the trauma he had experienced.  Roy knew what had happened; Johnny wasn't aware of that and, as far as Roy was concerned, he never would be.  All that mattered was that, somehow, Gage had come to terms with it.  Or so it seemed until today. 

Finally, Johnny put the damp shirt on a hanger, closed the locker door and turned to face his partner  "I know what today is," he leaned against his locker and crossed his arms, unconsciously mirroring Roy, "and I know the Phantom.  I knew what the day would be like.  I just …" 

 

"You got to thinking."  He tapped Johnny's chest, just above his right breast pocket.  Johnny looked down at the empty spot.  He opened his left hand where he still held his nametag and Paramedic pin.  "C'mon Partner, I'll buy you a cup of coffee." 

 

Johnny affixed the pins, then, with Roy holding the door, left the room. 

 

"Go ahead," Roy urged, "I'll be right there."  Johnny just nodded and headed into the kitchen.  Roy moved around the engine and found precisely what he had hoped to find there, Chet.  He and Marco were cleaning up in the wake of the engine's last run.  "Hey Chet, can we talk a minute?" 

 

"Sure, what's up?" 

 

"Lay off Johnny."  Chet smiled mischievously.  "I mean it.  The Phantom is done for the day." 

 

"C'mon, Roy," Chet whined.  "Today is the Phantom's day.  April Fools' Day only comes around once a year." 

 

"Chet," Roy warned.  He took a calming breath and started again.  "Do you remember, about six weeks ago, that newlywed couple that blew up their kitchen?" 

 

When Chet looked at him blankly Marco chimed in.  "Sure you do.  The gas was left on.  And something about the husband's cigars …  That's it!  The wife hated them but she told him that she liked them.  I don't remember exactly how Johnny said it all came together, just that, somehow, that led to setting the gas off.  Also set Johnny off on his honesty kick." 

 

"Oh, yeah."  Chet snapped his fingers.  "The Nobles.  I love that they lied and they blew each other up, and their name was 'Noble'."  He snickered.  "Gage was dating that nurse back then, what was her name?"  A huge smile broke out on his face.  "Jeannette!  I had him going pretty good."  

 

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Roy held up a hand to stop the laughter.  "Yeah, Chet, you did.  Except I don't think it was just a kick."  Both Marco and Chet looked at him questioningly.  "I didn't see it at the time, but today, well … haven't you noticed Johnny's been kind of down today?  He was talking about that shift, and about the rip-off last month that we were accused of." 

 

"Dios mío." 

 

"What?  Roy?  Marc?  Tell me!" 

 

"Lies," Marco spelled it out, "and false accusations, and today is all about—" 

 

"Practical jokes," Chet finished, understanding dawning.  "Jeez, fellas.  Sure, Gage gets bugged, that's half the fun.  I would never want to actually hurt him." 

 

"We know that," Marco assured him. 

 

"So does Johnny," Roy added. 

 

"He's actually a pretty good sport.  If you tell him I said so, I'll deny it." 

 

Roy smiled knowingly.  "It's just lousy timing," he insisted.  "All this stuff coming up within a few weeks of each other, all around the anniversary of … "  Chet was nodding.  "So you'll cut him some slack?  Chet?" 

 

"Of course."  As Roy turned to join Johnny in the kitchen, Chet added, "The Phantom's day will come." 

 

"Chet!"  Roy swung around to see Marco rolling his eyes at Chet's grin. 

 

"But not today."  Roy was looking at him doubtfully.  The grin vanished.  "Honest, Roy.  The Phantom is through for today."  He held up his right hand, thumb and pinky meeting across his palm, an expression of solemnity and sincerity on his face.  "Scout's honor." 

 

Satisfied, Roy turned on his heel and headed to the kitchen, to the coffee, to his friend. 

 

April 7, 1973 

 

Brackett clapped Roy's shoulder.  "You guys did a great job."  He nodded toward the exam room.  "He's got surgery and a long course of physical therapy ahead, but he will walk, and on his own two legs, thanks to you two." 

 

"Thanks to Johnny," Roy practically whispered. 

 

Johnny and Brackett exchanged glances.  "You're wrong, Roy," said the doctor.  "I understand you didn't want to do it, and I'm glad you didn't have to.  But I know you would have done whatever was best for the patient, no matter how difficult it may have been for you." 

 

Suddenly Roy was back at the construction site, their victim trapped by the rod through his right leg and the debris on which it was tangled, as well as a broken left leg.  The wet concrete that, before the accident, was to have been poured for the basement, was pressing against the barrier, leaking into the space, threatening to bury them all.  "Y'know, look," the victim had said, "I don't know how much time I have left, but I want those years."

 

  Time was of the essence.  Johnny had crawled in among the debris to work on the rod even though they knew freeing it would take more time than they had.  The trapped man had given his permission to amputate his leg, hell, he'd suggested it, and Dr. Early was en route.  There wasn't time to wait for him either, though.  It would fall to Roy.  He sighed, pulling himself back to the present. 

 

"How can you be so sure," he asked Brackett.  "I'm not even sure." 

 

"I've told you, Roy, I'm a better judge of your abilities than you are."  He took his paramedic's hand and shook it firmly.  "Good work, you guys."  He turned back to the examination room and was gone. 

 

Roy stared after the doctor, lost in thought.  He was unsure how much time had passed when he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, followed by Johnny's voice softly saying, "Let's go home."  He turned around.  While he himself had struggled with the possibility that, to save the man's life, he would have had to take his leg, Johnny had crawled into that tangled mess of building materials and limbs and had somehow, against the odds, cut through the bar and freed the leg in time. 

