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A Kindred Heart

An Emergency Story By

Yanaba
 

 

It was starting out as a pleasant warm October morning as the A crew of Station 51 arrived to begin their 48 hour shift.  A gentle breeze wafted through the open bay doors as each man entered into the locker room and changed into their uniforms to begin the day, most of them were early enough to join the departing C shift for coffee and recap the latter crew’s last 48 hours.  The general banter was light hearted and they had actually had a rather boring shift. 

Mike Stoker scowled and shook his head and Marco gave a small oath under his breath. “Madre de Dios, don’t say that you’ll jinx us for sure.” He muttered.  Every man knew you didn’t say things like that about having boring shifts or un-remarkable tours of duty, it only seemed to cast superstition on the rest of the day.

The crew from C shift slowly started to depart and Captain Stanley who had been in his office with the Captain of C shift, going over their own versions of the past 48 hours entered into the kitchen and refilled his cup with coffee and sat down with his men to enjoy a few moments of down time before shift began.  He looked at the clock on the wall and was wondering which of his wayward men were going to be late.  It always seemed to be a tossup between lineman Chet Kelly and the youngest of the team, firefighter/paramedic John Gage.

  Both were incorrigible at times and one or the other was bound to be assigned latrine duty, the Captains mild form of detention for the last man to arrive.  As he was musing and making a small wager in his head the second half to the paramedic team arrived, a man that Stanley could always count on, he was level headed, diligent, the thinking, senior member of the team and of course on time.

“Mornin’ Cap” Roy smiled as he walked over to retrieve a cup out of the cupboard and pour himself a cup of coffee.  As he turned and sipped his caffeinated beverage, he surveyed the room and gave a small smirk of acknowledgement that his partner was going to be late, again.

“Any idea where your partner is?”  Asked Hank, not really expecting an answer.

“Well, I think he was going to the County Rec Center and use the pool.  After he pulled that shoulder again, the therapist had recommended he swim to strengthen the muscles.”  Roy sat down next to Mike and smiled as he thought of Johnny swimming, he knew how much his partner hated water.

“Well he better get his water logged butt in here on time,” Stanley grumbled as he stood up, refilled his cup and headed for his office once more.  As he left the room he called out over his shoulder “Roll call 10 minutes.”  As he stepped out the doorway he nearly collided with Chet, who slid to a stop as he nearly caused the Captain to spill his coffee, which would not have bode well for Kelly, despite his early arrival could still spell a stint of latrine duty for a week!

“Geez you twit, Kelly...Watch where you’re going!” Hank exclaimed and walked off shaking his head.

Chet entered the kitchen looking over his shoulder and then giving the guys a forlorn expression.

“Boy Chet that’ll cost ya,” exclaimed Marco.

“Well, I’ll tough it out, at least I beat Gage in.” he smiled contritely to himself.

***

It was 0500 when the alarm went off and Johnny rolled over with a groan and fumbling around he finally manage to slap his hand on the annoying object and laid back, not wanting to arise this early.  As he lay there he started to think about why he had set it for such an ungodly hour and then it hit him, he was going to go to the County Rec Center to swim.  That made him groan even more as he hated water, but the therapist had advised him the quickest way to help him get his shoulder moving freely, was to swim. 

Johnny was willing to do whatever he could to get his shoulder into shape once again, as it seemed it was always getting dislocated or pulled or strained.  LA County had a very nice recreation center for the use of its employees and he knew a lot of the firemen and deputies frequented the facilities to workout. 

It was open to all member of fire and law enforcement, so you were bound to meet up with other firemen from different cities and departments or City and State Police officers.  They had an Olympic size pool that was open most of the day for lap swims. 

He finally managed to force himself to get up and pulled on his jeans and a t-shirt. 

Fortunately he had thought ahead and packed a gym bag with a towel, his trunks and basics so he could just get up and go, plus a uniform to change into after his swim to save time at the station getting ready for roll call.  He’d catch breakfast and coffee on his way to the station or maybe someone brought donuts.  He pulled into the Rec Center a half hour later and was met by a couple of deputies and a firefighter entering the building at the same time.

“Gage, what are you doing here so bright and early?” asked the fireman, Johnny knew him from over at Station 36, Dwight Kelly, no relation to Chet.  Poor guy, Johnny thought having to share the same last name.

“Hey Kel, “Johnny smiled “I’m doing some rehab on my shoulder and they told me I needed to swim.”

Kelly laughed, “Well you’d better put on a life vest so you don’t drown, you don’t have enough fat on you to float!” 

John blushed at the joke, everyone knew that Johnny hated water, as it was hard for him to stay afloat, he didn’t have much if any body fat and he usually wound up with hypothermia after he’d been in the water on rescues. 

The other deputies he knew as well and each one gave their salutations.  After everyone departed the locker room, the others were going to the gym to lift weights and workout.  Johnny wound his way through the showers toward the pool area.  He surveyed the area, there weren’t too many people swimming, just a couple of lanes closest to the showers.  He chose to walk down toward the far end, to be away from everyone.

 He sat on the edge of the pool contemplating getting in, testing the water, dang it was cold!  A young woman walked past him and stepped up to the lane next to him.  He looked up and smiled at her and said good morning in his most pleasant Gage charm. 

She glanced at him and returned the greeting but didn’t linger and dove on into the lane and started to swim.  That made Johnny a bit curious, usually when he said hi to a woman, they were all giggly or smiley, she almost ignored him.  He watched her as she made her lap and did a flip turn and was on her way back.  She was slender, a little short, seemly very fit, with short brown hair, he really didn’t get a chance to see her face that much, but she was kind of cute, not drop dead gorgeous, but cute in a plain sort of way. He hadn’t seen her around, but thought she might be a county employee.  

He shook his head and with a gasp he slid into his lane and began to swim.  He had been swimming about 30 minutes, switching between the crawl stroke and breast stroke, the only two he knew how to do well and he was starting to get tired. His shoulder was aching a little, so he called it quits for the day. 

As he pulled himself out of the water he glanced over and saw that the woman was still swimming.  Unbelievable, he shook his head and got up and headed for the showers. He glanced at the clock on the wall and it was already 0630.  He’d better get a move on or he was going to be late!  He desperately wanted to stand in the showers for a long time, allowing the hot water to run over his shoulder, but because of time he grudgingly turned off the water and toweled off.  By the time he started to get dressed the others had returned from their workout and were showering, laughing and discussing the latest sports season.

Kelly had taken a locker next to Gage and was dressing as Johnny was stuffing his bag.

“Well you didn’t drown, so that’s good.” Kelly smiled, “So how was it?”

“Hum?  Oh fine, actually it felt kind of good.” Johnny raked his fingers through his damp hair as he shouldered his bag and prepared to leave.

“Hang on, I’ll walk out with you.” Kelly said as he quickly pulled his shirt on and slipped on his tennis shoes and grabbed his bag.  He was off for the next couple of days, so he wasn’t worried about getting too detailed leaving the gym, he’d probably go home and take a nap anyway.