 

He looked Johnny over.  His uniform was covered by patches of drying concrete and cement dust, his eyes were filled with concern.  Roy offered a smile he didn't feel.  "Let's go home," he repeated. 

 

They made their way to the exit in silence, each lost in his own thoughts.  *As the automatic doors opened before them Johnny said, "Sure glad that was you back there, not me." 

 

"Thanks," came Roy's sardonic reply. 

 

 "Just being honest," Johnny stated simply, then headed around the back of the squad. 

Roy slowed his pace.  As long as we're being honest, Junior, I'm glad too.  I couldn't have squeezed under that mess and cut through that bar, not fast enough.  And as quick as that barrier let go …  Even if I had started right away it never would have been done in time.  He took a deep breath, blew it out a little at a time, and boarded the squad a beat behind Johnny. 

 

John released a deep breath of his own and brought the mic to his lips.  Before saying anything he dropped his hand into his lap and turned to his partner.  "What were you going to do back there?" 

 

"I don't know."  Try as he might, he could only think how grateful he was the decision had been taken out of his hands with no harm to the patient.  "I really don't know." iv

 

They returned to the station a short time later.  Johnny stepped out of the squad and headed to the kitchen, thinking Roy was right behind him.  When he realized he was alone, he turned see Roy staring blindly at the map.  "Are you coming?"  When Roy didn't respond Johnny stepped to him.  "You did the right thing, Roy". 

 

"The right thing?  I didn't do anything.  You did.  You crawled into that mess, you cut that rod, you freed the patient.  You're why we got him out alive."   

 

Johnny looked at Roy angrily.  "What are you talking about," he demanded.  Roy opened his mouth to retort but was actually only angry with himself and so just glared.  Johnny quickly stared him down.  "We did exactly what needed to be done.  Roy, I was barely clear when that thing let go, we —" 

 

"Not 'we,' you.  I waited too long.  Dr. Early was too far out.  It was up to me and  I couldn't do it.  If you took even half a minute longer, we would have lost you and the victim." 

 

"But I didn't take any longer.  He's going to be all right and I'm fine." 

 

"But—" 

 

"No." 

 

"Johnny —" 

 

"No!  Roy, you think too much."  Roy smiled in spite of himself.  "I know you didn't want to amputate that man's leg and I get that you're not sure you could have, but I'm with Brackett: whatever's best for the patient.  Dr. Early couldn't have made it in time but neither could you.  You never would have finished before that barrier let loose and you know it.  If you started as soon as we walked in there, we would have lost Milt and you along with him and you know that too.  You knew it all along.  Maybe you weren't consciously thinking about it, but you knew, I'm sure of it.  You kept his attention, you got the IV going, and kept him calm and focused.  I couldn't have done what I did if you didn't do what you did.  We got him out, Roy.  We're a team, and we got him out together."   With that Johnny turned and headed off for a post-run cup of coffee. 

 

Roy watched him go,  thinking about what he'd said.  A small smile finally appeared.  Maybe they're right.  All these months later Brackett hasn't changed his tune, and now Johnny is singing it with him.  He chuckled at the wordplay and followed after his partner.  As Roy entered the day room, Johnny held a cup of coffee out to him.  Before he could accept it the tones sounded. 

 

"The University," Johnny stated grimly upon hearing the address of the structure fire to which the station had been dispatched.  "It's the middle of the day, everyone's in class." 

"Let's hope so."  His eyes on the road, Roy felt rather than saw Johnny's questioning gaze as the squad raced through traffic just ahead of the engine, lights glaring, sirens blaring. 

 

"That's the northeast corner of the campus.  There's no lecture halls or classrooms on the north side.  I think there's a library and a theatre, and the administration building, and those are to the west.  That area is residential, faculty housing, I think.  If everyone's in class then it'll be empty, so—" 

 

"— let's hope everyone is in class," Johnny finished. 

 

CHAPTER TWO

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April 7, 1973 (cont.)

When they pulled up to the scene, they were greeted by a strange sight.  The house,  an old Victorian, appeared nearly fully involved.  Although there was no landscaping or outdoor furniture, there was a smaller, localized fire on the front lawn.  The area was mostly deserted, even now there were only a few spectators.  They all hoped there was no one inside.  

None of them had time to wonder about the second, smaller fire beyond the need to fight it.  The men donned their bunker gear as Cap was issuing orders.  Suddenly, from the second floor, came the sound of shattering glass as a small lamp crashed through a window.  Flames quickly shot up in front of the window, but even above the noise of the fire and the shouting of the men, all could clearly hear the young woman screaming for help.

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The window was above a large porch that wrapped halfway around the house.  The roof of the porch was fully involved and burning wildly.  Roy and Johnny shared a quick glance up, then with each other.  They knew they would have to attempt to go through the house.

"Cap," Johnny called.

"Go," came the response.  "Kelly, Lopez."  They didn't hear the rest of Cap's order.  They didn't need to.  They moved ahead, knowing their crew mates would be right behind them with the hoses, backing them up.

A small wave of relief washed over both men once they were through the front door.  Although smoke was filling the house, the fire was far smaller in here than it had appeared from outside.  Another oddity over which there was not time to wonder now.  They made their way to the staircase.  It appeared to be in good condition. 

They found their way to the door of the room from which the woman had appeared quickly and easily.  "Fire department," Roy called, as much from habit as protocol.  The room was empty.  They split up.

"Johnny."  The door Johnny had opened was just a closet.  Roy had found the bathroom, and their victim was curled in the tub.  Although Roy was wearing his mask, Johnny heard his call clearly.

"Is there anyone else in the house," Roy asked as he removed his mask and moved to place it on her face.  She shook her head, then pushed his hand away.  She lifted her head to look at him.  It was then that he saw the little girl she had been shielding.  "Come on," Roy continued, reaching for the child, "let's get you two out of here."  The woman nodded, and Roy lifted the girl from the tub just in time to hand her off to Johnny. 

4.jpg

In one fluid motion, Johnny took the girl, whipped off his own mask and placed it over her face.  "You ok?" he threw back over his shoulder.

"Go," Roy replied, "get her out of here.  I got this."  A quick nod and Johnny was out the door with the child in his arms.

"Can you stand?"  Roy turned his attention back to the woman.

"If you help me."  He flashed her a reassuring smile.  She was still curled up as she had been to protect her daughter.  She shifted to a better position to rise.

"How far along are you?"

"Two years," she joked weakly.

"Ok," Roy repositioned himself to best help her.  "Let's get out of here."

Roy got his victim outside and made his way to the squad and the triage area where Johnny was already on the biophone to Rampart.  Johnny barely glanced up before depressing the button to report, "Second victim has been extricated, Rampart, vitals coming up."

He laid down the handset and turned his attention to the new arrival.  He froze.

Roy's voice snapped him out of it.  His training took over, and in no time mother had an I.V., and she and her daughter were receiving oxygen, holding each other, as they waited for the ambulance to transport them to the hospital.

The fire was already out.  Cap wandered over to his paramedics.  "How are we doing here?"

"Fine, Cap," Roy replied, "just waiting on transport."

Mike approached.  "Hey Cap," he called.  The two senior officers put their heads together briefly.  A moment later Cap moved to where the small lawn fire had been.  Mike still stood nearby as Johnny double checked his patient's I.V. and oxygen.  He finally sat back on his heels and looked at her.  "Esther."

She looked back at him for a long moment.  "Johnny?"  He grinned.  "Johnny Gage.  What's a nice kid like you doing at a fire like this," she teased.

"I was in the neighborhood, thought I'd drop by."  He nodded at the little girl, who was dozing off.  "Is that Leah?  I can't believe how much she's grown."  Esther smiled.  "She's beautiful, Ess."

"You guys ok?"

"Mike," Johnny stood.  "I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine.  This is Esther Ishtov and her daughter Leah.  Ess, this is our engineer, Mike Stoker."

"Pleasure," Mike gave her a polite nod.  "Well," he turned back to Johnny, "as long as you guy's don't need anything."

"Thanks, Mike."

"What was that all about," Roy asked when Mike had left.

"What was what all about?"

"You introduce Mike before your partner," Roy was now teasing.  He has one eye on their patient, and saw that, as he had expected, his joining in the jocularity helped her to relax further.

"Sorry, Partner."

"Sorry Pardner?" Esther had removed her oxygen mask so she could be heard.  "I've heard about you Hollywood types, I didn't think it extended to the fire department."

Johnny gently took the oxygen mask and replaced it over her nose and mouth.  "Yeah, we're all cowboys," he winked at her.

A sudden explosion rocked the air.  Roy and Johnny hunched over their patients, protecting them from flying debris.  It was over as quickly as it had come on.  Roy straightened to find Johnny struggling.  "Are you ok," he first asked of Esther."

"We're fine," she answered through the mask.  Though he tried to hide it, Johnny's struggle was not lost on her.  "Check our friend, better," she continued with a nod toward him.

"I'm fine," Johnny insisted.

Roy smiled knowingly.  "Sure you are, but why don't you ride in with them so you can get yourself checked out."

"I don't need to get checked out," Johnny replied a bit indignantly, "but I'm happy to ride in.  Give us a chance to catch up."  He smiled sweetly at Esther, the baby now asleep in her arms.

It wasn't long before the ambulance had arrived.  Esther and Leah were loaded quickly and efficiently.  Johnny stepped up into the rear of the ambulance, he took one last look around the scene.  He glanced toward where the small lawn fire had been and could not believe what he saw there.  Before he could take a closer look to be sure, Roy was handing him the drug box and the biophone.  "See you at Rampart," said Roy.

Johnny sat on the bench beside Esther's gurney, Leah still asleep on her mother's breast.  As the ambulance pulled away, Johnny hoped from the bottom of his heart that he had not seen what he thought he saw. 

E~E~E~E~E

Roy arrived at the hospital a short time after the ambulance.  He strode to the base station and, as he expected, found Johnny waiting for him.  He was, however, somewhat surprised to see his partner's left arm in a sling.  "What's the story," he asked with a small grin.

Johnny rolled his eyes.  "Strained muscle.  It's no big deal," he added hurriedly.  "I just might miss the next shift is all."

"No 'might' about it."  Dr. Brackett had arrived. 

"How are they," Johnny asked, as much to find out as to change the subject.

"They're both doing well," Brackett replied.  "And Mrs. Ishtov is asking for you.  Treatment 4."

Johnny was already halfway to that room before Roy heard him say, "Come on."

Esther looked up at him and smiled drowsily.  She wore a hospital gown, the mask had been replaced by a nasal cannula, and the soot and  dirt from the fire had been cleaned away.  "How're you doing, cowboy?"

It took Johnny a moment to realize she was eyeing his sling.  "Oh, I'm fine.  Nothing that a day off won't cure.  I'm more worried about you guys.  Where is Leah, anyway?"