As they left the locker room and headed for the entrance, the young woman that had been swimming next to Johnny was ahead of them… out the door and heading toward her car. 

Johnny was astonished she had beaten him out as she had still been swimming when he left the pool.

“Kel, who’s that?” Johnny pointed to the diminutive woman climbing into her jeep.

Kelly laughed, knowing that Johnny was a ladies man and always checking out the latest.

“Her?” he shrugged, “Hear she is a CHiP, got transferred here about 2 weeks ago” Kelly wondered what Johnny saw in her, she wasn’t his usual type he chased after.  As they stopped besides their cars, one of the deputies joined them.

“Hey Craig, know who that CHP is?” Kelly nodded in the woman’s direction.

“Oh, that’s Parker” he said nonchalantly, as if she was no one special.

“Hum, she married or anything…seeing anyone?” Johnny asked.

“Not that I know of…might want to ask one of the CHP when you see them. Hey Johnny, she doesn’t seem your type.”

“Well what do ya mean?” Johnny was a bit puzzled.

“Well, I mean she’s kind a, well you know, not…a…”Kelly found himself at a loss for words momentarily.

“She’s a little plain Jane for you, ain’t she?” spoke up Craig.

Johnny didn’t respond he just watched her drive away in her jeep, something about her intrigued him. “I don’t think she’s plain.” He said as he got in his car and started up the engine.  He waved at the guys as he pulled away.  He was pushing it to get to the station on time.

Johnny pulled into the station parking lot, jumped out of his vehicle and ran headlong into the station, fortunately his plan to change into his uniform at the Rec Center paid off, so it was with a second to spare that he slid around the squad and up to the lineup for roll call.

Captain Stanley had just walked out of his office and heard, rather than saw Johnny’s arrival as the guys all gave their greetings and salutations to the late comer.

“Ha, ha, it’s LATRINE DUTY for you,” smirked Chet.

“Hey, I’m not late, I may be the last one, but I’m not late.” Johnny smiled smugly as he looked over at his partner and winked.  “Captain’s not here yet….a hum.” He stopped as he saw Stanley step around the squad and Johnny looked down running his fingers through his errant locks and recovered, “Mornin’ Cap” he gave it his most charming grin he could muster to find some appeasement from his Captain for pushing his arrival to the max.

“Glad you could join us Gage,” Stanley mustered his most authoritative tone, but inside he was smiling at his youngest firefighters antics.  It was often hard for him to be or to stay angry with Johnny, so often he would see him as nothing but a kid, who needed a father figure in his life.  Hank enjoyed that roll for the young man, knowing some of the hardships he’d endured in his young life, though he wasn’t privy to all of it, but knew that John didn’t have a wonderful childhood, some of it got pretty rough at times.

“Ok, listen up, we are going to be working on equipment checks and usual housekeeping duties and then we are going to have a planning briefing on the upcoming County wide emergency preparedness drill next week at the stadium.”

Everyone groaned at the thought of sitting around doing staging planning for a disaster drill.  As Stanley assigned housekeeping, he turned to Johnny.

“And last but not least, you get…”  “I know,” Johnny interrupted “Latrines” as he shook his head and turned toward that area of the building.

Stanley smiled and headed for his office.

After all the duties and equipment checks were made, the guys headed into the kitchen for a break.  No one dared speak of how the morning had gone without a call, it was bad luck and no one wanted to be a jinx.  Johnny entered the kitchen swinging his arm in circles trying to work out the ache that was irritating his shoulder.  He had grabbed a couple of aspirins as he left the locker room and downed them with a large glass of milk and a couple of cookies.  After that he grabbed an apple and sat down to munch away.  Mike and Roy shook their heads at their comrades’ seemingly bottomless pit of a stomach. 

“What?” Johnny looked at them his mouth full as he questioned their stares.

“Did you have breakfast?” Roy asked

“Yeah, well…ah, no I guess I forgot.” Johnny munched down the apple to its core in about 4 bites and talked around the chunks in his mouth.

He flung the core into the trash and before Roy could make another comment the klaxon sounded and the radio crackled to life with dispatch information to a MVA on the 405.  Several units were being called up, so everyone knew it was going to be a grinder.  Multiple vehicles, multiple injuries, they had their work cut out for them.  So much for the beautiful quiet day.

Upon their arrival, they were assigned the west side of the freeway at the head of the traffic collision.  Cars were mangled and spread out across all lanes of traffic, it was hard to get an exact count of how many were involved initially.  Of course a semi or two was involved as well, fortunately no hazmat spills other than the diesel fuel from the semi’s own gas tanks.

 

Stanley ordered his linemen to pull an inch and a half and wash off the diesel that pooled beneath the tractors.  Roy and Johnny started up both sides of the roadway from their end checking into cars.  Anyone that was ambulatory was led over to the staging area next to their squad were other arriving paramedic teams started to triage and treat.  It was exhausting and time consuming as they went from vehicle to vehicle, fortunately, so far, most drivers had only cuts and bruises. 

 Johnny approached the first semi, the tractor was upright but smashed against the median cement divider, however the trailer was jackknifed over on its side and its contents spilled out across the roadway.  Johnny assessed the position of the tractor and was thankful for the barrier as it prevented the semi from potentially crossing into the oncoming lanes of traffic which would have caused more crashes and victims.  The driver was slumped over, lying across the front seat. 

Johnny climbed up and opened the driver’s door and checked for a pulse. There was none and the man was cyanotic and diaphoretic, he had apparently had a heart attack and arrested and it appeared likely he had caused the collisions initially and then it just dominoed from there.  Johnny shook his head and retreated out of the cab.  He was met by a CHP Officer who was listing and identifying drivers and vehicles.

“Ah, this one is an F, It looks like he had a heart attack.” Johnny stated as the Officer was about to ask him the driver’s status.

“Sounds like it, witnesses said he was all over the road before he took out a couple of cars and then hit the median.”  The officer shook his head, he already had several pages on his clipboard listing all the vehicles and drivers.  Johnny didn’t envy his paperwork.  But knew theirs would be thick too.  He would get the list of names from headquarters and the CHP would forward the information on to them for their records.

“Hey, take it easy.” Johnny said as he turned to head to the next vehicle when he looked over the scene and saw the female CHP, Parker.  He turned and was about to ask the officer he had just spoke with about her, but decided this wasn’t the appropriate time.  But he couldn’t help but keep glancing her way, as she worked her way among the vehicles and spoke with various witnesses from the scene. 

Chet saw Johnny keep looking in that direction and his curiosity got the best of him as he was reeling hose back into the engine and stepped out to where he could see what Johnny kept looking at and then his eyebrows raised in sudden understanding.  Of course, only Gage would be checking out a woman during a MVA scene.  Oh boy was he going to have fun with that!

Johnny couldn’t help himself from glancing over at the female Trooper as she went about her duties.  He only hoped that no one saw him doing so.  When he came upon a driver needing attention, he was all professional and business, but as he was in between cars he would look up and search for her,  “Geez John, get a grip…she probably wouldn’t go out with you anyway, you knucklehead, she all but ignored you at the pool”.  Johnny muttered to himself.  “What would a CHP want with a firefighter,” he stated rather than asked himself.