"One of the nurses took her.  A Miss McCall, I think.  She's real nice."

"She's a friend," Johnny reassured her, "terrific nurse and a real nice lady.  Leah couldn't be in better hands.

"So what did the doctors say?"

Esther turned serious.  "They want to keep me here for at least 48 hours, keep an eye on the baby, just in case."

"They're just being cautious," Johnny tried to alleviate the worry he saw coming over her.

"Oh, I realize that," Esther told him.  "I just … I don't know what to do with Leah.  My parents are in New York, and Chaim's are in Tel Aviv.  The social worker  said something about temporary foster care, which I do not want.  I can't leave her with strangers, especially now.  I couldn't even leave her with her grandparents to make this trip, it's why she came with me."

"What do you mean," Johnny asked.

"She said goodbye to her father before he took a trip and he never came home.  At first she wouldn't even let me out of her sight.  I thought we were finally past that when I accepted the invitation from the university, but my going out for a few hours here or there was very different than taking a trip.  She's too young to fully comprehend everything, but not too young to know something important is happening."  

Johnny shuddered as he remembered Mike's words.  "Kids that age are pretty sharp," he had said.

"Just because she's on the trip with me doesn't make it any less a trip," Esther was saying. 

"Ideally she'd be with someone she knows, but whoever it is, it has to be someone who will be sure to bring her to see me every day that I'm here, someone willing to be here a few times a day for a few hours at a time if necessary.  She's too afraid of losing me, too.  No child should have to live with that kind of fear."  She sighed and closed her eyes, that much talking having drained her strength.

"Why don't I take her," Johnny offered before Roy could stop him.  "What?"  Johnny spun when he heard Roy's breath catch.  "Roy, we're off tomorrow, anyway; I'm off the shift after 'cause of this stupid strain; by the time I have to go back to work it'll be more than 48 hours and Esther will be out of here anyway.  What do you think?"  He directed the last to Esther.

"Chaim would like that," she finally said.  "But are you sure?  I mean, the way you're talking, you don't have a wife or family of your own that we'd be imposing on, do you?"  He shook his head.  "Are you sure," she asked again.

"You said yourself you just need someone who's willing to bring her here to spend most of the day with you, right?  So really, she'd only be sleeping at my place."

Esther smiled warmly.  "I'd like that.  She was very calm with you when she woke up in the ambulance.  I think she felt safe with you, and I want that for her now more than anything."

"That's that, then," Johnny clapped his hands together and gave a little bounce, smiling widely.  He could feel Roy's eyes rolling.  "It'll be great, you'll see," he told his partner without ever turning around.

"Why don't I go find her so you can introduce us properly," Johnny suggested enthusiastically.

"No," Esther said quietly, "not yet.  Miss McCall took her to get something to eat.  She had enough of a scare today.  Not to say that you'd scare her," she quickly added as she realized what she'd said.  "She was comfortable with Miss McCall, so, if you can stick around, we'll just explain it when they come back."

There was an awkward silence, finally broken by Johnny.  "So, Ess, if you don't mind my asking, what are you doing here, and traveling so far in your condition?"

"I don't mind.  The university invited me to speak … about what happened.  I couldn't say no.  I probably should have tried to postpone until after the baby came, but the history and social science departments are doing a whole series of events this month.  This is an important month in Jewish history.  I just had to come."

"Come from where," Roy asked.

"Israel."

"That is a long way to travel, especially in your condition" Roy agreed. 

"I know it," she turned her smile to him.  "I've got two months to go, yet.  Plenty of time."  She turned her gaze back to Johnny, and Roy was suddenly aware that there was an elephant in the room.

Another awkward silence was broken by Johnny's whisper, "I'm sorry, Ess.  I'm so sorry."

"I know, Johnny.  I got your letter.  It was beautiful."

"I wish I could have made the service, but, being in Israel and all … "

"Johnny, Chaim knew you were never going to rethink going to the fire academy.  And he knew if you brought the same, pardon the expression, fire to that that you brought to your running that you'd be brilliant.  He was right.  And he was very fond of you, he'd be proud of the man you have become.  And I am proud to have you care for our daughter.  For Chaim's daughter."

"Can you excuse us a moment," Roy asked Esther uncomfortably.  He turned to his partner. 

"Johnny, there's something I need to tell you."

"The lawn fire," Johnny whispered.  "I know.  I saw it also.  I really hoped I was wrong."

"The swastika," Esther offered from where she lay.  "I saw it burning, right before the men who set it threw the Molotov cocktails at the house."  Both men looked at her, shocked.  "I told you, this is a very important month in Jewish history.  And that makes it an important month for our enemies.  This kind of thing is why I came.  It's why I had to come.  Never again."

CHAPTER THREE

 

~ April 9, 1973

"Hey Cap." Roy handed Hank the cup of coffee he had just poured for himself and went to the stove to get another.  "Any progress?"

"Not as much as we'd hoped," Cap answered disappointedly.  "This thing is pretty political, and that's never good."  Roy joined his captain and Mike at the table.  "The politicians apply pressure, they want all the answers right now.  These things take time.

"The university is dragging their feet, too."  

"I'm not surprised," Mike scoffed.

"Not surprised at what, Mike?"  Chet sauntered into the room, Marco a step behind.

"Looks like the university isn't exactly cooperating with the arson investigation," Cap explained.

"Why would they do that," Marco was genuinely surprised.

"Politics," Chet provided cynically.