Finally they had worked their way through the scene and for some reason as bad as the scene looked no one was hurt seriously except for the semi driver who was probably dead before he hit the median.

The crew pulled into the station and as they cleaned up and restocked equipment and gear, no one had realized that this had taken the entire rest of the morning and into the afternoon and lunch was missed. 

“Hey Johnny” Chet teased, “I saw ya checking out that female CHP.”  Kelly was going to get his full run on this.

Marco and Mike just ignored Chet and headed for the kitchen to drum up lunch.  At first Johnny tried to ignore Chet, he kept his head down as he was logging the run and guardedly he glanced up over at Roy.  Damn, of all the people to catch him checking out Parker.

“Yeah, well what of it?” Johnny put forth his best bluff toward Kelly.

“She’s a CHP.”  His matter of fact statement puzzled Johnny.

“Well what’s that supposed to mean?”  Johnny really didn’t have a clue as to what Chet was going after.

“Well for starters, that puts her way above you as a firefighter. And you know, most of THOSE gals are… well… aumm, they’re tough, ya know, a little on the masculine side.  Kind of…. how do I put it…”Chet was fumbling for a delicate way of getting his point across when Roy spoke up.

“Yea Chet, what DO YOU mean?  She’s a girl, isn’t she?”  Now Roy was turning the tables and putting Chet on the spot as he understood what Chet was referring too and he didn’t like the inference at all.

“Yeah, she’s a girl, but what I mean is…she wouldn’t be interested in Gage here. “


“How do you know?” Johnny questioned, he stepped up and got right up close to Chet, pulling himself straight and attempting to be menacing toward Chet.

“I heard that she, ah, plays for the same team, if ya know what I mean…”Chet shrugged and then scooted toward the kitchen.

Johnny frowned and looked after Chet and then at Roy, his puzzled look priceless.  He had no idea what Chet was referring too, although he wasn’t about to admit to Chet that she didn’t seem too interested in him this morning.  But he was bound and determined to engage his charm on her.

“Come on Junior, I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about.”  Roy threw his arm around his partner and dragged him toward the kitchen in a brotherly gesture.

“I don’t get it?” Johnny said as they entered into the kitchen and sat down for their late lunch that Mike and Marco managed to throw together.  It seemed to be stew of some sort, thrown together with left overs.  Everyone was hungry enough it didn’t matter, it was hot and filling.

And so for the rest of the shift, the calls were far and few between and nothing major or serious, almost boring.  But nobody spoke those words, no one wanted to jinx their shift.

For the next two weeks, Johnny kept up with his swimming routine, although on his days off he wasn’t so inclined to go in at 0530, he waited until later, which meant he missed Parker on those days.  She was always there at 0530 and swam for an hour.  He tried to time his leaving the Rec center to coincide with her so he could catch up to her, but she always seemed to beat him out the door.  Damn she was fast.

***

TJ Parker had transferred to LA County, she had managed to find an apartment out in Carson as far away from the big city as she could get and still be in the county of her assignment.  She’d been with CHP for six years and got on well with her fellow officers, she didn’t try to prove anything, she just wanted to be a Trooper and do her job. She had always been considered “one of the guys” at her last duty station and no one questioned her ability to do the job or worry about her being their backup, which was always one of the number one arguments for having a woman in law enforcement or firefighting.  

Women were still new to entering this all male dominated realm and there were still departments and personnel that were vehemently against women in the various fields and she’d run into a few of them.  But being a CHiP had some bearing on her acceptance as everyone knew not just anyone could pass the muster to get in and certainly you had to have a great deal of fortitude and guts to make it through the academy and graduate.

 More than once she heard from other men in other departments in law enforcement, that knowing what she went through to get here, they trusted her for their backup.  Now she had to get the guys in her new duty station to accept her as she was and treat her as one of them.

  For the majority of them, they did and were friendly enough toward her during shift, there were a skeptics though, and that didn’t really bother her as she knew any newcomer had to prove themselves.  She kept to herself at the station and did her paperwork and left, not hanging around wanting to make anyone ill at ease while they were sitting around talking “guy” stuff.  They always quit talking when she came in the room, worried that she may become “offended” by something they were talking about or saying.  She didn’t really care as long as it wasn’t demeaning to anyone or just plain vulgar. 

As time passed a few of the guys started to include her in their conversations and slowly they were getting to know her, which wasn’t much as she didn’t offer much information about herself.  She rather keep her personal life out of the squad room and stick to business, so some of the men thought she was either stuck up or not interested in guys.  She would often smile to herself at their uncertainty of what to make of her.

***

Parker was amused when the skinny guy with the dark hair kept trying to talk to her when she saw him at the pool.  He was kind of cute, but she never considered herself to be pretty enough for a good looking guy like him to pay her any attention and if they did, they were just after the conquest and she wasn’t going to put up with that.  Although there was something about him, a little goofy maybe.  Oh hell, don’t even get your hopes up! She thought to herself.  She had seen him at the MVA scene a couple of days ago, not recognizing him at first, firemen all look alike in helmets and turnout gear, but somewhere along the course of the incident, his helmet came off and it wasn’t hard to miss the non-regulation long thatch of sable hair.  Man how did he get away with that? My hair is shorter, she mused as she caught him glancing her way once or twice.  Must be a pretty lax department, oh well it was county, what did you expect she shrugged.  Her musings were interrupted by the radio and a call from her station sergeant.

“C-245.” Came her call number across the police band radio.

“Go ahead station.” She wondered what the Sergeant wanted.

 “Can you 25 the station and pick up some reports for relay.” It wasn’t really a request, but he put it nicely.

“10-4 be about 5 minutes” she was close as she had circled around her assigned section of highway and was making her way back, so with traffic moving rather quickly and unimpeded, she would be able to get to the station in good time.

Upon her arrival, she walked into the station and was greeted by the secretary/clerk for the office.  She always made an attempt to be courteous and respectful of the ladies in the office as they did a lot for the Troops and she wanted to stay on their good side, as well, as they should be treated equally.

Sergeant Masters met her at the front desk, he smiled at her and greeted her warmly.  She had made a good impression on him and he liked her, she was always friendly, professional and a hell of a good Trooper and her former commander had sent a glowing endorsement in her transfer papers.  He just wished the guys would get over some of their hang ups and accept her for who she was. 

Most of the guys did, there were a few that harbored their feelings and he also had heard a few disparaging rumors about her preferences in dates and he didn’t like that and whoever started that rumor would feel his wrath if he ever found out who started it.  It had flared up when she first joined the district and wanting to nip any unfounded rumors in the bud, he had called her in and spoke to her privately, and he didn’t want her to hear it from anyone else or an outsider.

When he tried to broach the subject to her in his office, she took it in good nature and dispelled any rumor or myth.