Cap nodded.  "That about sums it up," he agreed.

"Of course," Chet continued.  "Why is this situation so special?  Last time the department had trouble with the  university it was about money.  Nobody involved this time has any, so it has to be politics.  Unless they know who did it.  Maybe it's another rich family's kid, and they're protecting him, too."

The rest of the men nodded in agreement.  They all remembered the cloud Johnny, the paramedic program, and the department itself had been under just a year ago in the fraternity hazing incident.  It had been a legal and public relation nightmare because the families of the perpetrators had money; money which provided power and influence.  Money that the university depended upon, and put ahead of the well-being of their students.  The men all knew that if the university had disciplined the fraternity earlier, things might never have gone as far as they did.

"It might be simpler this time if it was money," said Cap.  "The politics of this aren't just local."

"How far does it reach," asked Roy.

"Well," Cap paused, choosing his words carefully.  "It seems the university History department was holding a series of lectures and things on the Holocaust.  The house that burned, it's where the school puts up guest lecturers and such.  The woman we rescued—"

"Johnny's friend," Chet asked.  "Johnny's friends with a professor.  Who'd've believed it," he marveled.

"Actually, Chet," Cap said firmly, trying not to patronize his man, "she's the widow of one of the athelete's killed in Munich last fall."

"Oh," Chet replied meekly.

"She was right."

"Roy?"

"Sorry, Cap.  Esther, Mrs. Ishtov, Johnny's friend.  She knew.  She said she saw the swastika burning on the front lawn, right before she saw Molotovs thrown at the house."

"Did she happen to get a look at who threw them?"

Roy shook his head.  "No."

"That's too bad."  Cap finished off his coffee.  "I'm sure the arson investigator will talk to her soon, if he hasn't already.  Who knows, maybe she'll remember something, now that she's had the chance to sleep on it."

"I hope so."

"We all do, Roy," Mike offered his support.  "We all do."

"How's she doing, anyway," Chet asked.  "She gets out of Rampart tomorrow, right?"  Roy nodded.  "And the kid?  Laura?  How's she?"

"Leah," Roy corrected.  "She's doing real well."

Chet snickered.  "Really?  But isn't she staying with Johnny?"

"What does Johnny know about kids?" Marco added.

"He's actually doing ok," Roy informed them with a smile.  "Last night, he brought her to my place for dinner.  In fact, Joanne invited them back tonight.  She's a sweet kid, and she's Chris's age.  I think it's good for her, too, to be around another kid her own age.  And during the day, she's with her mom.  Brackett made arrangements for them to spend as much time together as possible."

"And what's Gage doing while she's with her mother?"

"What do you think, Chet," Marco prodded.

"Chasing nurses, of course."

~ April 11, 1973

Johnny whistled tunelessly, Leah blowing along as they strolled down the hall hand-in-hand. 

"Hey, honey," Johnny clumsily scooped Leah up into his arms, the strained muscle not quite fully healed.  "Why don't we go grab drinks for everybody?"

"Ok," she agreed happily.  "Ima likes orange juice."

Johnny spun quickly so Leah would not be able to see into the room, to see that Esther's bed was empty.  In his own brief glance he had noticed that the bathroom door was open, so she wasn't there either.  Where is she?

"Hey, Dix!"  His relief as he saw her approach was palpable.  "What's happening?"  He tilted his head subtlely toward Esther's room.

"Hey, there, you two.  Where are you off to?"

"Orange juice for Ima," Leah explained.

Dixie raised her eyebrow.  Johnny smiled.  "Mom in Hebrew."

"Of course.  You're learning fast," she teased him.

"Esther was born and raised here, so of course this one's English," he tweaked Leah's nose, causing her to giggle, "is practically perfect," he said as much to Leah as to Dixie.  The child giggled again.  "But they do live in Israel, so Hebrew is her first language.  Esther just made sure I had the words I'd need the most.  Like Ima."

"Mish'pachah," Leah added.

"Family," Johnny translated.

"Speaking of Mom and family," Dixie segued gently, "we had to move your mom to a different room.  When you get that juice you'll need to take it to room number 306."

The question was on his face, but the answer would have to wait.  He knew that unit meant she and the baby were being monitored, but he wouldn't risk scaring Leah by asking about it.

"Oh," he exclaimed, the ramifications suddenly hitting him.  "How long?"

"You really should talk to Dr. Brackett and Dr. Hamm."

"Dr. Hamm?"

"OB/Gyn."

"Is he kosher?" Leah chimed in.  "Ima can't have ham."

"Sharon."  Johnny's and Dixie's laughter was interrupted by the appearance of Dixie's former student and newly licensed nurse.

"Yes, Miss McCall," Sharon came over to them.

"Sharon, this is Leah.  Leah, this is Sharon.  She's a friend of Johnny's and mine."  Leah looked to Johnny, who smiled and nodded.  "She's going to take you to your imma so I can talk to Johnny for a minute, ok?"

Leah giggled.  "It's ee-ma," she corrected.  She looked up with large eyes as Johnny put her down next to Sharon.  "You're coming fast?"

"Very fast," he promised.  "With the orange juice, ok?"

Dixie gave Sharon Esther's name and room number, and briefly explained the arrangements Dr. Brackett had made to accommodate their unique circumstances.

"What's going on," Johnny demanded as soon as the little girl was out of earshot.

"Esther went into labor last night."

"But it's too early!  Is she all right, the baby?"

"They're fine," Dixie soothed.  "We were able to stop it, for now.  But she's on total bed rest.  No unnecessary activity, no stress."

Johnny took a deep breath.  "No stress.  Right."  I have a little girl to look after and I'm supposed to go back to work tomorrow, but no stress.

CHAPTER FOUR

~ April 12, 1973

"Thank you!" Johnny exclaimed.

Dixie smiled.  "It's my pleasure," she told him sincerely.  "She's a good girl."

Johnny returned her smile.  "She really is," he said, "but you didn't have to be here on your day off."

"Yes, I did.  I have a lot of paperwork to catch up on.  And before you say it, no, I don't mind meeting you this early."  She turned to Leah.  "I'm going to take you to your Mom's room--" 

Leah had raised an eyebrow in a passable imitation of Dixie's classic look.  "Your Ima's room, I mean, so you can have breakfast together, ok?  I'll even make sure there's plenty of orange juice."

"Thank you, Miss Dixie."  She turned to Johnny.  "It's ok, Johnny.  I'll be good."

He squatted so they were eye to eye.  "I know you will, Sweetheart.  So does Dixie.  I wish I could hang around here with you and Ima today--"

She threw her arms around his neck.  "Your work is important," she said in her mother's voice.  "You have to save other people like you saved Ima and me, right?"

"That's right."  He stood as Dixie took Leah's hand.  "I'll see you later.  Thanks again, Dix."

As Dixie led Leah down the hall, she called back to him, "Don't be late for roll call."

~E~

"How long do you think you'll stick around for this time, Gage," Chet started as soon as they had lined up for roll call.

Johnny turned to him, but before he could respond, Cap came into the bay from his office, clipboard in hand.  "Welcome back, John," said Cap, with one eye on Chet.  "How are you feeling?"

"I'm good, Cap," Johnny assured him, swinging his arm.  "See?"

"Good.  Let's keep it that way, shall we."  They went through the chore assignments, drills, and the day's scheduled tasks quickly and were soon dismissed. 

Cap headed back to his office while the rest of the men filed into the day room for coffee. 

"I'm sorry we couldn't do more," Roy was saying.

"More what?"  Chet had come upon them unnoticed.

"How do you keep doing that," Johnny demanded.

"Doing what?"

"Never mind," Johnny tried to shut him down.

"No, really," Chet said sincerely, "maybe I can help."

Johnny grinned.  "Don't worry about it, Kelly.  I got it all under control."  He took his coffee to the table, where Roy joined him.  "I appreciate that you guys want to help, and I get why you can't.  Everybody's been so incredible about all of this.  I mean, Brackett worked it out so Leah could be in the hospital with Esther, and since there still has to be a responsible adult around, and Esther can get out of bed, Dix has it covered today, and then Sarah's going to take Leah on the days we're working until Esther gets discharged.  Joanne has your kids to worry about.  It's enough that she's been feeding Leah and me since all this started."

"Who's Sarah," Marco asked from the couch.

"She's a volunteer where I was in rehab last year.  Real nice lady, I trust her."

"You must," Mike weighed in from his seat next to Marco, "if you've stayed in touch with her."  You don't say much about your time in rehab.

As if reading Mike's mind, Johnny said, "It wasn't exactly a good time, but it wasn't all bad, and she helped me a lot."

"So how is this going to work, exactly," Roy asked.

"When I called Sarah yesterday she was incredible!  She's taking her name off the schedule at Wexler every day that we're on shift.  Well, except for today, of course.  When I took off for Rampart after dinner last night while Chris and Leah were playing?  That's why.  I'm sorry I didn't give you all the details last night, but Sarah was doing me a favor, and in Esther's condition I just couldn't make them wait.  Then, since Leah was asleep when I got back to your house, I thought it was best just to get her home and into bed.  I knew I could fill you in this morning.

"Anyway, Sarah met me last night and I introduced her to Ess.  I vouched for her, and they really hit it off.  The only thing now is to introduce her to Leah.

"Sarah said she'd head over to Rampart after dinner tonight at Wexler, so she should get there around 6:30 or so.  She's going to wait for a while so we can get there.  I know I can't exactly schedule anything, but between runs, or maybe for supplies or something.  Since I introduced her to Esther already they don't really need me there, but Ess thinks it'll be easier for Leah to make the transition if I am."

Roy smiled.  "You're doing a real good job with this kid."

"Yeah.  She's special, Roy."

"That's one way to keep a girl, Gage," Chet chimed in.  "Start training them young."

~E~

The men trudged into the day room, eager for coffee.  The old warehouse had been empty of people, but filled with old furniture, vehicle parts, and other highly combustible materials.

"Can I help you," Cap asked of the man sitting at the table.

He rose to greet them.  He was tall and athletic with thick, dark blonde hair and steely blue eyes.  "Captain Stanley" he extended his hand to Cap.  "Chuck McCain, we've spoken on the phone."

"Right," Cap accepted the proffered hand.  "Fellas, gather 'round," he called to the crew.  "This is Chuck McCain, the arson investigator."

"The university fire," Marco reminded no one in particular.

"Any word," asked Mike.

"We're working pretty close with the LAPD," McCain told them.  "There have been other incidents at the campus.  Smaller, no more fires, but the same type of thing.  Graffiti,  vandalism.  All anti-Semitic, all around the faculty and guests involved in the memorial events over there.  It's some neo-Nazi group."

"If you know who it is, why can't you just arrest them," Johnny demanded.

McCain sighed.  "I wish it was that easy.  Knowing who's behind it isn't proof.  What's surprising is that it looks like there are a lot of students involved.  Not so much that they're members of the group, but that they don't seem to have a problem with what's happening.  I think a lot of them know more than they're saying."