“Look Sarge, I know what they say, that I’m gay.” She said it matter of fact, no beating around the bush and it made him feel rather embarrassed. “Let me say this.  Any woman who enters into this profession is going to get crap now and then and one of those is being labeled lesbian.  I assure you I like guys, but what does that matter?  That’s just the narrow minded thinking of men that don’t understand or feel threatened by us women wanting to be cops and all we want is just to be accepted and do our jobs.  Yes, we have to be tough, tougher than their wives or girlfriends, not every woman wants to stand out on a dark and lonely highway and stop cars or wrestle with a drunk. Heck there are some guys that can’t do it.  It doesn’t bother me, I consider the source.  Hey if they think that way of me, then their wives won’t feel threatened I’ll steal their husbands away.” She tried to brush the whole conversation of with a casual joke. 

 

 

Master’s got a deep appreciation of just how much Parker had to take and put up with to just have a place in this career.  He was satisfied and told her so much that he was glad to have her in his squad and if she ran into any troubles or needed help, she could come to him.  She appreciated his support.

Sarg handed her a packet.  “Somehow this didn’t get dispersed to all the Fire Stations that responded to the MVA the other day on the 405.  This one needs to go out to a …” he read the front of the envelope, “a station 51, that’s out in Carson, don’t you live out there?” he asked.  He knew that of course, but thought more personable if he asked.

“Yeah, sure Sarg, I can drop it off on my way home if that’s ok.”

“That would be great, I appreciate it.  You going on days off right?  So your first day back will be when we have that Emergency Disaster drill with all the departments.”

She shook her head in acknowledgement.  “Ok, well see you at roll call then, oh and shift will start 0700 so we can get staged.” He said as he handed her the envelope.  She took it and looked at the clock, it was 20 minutes before end of shift, so she might as well get her reports in for the day and week and head on home.  She was just finishing up her dailies when the rest of the shift came in and set about doing their end of shift reports.

“Hey Parker” greeted one of her comrades “How’d your day go?” in his attempt to be friendly.  Some of the guys were still a bit standoffish as she was still new to them, none of them having worked with a female before, she was the only one in the district and surrounding area and they weren’t sure of what to make of her just yet.  She hadn’t been proven in battle as it were.  But they did try to be pleasant and would work with her no question and back her up if needed.

“Pretty quiet, just the usually speed citations and warnings.”  She shrugged, one thing about her they knew. She was writing citations with the best of them, she was one of the higher citations writers in the squad.  And as a result she came across some good arrests.  That was making an impression on a few and then there were a couple of others on second shift that thought less of her for doing so.  But they did that to anyone that worked harder than they did.

 

“Hey Parker, I saw one of those firemen at the 10-50 checking you out today,” Pete Stankey said as he sat down beside her.  He was one Troop that quickly warmed up to her and befriended her when she arrived. He really did like her and wanted her to feel accepted.

She looked at him squarely in the face and blushed slightly as she didn’t think anyone noticed.  Hopefully no one saw her doing likewise.  Pete saw the blush and smiled as he grabbed his paperwork and started filling out his log.

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed.” She tried to pretend she didn’t know him.  Pete continued.

“Say you got any plans for your days off?”

“Oh, thought I’d check out that park up north and do some hiking.” She said as she rounded up her papers.

“Hey Parker,” came a voice from across the room, Jake Westin was leaning back in his chair, tapping his pen on the desk as he filled out his log.  “Did I hear that some fireman is interested in you, heard he’s been asking around about you.” The way he spoke he made it sound a little demeaning, as if any guy would ask her out. A couple of the other Troopers that sat next to him snickered.  She didn’t have to know what they were implying.

She looked at him for a moment but didn’t respond, she rolled her eyes at Stankey as she got up and grabbed her papers and stuffed them into her outbox for the clerks to log and file.

“You jealous?” She said as she left the room, she didn’t finish her sentence, but she didn’t want to play into their game and give them any satisfaction that they bothered her.  That got a few more snickers aimed at Westin for her comeback. 

On her way home she drove by Station 51.  She pulled into the visitor’s parking area and grabbed the envelope that was sitting on the passenger’s seat and headed for the front door.  She entered into the front of the bay area and she noticed that one of the vehicles was gone, as half the garage was empty.  She saw the Captains office to her right and the next door up she heard a lot of banter going on from the crew.  She looked into the Captains office and didn’t see anyone so she headed toward the noise emanating from the kitchen.

She stood in the doorway to the kitchen/dayroom/squad room and quietly gave a small ah hum and all went quiet as eyes turned her way.

Immediately two men, a Latino and a dark curly haired fireman jumped up and came over to her.

“Can we help you Miss??” Chet asked coyly as he stood to her right and Marco went to the left of her.  She was a bit uneasy about being suddenly surrounded like that and her Cop instincts kicked in and she took a step back.

“Ah, I was to drop these reports off to Station 51 from CHP District Station from the MVA on the 405 last week.  Somehow they didn’t make over.” She stated as she surveyed the group for firefighters.  She didn’t see her swimming buddy, but since one of the vehicles was gone from the bay, so she figured they must be on a call.

 

Captain Stanley got up and walked over to her extending his hand for the packet. Then he used it to give a light hearted swat to Chet Kelly’s shoulder.  None of the men had seen her before or recognized her out of uniform.

“Give the lady some room you twit.” He said backing the exuberant Kelly off.  “You guys are like a pack of dogs!”  Wounded, Chet sulked over to the chair he had been occupying before she entered.

“I’m sorry Miss for their rather forward behavior.  Do you work at the District Station?”

Stanley made a typical male error in assuming she was some type of clerical personnel. She was a little uncomfortable with all eyes peering at her.

“Yeah,” she sighed as she put both hands in her back pockets after handing Cap the envelope “CHP 245.” She gave them her call sign and each one immediately realized she was no file clerk.  She extended her hand to Captain and he shook it rather embarrassedly.

“Oh yes, I heard they had a new fe…ah Trooper in the area.” He caught himself as he didn’t want to single her out as the only female.

“Yeah, I kind of stick out – don’t I.” might as well break the ice, she smiled.  “Well got to get going.  Nice to meet all of you.”  She waved and made a hasty retreat out the door before anyone could make any further introductions. 

“Wow” Chet exclaimed “That’s the gal that Johnny’s so hot about.”

“What?” came a collective question from the rest of the group.

“Seriously?” Stanley asked “She doesn’t seem his type.”

They didn’t hear the squad pull in and Johnny and Roy come around the corner into the kitchen.

“Who’s what type?”  Johnny asked as he went for the refrigerator and grabbed the carton of milk.  Johnny alone drank about two gallons by himself and they were always making sure there was at least a third for the rest of them.

“Ah – your girlfriend was just here.” Chet teased.

“Yeah we didn’t know you were chasing after a CHiP.” Marco joined in the teasing.

“YEAH, so what of it?” Johnny rushed to look out the door, disappointment showing on his face that he’d missed her.

What did she want?” he queried still trying to catch a glimpse as if she were possibly still in the parking lot.

“Well she wasn’t looking for you pal.” Said Hank as he flipped the packet up and waved it in front of Johnny. “She stopped by on her way home to drop this accident report off, that’s all.  She didn’t stick around that’s for sure.  But I don’t blame her, Chet and Marco scared her off,” He commented over his shoulder as he took the envelope to drop on his desk.

“Did not, we were just, ah, trying to introduce ourselves.” Chet said haughtily as he nodded toward Marco. “Besides, she probably isn’t comfortable around a lot of guys anyway, if you know what I mean.” He winked, again with the innuendos.  But this time Johnny had caught on and he became furious and defensive.

“You don’t know that Chet and its damn unfair of you to say such a thing when you don’t know!”  Johnny didn’t realize his voice rose and he was pointing his finger at Chet, the rest of the crew raised eyebrows at Johnny’s defensiveness.

“I think it’s rotten of anyone to say things about a person they don’t know. Things that are hurtful and disrespectful!”  By now Johnny’s anger was more about the memories of his past that came to the surface as he defended Parker.  Roy came over and placed his hand on Johnny’s shoulder to calm him down. Understanding the tone in his partner’s voice, Johnny had been the victim of bias and he was defending Parker against the attack of her character as well as defending his own self from the hurt he had suffered long ago.

“Ok Pally, let’s clean up and get some dinner.” Roy’s attempt to diffuse his partner’s retaliation toward Chet succeeded marginally.  Johnny sulked through the rest of the evening, angry at Chet for making such a comment and angry at himself for coming unglued over the comment.  He didn’t see that Captain wave to the lineman and had him follow him into his office and the door shut behind them.  Marco came over to Johnny.

“Hey man, sorry, he was kind of getting out of line about that Trooper.  Nobody knows anything about her, but there are guys that are saying things, you know?” Marco also understood all too well how bias hurt, people making assumptions and innuendoes about people they don’t know and basing their bias on race or gender.  Johnny climbed out of his funk and smiled at Marco, they both had felt the sting of hurtful slurs.

“Man I knew Chet could shoot out some zingers, but that just isn’t called for.” He mumbled.

Everyone tried to put the incident behind them and settled down to watch some TV before they headed off for bed and a reticent Chet wandered in sometime later, apologetic for his comments.  Johnny shrugged it off and before the night was through had forgiven him and they were bantering around about something else before lights out. 

The night went quietly into morning. The morning Klaxon station roll call was sounded.  Everyone slowly pulled themselves up and into their bunker pants and headed to the kitchen for coffee to get the morning started.  By 0700 B shift had arrived and the official hand off for the next Crew was given and Johnny grabbed his gear bag and headed for the County Rec Center.  He arrived and looked around for Parker and realized he’d missed her, it would be several weeks before he was able to catch up with her again which seemed forever to him. 

He kept questioning himself why he was so interested in her and why it was he couldn’t get her out of his mind daily.  The weeks trudged on slowly and his mood began to reflect his disappointment in not seeing her.  Even Roy began to sense something was bugging his partner, but each time he tried to broach the subject Johnny would brush him off, Roy knew better than to keep pushing the issue and to avoid any deeper mood swings he let it drop, hoping that whatever was bothering his best friend would pass.

***

It was nearly a month in passing and one morning bright and early Parker was at her swimming workout, she hadn’t seen the dark haired paramedic for several weeks and figured he’d gave up on swimming and her, causing her to be a bit disappointed, however as she was leaving he drove in and pulled into the parking space next to hers.

He jumped out of his Land Rover almost before it came to a stop and smile his charming Gage grin as he rushed up to her car to meet her.

“Hi!  Good Morning” he exclaimed.  Finally he had managed to catch her and could actually get a chance to talk to her. “How are you?” he tried to curb his excitement in catching her.

Parker frowned for moment as she reached down to unlock her car. Geez is this guy for real? She thought to herself.

“HI, okay, how are you?” she managed to say.  What did this guy see in her?  She definitely wasn’t his type or so she thought, although she liked his Rover.

“I’m fine...just fine.  Just got off duty for 3 days of R&R and its great!” he exclaimed with a wide toothed grin.

“Hey listen, let me introduce myself, my name is John Gage and of course you probably already know what I do.” He gave it his best Gage charm and swagger, it usually worked on most women but he couldn’t help wonder why it wasn’t on her. He found himself becoming a bit self-conscious, maybe Chet was right about her?

“Yes, ah I know… I’m a TJ Parker, nice to meet you.” She said pleasantly as she opened her car door and threw her bag in the passenger seat.

“Glad to meet you ah, TJ?” he said.

“Yes TJ.” She said as most of the guys at the station called her Parker, pretty much everyone either addressed each other by last names or badge numbers as they used the later as their call signs on the radio.

“Well great, ah…TJ.” he seemed a bit awkward and unsure how to proceed with his conversation.  Odd she mused, he certainly looked like the type of guy who got all the girls and yet he was acting all tongue tied like a teenager around her.  Heavens she wasn’t that attractive to warrant all that.  In fact it still surprised her he had any interest in her at all.  Hadn’t he heard the rumors by now, and even so, she wasn’t pretty, just plain old TJ Parker. 

In fact she never wore makeup, her dark brown hair was cut short to accommodate the Trooper’s hat and for ease of convenience in up keep.  She was short and a bit stocky in her opinion, whatever would a lady killer like him see in her? But her curiosity was piqued.

“Um…ah, hey would you like to go out sometime?” he asked getting right down to it.  If she said no, he’d understand, but he had to ask. She looked at him for the first time directly in the eyes and her gaze captured him, she had the most stunning steel grey eyes he’d ever seen and they seemed to pierce right through him. 

“Well, sure I guess.” She shrugged. Geez Parker, you sure know how to win a guy over! Maybe he’ll go out on one date and you’ll never hear from him again.

“Splendid! That’s great…ah…what’s your schedule like?” He asked as he leaned across the top of her car door.

“Well, as a matter of fact I have the next couple days off myself, I’m switching up to night rotation when I come back.” She smiled at him and he could feel butterflies in his stomach, she had a charming smile as well. 

 

“Cool, would you like to go somewhere and do something?”  Johnny wasn’t sure what to ask her to do, she didn’t look like the type for dinner and a movie and he was rather stunned she accepted his offer.

“Do you like to hike?” she asked, his dark brown eyes sparkled as he delighted in her suggestion.  She figured she’d ask as he drove a Rover, so she would find out if he was the outdoor type or just hype with the car.

“I do, I REALLY DO!” He caught himself, John you’re acting like a high schooler!  He was just relieved she’d agreed to go out with him and then to do something he really enjoyed was fantastic. He didn’t find too many of the girls he was used to dating liked the outdoors too much, this really intrigued him that she suggested it.

“Do you have someplace in mind?” He continued composing himself.

She nodded over the roof of her jeep toward the mountains. “Any good hiking trails up there?”  She didn’t know the area that well to know where the good hiking trails were or good scenic areas.

“As a matter of fact I do.  One of my favorite camping spots is just on the other side of that ridge.” He pointed, as he did so he was silhouetted against the blue California sky and she was pleasantly drawn to his sharply sculpted features, he was tanned, a little darker than most and that unruly dark hair!