"Unbelievable," said Chet.

"You're darn right it's unbelievable," Johnny added angrily.

"Look, guys," McCain stepped in, "I was just looking to follow up.  We're stalled.  We have one witness who may have actually seen something and the docs say we can't talk to her yet."

Johnny shuffled a bit.  He knew that Esther wanted very much to talk with the investigators.  He also knew that Brackett would hand him his head if he opened that can of worms in the condition she was currently in.

"I wish there was more we could do," Cap was saying.  "Unfortunately, whoever did this was long gone before we showed up."

"Yeah, I know.  Still, if any of you think of anything, no matter how insignificant it seems, let me know, ok?"

Following eager assent from all the men, Chuck McCain left the station.

CHAPTER FIVE

~ April 13, 1973

"I'm so sorry," Johnny ran into the room.  "We got called out last night, I just couldn't get here." 

Female laughter filled the air, stopping him short.  In spite of the circumstances, it was a lovely scene.  Esther was sitting up just enough to eat with Leah sitting tucked at her side. 

 Sarah sat at the foot of the bed, facing them.  Between them, on the over-bed table, was a not-hospital breakfast.  A quick glance to the floor revealed, as he had expected, Sarah's picnic basket.  While he had been doing his rehab at the Wexler Pavillion, Sarah, a volunteer there, had saved him from the institutional food with her wonderful home cooking, which she had brought every day, three meals a day, in that same basket.

"Johnny!" Leah bounced to her knees and held her arms up to him.

"Not yet, Kiddo."  He went into the bathroom, where he grabbed a towel.  He returned with the towel over his shoulders, and, being careful of Esther and the table, scooped Leah up.  He nearly swung her around the way he usually did with Chris DeSoto, but this was a hospital, after all, and Esther was here specifically to rest.

Leah pulled the towel off his shoulder with a giggle and put it over his soaking hair.  "You're wet."

"What happened," Esther asked, trying and failing to suppress a giggle of her own.

"You know how it is fighting fires.  All that water," he joked.

"All that Phantom," Sarah added with her own giggle.  "It was that Kelly, wasn't it, Boychik?"

"Who's Phantom," Leah demanded.

Johnny returned Leah to her mother's side and dragged over a chair.  He gave his head a quick scrub and allowed the towel to fall into his lap.  "The Phantom," he explained "is the station ghost."

Leah looked up at him with wide eyes.  "You have a real ghost at your station?"  Johnny nodded.  "And the ghost got you all wet?"

"I'm afraid so," Johnny replied with a mock scowl.  "See, today is a special day for phantoms and ghosts."

"How come?"

"It's Friday the 13th."

"Why is that special for ghosts?"

"'Cause Friday the 13th is bad luck for regular people, but not for ghosts and witches and stuff."

"But why?"

Johnny was at a loss.  "You know," he looked at Leah with great seriousness, "I don't know." 

He turned to Esther.  "So I guess it's not so unlucky in Israel?"  She shook her head.  He returned his attention to Leah.  "Maybe we can go to the library when Ima's feeling better and look it up."

"Yay!" She shouted.  She bounced a bit before Johnny quickly and gently laid his hand over hers, reminding her of where she was.  "Yay," she repeated in a whisper.

"So," he turned to the women, "how'd it go last night?"

"Not to worry, Boychik," Sarah told him.

"I can't believe how lucky I am," Esther sighed.  "It's a difficult situation, and Dr. Brackett is wonderful to let Leah be here, but to find an old friend right here when I need a friend so badly, and to make this new friend."  She gave Sarah's hand a gentle squeeze.

"I'm glad we could help."  He smiled at Sarah.

"We did fine," said Sarah.  "We're sorry you couldn't be here to make proper introductions," she winked at Leah, "but perhaps you can make it up."

"How," he asked with good-natured suspicion.

"Dinner," Sarah told him, "Monday night, at my house.  You're not working," she added quickly, "I already called the station, and it would mean the world to all of us if you could join us for the holiday."

Johnny smiled.  "But Easter isn't until next Sunday."

"No, silly," Leah corrected him.  "Pesach!"

"What's Pesack?"

Again the other three were laughing.  "Pesach, Boychik.  Passover.  You know, Charlton Heston, The Ten Commandments, Exodus.  It's a wonderful feast, and we'd love for you to join us."

"You can ask the Four Questions," Leah added.

"What questions," Johnny asked.

"The Four Questions," Leah repeated, as if that explained everything.  She sighed heavily in response to his blank expression, then began to sing in a voice as bright and clear as crystal.

"Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot, "Mikol haleilot? "Sheb’khol haleilot anu okhlin hametz umatzah, "Hametz umatzah;

"Halailah hazeh, halailah hazeh, "Kuloh matzah."

"Well, that's very pretty, honey, but I don't know that song."

"It's not a song," Leah explained as Esther and Sarah worked to hold their laughter. "It's the first question."  She planted her hands firmly on her hips.

"The Four Questions are part of the Passover Seder," Esther explained, seeing her daughter's frustration rise.  "Passover is eight days, the seder is the first night dinner and the service that goes with it.  Traditionally the questions are asked by the youngest son."

Johnny smiled and gave Leah a little tickle as he said, "But I'm not the youngest."

"But I'm not a son," Leah countered.  The adults burst out laughing.

"You can figure that all out on Monday," Esther suggested in that motherly tone that said it wasn't a mere suggestion.