“Can I pick you up tomorrow say about 0630?” he asked again a little awkwardly.

“Okay,” she grabbed one of her business cards and pulling a pen out the console, she wrote her address and phone number on the back and handed it to Gage.  He accepted it and held her door open as she climbed in.

“Alright then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”  He shut her door and as he was going to mention about what to bring, she started up her jeep and pulled out of the parking space, gave him a wave and drove off leaving him standing in the now empty space, with his mouth agape and watching her drive away.  He was so excited about the upcoming hiking trip he choose to forgo the swimming for the day and headed home.

We’ll see how long this one lasts, Parker thought to herself as she made her way home.  He’ll be just like the other few guys she’d dated. They’d go out once or twice and never call again.  She wasn’t like most girls, she didn’t really kiss on the first date nor was she about to hop in the sack with them by the second one! 

That’s when the guy usually bailed.  Take advantage of the ugly girl and leave. Plus she just got rid of a bad boyfriend relationship, one of the reasons she transferred to LA County to get away from him.  She started to get into a funk, thoughts from her childhood entered into her mind.  Her aunt telling her she was plain and fat, that she wasn’t going to catch a man’s eye. 

The words came flowing back so abruptly Parker nearly missed the driveway to her apartment.  She shook herself and parked her vehicle and trudged up to her one bedroom apartment.  She didn’t notice the green sedan parked half way down the block and a rather dark unkempt male watching her intently as she walked up to her apartment.  It was rather spartan as she hadn’t had time to do much shopping for decorations.  She had her essentials, a small couch and end table, a small kitchen table and single bed and a chest of drawers.  She didn’t need much, in fact this was far more than she ever had growing up.  She didn’t have much in clothes, her closet was full mostly of uniforms and other Patrol gear.  She did wander into her bedroom and pulled out her well-worn backpack and opened the zipper and checked the contents.  She pretty much kept it ready as she like to hike and get out of the city and get away at a moment’s notice when she was off and had the time.

 It would be interesting to see if this Gage character would be able to keep up.  Oh well, take it as it comes. She doubted that this would be nothing more than a fling for this handsome paramedic and she would be the victim of his lothario games.  But for the moment she thought what the heck, she’d play along at least for now, but she would guard her feelings and keep them to herself. 

Her thoughts drifted as she moved about the apartment, picking up and getting ready.  She thought back to her childhood and listening to her aunt whom she spent her summers with, until she was about 15 years old,  berating her and telling her what an ugly child she was.

All through high school she never dated anyone, since no one seemed interested in her.  She kept to herself most of the time, only having a few friends she got along with from her swim team in her senior year. But by keeping to herself, most of the kids thought she was a bit standoffish, stuck up or worse and they left her alone.  When she chose to become a CHiP, she was able to fit into the training and military type attitude as a result of how she grew up.

It was still a very difficult career for a woman to break into, they had to fight their way into the hiring process and then constantly work hard to prove themselves throughout the academy training and once out in the field.  A few of the fellow officers were accepting and supported females, but there was still some old fashion thinking prevalent in the all-male society.

 This didn’t bother Parker, she was self-reliant and resilient to anything that they threw at her in the academy or from some of her present fellow officers.  She didn’t mind when her perceived aloofness made them think she was gay.  She just wasn’t very outgoing and wasn’t interested in dating any of her co-workers.  She just wanted to be a Trooper to protect and serve.

***

Johnny was walking on air as he headed for his own place and bounded up the stairs leading up to his apartment two at a time whistling to himself as he unlocked his door and threw his gym bag in the corner.  There was something about his girl he just couldn’t put his finger on, but he felt drawn to her as a kindred spirit in a way and she was cute.  He couldn’t for the life of him understand why the other guys called her plain, homely.  Oh well, it’s all in the eye of the beholder he mused to himself.

Johnny was up as the first rays of morning crept into his bedroom window. He was excited to start the day and pick up Parker.   He was mesmerized when she finally looked him square in the eyes yesterday. 

Johnny, slow yourself down, she probably doesn’t even like you but just is going out with you for sympathy, he thought to himself.  He grabbed his backpack and checked all his equipment, filling up his canteens of water and making sure he had an extra jacket along.  He also had his survival items and first aid kit tucked down at the bottom. 

He prepared himself several sandwiches and grabbed a couple of apples and a bag of chips for lunch and some snack bars. He probably would be eating every hour to stave off his never ending hunger.  Satisfied he had everything, he headed out about 0600. It was only about a 20 minute drive to TJ’s place and he didn’t want to be too early or be too late. 

Traffic was light and he made excellent time.   Parker was waiting for him outside next to her jeep.  He pulled up and got out and opened up the back tail gate to throw her pack in and then opened the passenger door for her. 

She was a bit taken aback that guys still did that?  Chivalry was not dead as they say.  The drive to the park and then the trail head took about an hour and it was 0730 before they set out.  As they prepared to do so, Parker grabbed her sweat shirt and pulled it on and then her pack.

 Johnny was already wearing his extra jacket as the morning was cool, soon though they’d be shedding them as the day warmed.  As they walked, Johnny took the lead…He was going slower than his normal pace would be, not sure how Parker could keep up, as he had long strides. 

The conversation started out a bit awkward and strained until they took their first break and got out some water, they both shed a layer of jackets.  Johnny was impressed that she carried two canteens and a couple of smaller bottles of water, knowing full well to stay hydrated in the dry mountain air.

 After a brief rest they started up again and this time Parker took the lead, when they got to a junction Johnny called out to her which way to go and found himself being left behind if he didn’t pick up the pace.  Taking the lead she quickly left him in the dust and so he kicked in his long legs and comfortably caught up to her and matched her speed easily.  By afternoon they had reached a lookout.  Johnny led her over to the rocks overlooking the canyon.

“This is one of favorite places to come and just sit.” He said as he took a seat next to her on the large boulder that seemed to perch precariously on the edge of the cliff. “I come here a lot when I need to think, the sunsets are incredible” he said wistfully as he squinted in the bright sunlight across the canyon.  They both looked as they heard the cry of a hawk soaring over the canyon. 

Parker smiled and nodded her head in agreement as she pulled out her lunch and sat cross legged facing the canyon.  Johnny watched her out of the corner of his eye as she took a corner of her bread and crumbled it into the palm of her hand, she whispered something under her breath and raised her hand slightly.  He couldn’t hear the words but he knew the signs she made with her hand and then she blew the bread crumbs off her hand into the wind. 

“Who are your people?” he asked, he knew that no white man would do that, giving thanks to the Great Spirit.

She turned to look at him, for a moment she was caught off guard that he caught what she did and even guessed who she was.

“Navajo… my father.”  She said. She looked at him questioningly as she leaned back on the rock munching on her sandwich.

“Lakota, but only my mother,” he answered her look.  He looked into her steel grey eyes, then her round face and brown hair.  Why hadn’t he seen it before, perhaps because he wasn’t looking?  She was fair skinned and her hair was brown, not black, maybe that was why, she didn’t look very much Native, she easily passed for white. 

Parker for the first time herself looked closer at Johnny and yes it was unmistakable his skin tone was darker than most white men and his high cheekbones and of course that thick black hair.  Who knew that two half breeds would find each other in the most unlikely place?

“Did you grow up on the Res?” Johnny asked not sure how much he should probe.

“Till I was bout 14, I stayed with my grandparents for a while, Grandmother taught me the prayers and traditions, then after that only in the summers,” she said wistfully. “My dad was in the military.” She took another bite of her sandwich.  “I remember it being very hot and I would take every chance I could to hike up into the mountains to get away… from the heat,” she finished, as she remembered too she took to the mountains to escape her Aunt and Uncle who she stayed with during the summers after her grandparents and father had passed away.

 Her mom had divorced her father as she grew tired of the military life and moving around and then her dad was killed in Vietnam. TJ turned her back on what family she had left after she turned 18.  She had never shared her life growing up with anyone and she wasn’t sure she was ready too with Johnny even though they had similar childhoods.

“Hum…me, well I was on the Res until I was 13 and then came to California to live with an aunt.” He wasn’t sure how much he wanted to share with her for now either, but they quickly formed an unspoken bond, two people that lived in two worlds that only they could understand how that felt.  It seemed to break the ice for the rest of the day as they lingered on the lookout, chatting about little things, comparing cultures and similarities, naming objects and animals in each other’s language and laughing at each other’s attempt to pronounce the words.  As the afternoon progress both were amazed at how they both felt comfortable in each other’s presence as if they had known each other for years.

“So do you have an Indian name?” he asked her finally.

“My name is Tibah Jadi’.” She said watching Johnny’s face, most people laughed or made a face to the sound of it.

“That’s a lovely name.  What does it mean?” He said the name and enjoyed the sound of it, he smiled at her waiting for her to interpret.

“It means grey antelope.” She answered.  Johnny could understand the reference because of her grey eyes.

“So what do your people call you?” she returned the question.

“Well I never had a naming ceremony until much later than supposed to be and they gave me the name, Hawacipi isa kib phéta… Dances with Fire.” He reflected back to the day he was given the name.

“Hum, how appropriate.”  She said looking up at him and seeing a far off stare that came over him as he looked out over the canyon.

 Before they realized it the sun was starting to set below the rim of the canyon.  They decided to stay and watch the spectacular sunset.  Johnny was a bit worried for staying so long, but TJ put him at ease.

“Hey, it’s ok, not the first time I’ve been out all night.” She joked “Besides, the moon is full and we’ll have plenty of light to get down and if all else fails…” she pulled out a flashlight from her pack.

 

Johnny smiled and felt foolish for getting upset as he was so immersed it talking with this warm and charming woman.  How could the other guys not see how great a person she was? Was he falling for her? He shook his head as he shouldered his pack.

Once the sun had finally set behind the western ridge, they started down the trail together and true to Parkers comment, the moon was full as they made their way, Johnny looked across the top of her head and smiled as the light of the moon danced and shimmered on her short brown hair.  He caught a whiff of her scent and it gave him a warm pleasant feeling, he reached out and put his arm around her waist as they got to the wider part of the trail, Parker momentarily tensed then shyly slid her arm around Johnny’s waist, more to steady herself as they walked side by side on the widening path, but to also enjoy the comfort of his closeness.

She thought to herself as they walked arm in arm down the path, their descent was slower than their hike up that morning.  Neither one had spoken much of their respective child hood, but neither had to say much to understand growing up half Indian and half white wasn’t easy in either world.

 Parker found it was actually easier to get lost in the white man’s world as she didn’t look that much Indian.  If she darkened her hair and maybe got a decent tan, she might, but no one really often made that connection and she was glad of it. She was plain and easily got lost in a white crowd, Parker could see where it wouldn’t be as easy for Johnny.

They arrived at the Rover and quickly stowed their gear and hopped in and headed for town.  As they pulled into the parking lot of Parker’s apartment complex, she started to get out and then turned to Johnny.

“I’m starved, would you like to stay and have some take out?” she asked. “There’s a little pizza joint around the corner, we could walk over and pick it up and bring it back to the apartment. Neither of them saw the dark figure standing under a tree next to the parking lot, watching with hate filled eyes.

“You bet..., I’m famished.”  Johnny jumped at the chance to spend more time with her all the way down the trail and the ride home he was dreading leaving her.  He shook his head several times as he tried to shake it off and get a grip. 

They made their way up to her apartment as they approached her door there was a piece of paper taped to it, curiously Parker took it and looked inside, she immediately crumpled it and swore under her breath.  When they walked in, she headed over to the kitchen and tossed the crumpled paper into the waste basket and grabbed the phone she dialed the number for the restaurant. Johnny wondered what the note was about that upset her so much as she went from a pleasant laughing to a sullen almost fearful look. 

“What do you like on yours” she asked as she waited for the other end to answer, pacing nervously and occasionally looking out her glass patio doors onto the parking lot below.

“Oh anything is fine with me, except Anchovies!” he warned as he looked around her meager apartment.  It dawned on him, even though he didn’t have much, she had less!  Probably hasn’t had time to get much unpacked, he thought as he looked around, she had a few pieces of Navajo pottery and some wall hangings, hardly no furniture, except a couch and a chair, TV and coffee table.  He heard her say something about 15 minutes and hang up the phone.

“It should be ready by the time we get there,” she said as she slipped on her jacket and went to her bedroom.  She walked out with a holstered hand gun and stuck it in her waistband behind her back under her jacket. Johnny raised his eyebrows as she led him out the door and locked up. 

He didn’t like guns, but figured she was a police officer, so to her it was probably a department requirement or just habit, he wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. But tonight she carried it for a different reason as they left the apartment complex, she looked over her shoulder several times. 

Johnny didn’t notice as he was in Gage mode and talkative.  The walk was pleasant and they both were eager to get back to the apartment to dig in and hurried to keep the pizza from getting too cold and Parker more so, as her sixth sense caused her skin to tingle. 

She continued to look over her shoulder, but was never able to catch sight of the man that followed them, lurking in the shadows. Once inside Parker relaxed and didn’t realize how tense she had become on the walk back as she slid the dead bolt on the door to lock.

Parker set the pizza on the coffee table and went to get some napkins and stopped by the refrigerator to grab some drinks.  “Beer or soda?” she asked.

Johnny replied “Beer.”  She handed him a can and sat down next to him on the little couch and they dug into the pizza.  Afterward, Johnny finished his beer and stretched.

“Man, that hit the spot, but now it’s making me sleepy.” He yawned. “I don’t mean to be offensive, but it’s been a long day and hiking makes me tired.” He said apologetically.