"That is, if you can make it, Boychik."

"Please, Johnny," Leah asked plaintively.  "Pretty please."

He looked from Leah to Esther to Sarah and back to Leah.  He sighed softly to himself, then smiled.  "How could I say 'No,' to such a lovely invitation?  Monday it is."

~ April 14, 1973

"Everything ok," Roy asked.  He and Johnny were in the locker room preparing for their shift.

"It's going great," Johnny replied enthusiastically.  "Sarah's been terrific, she and Leah are getting along great."  He pinned his badge to his shirt.  "Esther's getting a little stir crazy," he added, "but I can't really blame her."

"Good.  I was a little worried," Roy admitted.

Oh, really, Johnny challenged with a raised brow.

"You're not exactly a family man."

"I do ok with your family."

"I think you're great with kids," Roy replied sincerely, "until you start thinking about it.  Like that tour you were supposed to do in October, you asked Cap to give it to me."  Johnny looked at him blankly.  "We were toned out, then you ended up in Rampart, so you never did have to do it, but you still asked."

"Oh, yeah," Johnny chuckled.  "The Koki virus."

"Right.  You hate the tours, but you're great with the kids in the field.  Even if the field is right here in the station, like those boys with the handcuffs."

"I told you about that?"

"No, not really.  All you said was that it was an actual rescue, not a tour.  A little girl wandered in later in the shift, though.  Wanted to thank us, something about keeping her out of trouble for losing the key."

Johnny burst out laughing at the memory.  A trio of boys had come into the station, one with his hands securely cuffed behind him.  The sister of one of them had tossed the key down the sewer.  "Girls," the boy had scoffed.  Just wait, Johnny remembered thinking. The sound of the tones interrupted the laughter.

Not ten minutes later the squad, with the engine close behind, pulled up to Temple Emanu-El.  A number of people from the crowd milling around the foot of the steps was on them as soon as they stepped from the squad.

"It's Rabbi Whiman," said one woman.

"He fell down the stairs," chimed in another.

"I don't think so," added a man.

"He fell," a second man contributed, "but I think it was a heart attack or a stroke or something that made him fall."

Johnny and Roy grabbed their equipment even as another cluster broke from the crowd and made their way to the engine and Captain Stanley.

They heard bits and pieces of the conversation, "Destroyed … Awful ... How could anybody," but quickly tuned it all out to focus on their patient.

The crowd parted for them to reveal a man of about 55 laying on the ground.  His right arm was swollen and had been tucked into his jacket, and there was a laceration on his forehead which was being cradled by a dark-haired young man kneeling next to him.

"I'm Cantor Mendelsohn," the young man introduced himself.  "This is Rabbi Whiman.  I'm afraid it's his heart."

Johnny ran back to the squad and grabbed a couple of blankets while Roy began taking vitals.  They were vaguely aware of Cap, Marco, and Chet heading into the massive building as Johnny took the cantor's spot by the rabbi, placing one of the blanket packs on the ground and carefully lowering the rabbi's head onto it. In no time at all they had placed the EKG leads and established contact with Rampart. 

Although the EKG showed normal sinus rhythm, Dr. Bracket was concerned about what had initiated the episode and the resultant head and arm injuries, and so insisted, despite Rabbi Whiman's protestations, that he be brought in.

The ambulance had already been dispatched, and it pulled up to the scene as the IV was established.  The patient was quickly made ready for transport, and Roy was just about to board the ambulance when Cap and the others returned to the street.  The look on Cap's face stopped him cold.  A quick glance showed Johnny had had the same reaction.  Their patient was alert and stable, so he took a moment.

"Is everyone ok, Cap?  There's nobody else hurt, is there?"

"No," Cap was quick to reassure his men.  "No one else hurt.  Just some vandalism."  He nodded as Chet and Marco made their way to the engine.  Cap turned his attention to the crowd.  "When you called for us, did anyone call for the police?"

The cantor stepped forward.  "I don't know," he admitted.  "I saw how the Rabbi reacted, that he needed help, so I brought him out here.  Come to think of it, I don't know who called."

"I did," one of the women in the crowd stepped up.  "I was so worried about Rabbi, I just called for help for him.  I didn't think of the police."  She sounded as if she were about to cry.

While the cantor comforted the woman, Cap called to his men.  "Chet, make the call."

"What's going on," Johnny asked.

"The sanctuary is wrecked," Cap told them.  "And the Ark at the front, I think the word is ark, where the scrolls are, it's completely torn apart, and..."  He took a deep breath.  "There's a swastika painted on the pulpit."

"No wonder the Rabbi had an episode," Roy mumbled.

"I wonder if it's the same people who started the fire at the university," Johnny pondered far less quietly.

"That's up to the police to find out," Cap reminded them.

"Come on, Johnny.  I'll ride in."

Roy returned to the ambulance, Cap and Johnny right behind.  "Go ahead, I'll let you know if we find out anything else."  With that, Cap hustled Johnny toward the squad, then closed the ambulance doors behind Roy and gave the ambulance driver the all clear to pull out, sending his paramedics on their way.

He turned back to face the temple.  The dismay melted from his face, replaced by utter fury.

 

To Be Continued.

i Olympic Massacre: Munich - The Real Story The Independent, 22 January 2006

 ii Munich 1972 Olympic.org

 iii Terror at the Olympics: Munich, 1972 Life.com

 iv U Is for Ugly by BarbaraLee

v Audit by Preston Wood vi ibid.

 

Posted to Site 11/6/16

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