“Yeah sure, know what you mean,” she said as she got up to clear away the pizza box and empties.  Johnny got up to help her and found himself at another awkward moment.  He wanted to stay, but he really was tired and felt he needed to get some sleep.  After they finished cleaning up, he said apologetically,“Look, Parker, I’d really like to stay a bit longer, but I don’t want to fall asleep on you either. That would be rude.  So how about we get together tomorrow and do something, when we are both rested.” He looked at her with his puppy brown eyes and she felt herself melting into them.  She shook herself and smiled, well she thought, he wasn’t interested in getting her into the sack on the first date.  She respected that and as the day had progressed found him to be the ultimate gentleman, polite and respectful.  Where did he come from, guys just weren’t like that anymore.

“Yes, I think that would be a good idea.  I’m a bit tired too.”  She said and her thoughts went to “well this is the end probably, he’s probably being polite, but really wants me to invite him to stay or he’s bored and wants to get out of here.” She walked him to the door as he grabbed his jacket and lingered at her threshold, then impulsively he brought his hand under her chin, lifting it up to him and he kissed her tenderly.

“I really enjoyed the day TJ and I really hate for it to end.” He spoke softly and then reluctantly turned to leave.  He looked back once over his shoulder and she still stood in the doorway watching him leave.  He called back to her. “I’ll see you tomorrow about ten,” he stated rather than asked. 

 

Parker waved and nodded.  She closed the door and leaned on it for a while, thinking to herself.  She brought her hand to her lips, touching them where he had kissed her. She closed her eyes trying to relive the account and smiled to herself.  Wow, she had thought wrongly of him all along or was she just doing that to keep her distance.  She didn’t want to get hurt again and the note she found on her door gave her a chill that the man she was running from had found her.  Of all the damn luck.  She went back over to the couch and sat down turning on the TV and not really paying attention to what was on. 

                                                      ***

Johnny got back to his apartment and when he got inside his phone rang.  Picking it up, Roy was on the other end.

“Hey where you been, I tried to call you earlier?” 

“Oh well, I was out.”  Johnny wasn’t sure he wanted to confide in Roy about being with Parker, at least not yet.  He wasn’t sure where the relationship was going and he didn’t want to jinx it in anyway. 

“What were you doing?” Roy asked, as it wasn’t out of the norm for Johnny to just take off and disappear into the mountains for a while.

“Just took off and did some hiking” Johnny stated just omitting as to who he was with at the time.

“Well Joanne wants to know if you’d like to come over for dinner tomorrow.”

“Well, ah…I kind of have plans tomorrow.” Johnny hoped that his friend wouldn’t press too hard for what his plans were or with whom.

“Okay, I guess you do have a life outside of centering on ours.  Will I see you next shift?  Remember we have that drill when we get back.”

“Oh yeah right, I’ll try to be on time,” Johnny laughed, hoping he threw Roy off on asking him what his plans were.  With the cursory goodbyes Johnny hung up the phone and headed toward his bedroom.  He felt a good hot shower and early to bed was on the agenda. 

He was beat but felt good and he was eager to spend another pleasant day in the company of Grey Antelope.  He smiled as he thought of her name and how the moon light had reflected off her hair as they walked.  He frowned as he thought at times she was a bit stand offish.  But maybe she was just being careful. He was concerned about how agitated she became after finding that note attached to her door.  He shook off any negative thoughts as he mused over his parting kiss.  It was sweet and she was receptive and it made him feel giddy. 

The next morning Johnny was up early and got his morning errands run, laundry put away and everything lined up and ready for his next shift.  He found if he got everything ready ahead of time, it saved him the last minute scramble and headed off his chronic lateness for work. 

He whistled a no name tune as he hopped into his Rover and headed toward Parkers’, not seeing the green sedan that pulled in behind him and followed.

 The man had followed Johnny home the night before to see where he lived.  It may come in handy later he mused to himself.  The disheveled man behind the wheel had a leering hateful sneer on his lips, muttering to himself as he followed Johnny’s vehicle.  “So the little slut thinks she can dump me and get herself a new boyfriend, eh?  Well she’ll find out soon enough she can’t get away with it.” He slammed his hand on the steering wheel angrily as he pulled into a parking space across from Parker’s apartment and watched the bounding Johnny take two steps at a time up the stairs.  He knocked and smiled as Parker opened the door… she smiled at him, but then cast a glance behind him as if looking for someone. 

“Good morning,” he started then saw her looking. “What’s wrong?” he asked as he entered her apartment.  She smiled and walked him over to her couch.

“Oh, there has been some suspicious activity around according to the neighbors, so I’m just keeping an eye out.” She said, knowing that he’d probably buy that excuse since she was a cop and most people were always telling her about someone or something going on illegal.

“Doesn’t have anything to do with that note you found last night, does it?”  Johnny saw through her deception.

She looked down at her hands in her lap and thought about how much she wanted to tell him, but never one to be dishonest, she felt this relationship should start with trust and telling the truth.

“Look, Johnny…I didn’t’ want you to get mixed up in this.  But, well, one of the reasons I transferred down here was to get away from a bad breakup.  The guy started to stalk me and cause problems, but nothing severe enough to get him arrested or anything.  I was hoping he wouldn’t find me….so fast.”  She wrung her hands a bit, hating feeling vulnerable.  She was a cop, she should be tough and not let this creep bother her.

Johnny felt suddenly very protective of her and slid in close to her and put his arm around her shoulders. “Hey, don’t worry, I’ll help you.  I may not be a cop and I can’t shoot, but whatever you need, just let me help, okay?” he said solemnly. He reached up and brushed his hand across her short hair and hugged her to him. She didn’t resist, she felt secure with him and trusted him wholly. She was falling for him and he for her.  They stood together for a while just holding each other, then Johnny pulled himself away so that he could look directly at her.

“TJ,” he said tenderly “I don’t know where this is going, but I have to tell you that I’m falling for you.  I know we’ve only spent a day together, but it’s like it’s been a lifetime.  I don’t know about you and you probably will dump me, most girls do after a while.  But you are special to me, not because you are part Indian, but just there’s something I can’t put a finger on, I just know.” He finished quietly his head bowed speaking almost apologetically, he glanced at her through long dark lashes in a childlike expression.  She led him over to the couch and they sat down facing each other.

“Shh,” TJ put her fingers on his lips. “I feel the same way…it’s crazy, right?  I don’t know you from Adam and I’ve fallen for you too.” She shook her head and locked his eyes with her steel grey ones.  They drew together in an embrace and kissed, letting the passion release that they had held back.  He laid her back onto the couch. 

Parker only thought for one small moment that she should hold back, but she found her emotions too strong to resist and went with it.  He was gentle and passionate and she never knew it could be so fulfilling.  Afterward they lay entwined together in the afterglow of their lovemaking.

 TJ let her eyes travel across his lean body, sinewy and muscled, his dark sable hair and dark long lashes.  How did a gorgeous guy like him fall for a short, stocky, plain girl like her?  She felt that if she moved or blinked the fairytale would end and he’d be gone.  As if on cue, Johnny stirred and raised his head to look at her, his dark eyes mesmerizing her, she allowed herself to get lost in them. 

He smiled his charming crooked grin and she knew there was no turning back.  He got up and standing before her unashamed, he held out his hand and led her to the bedroom.  What a way to spend a day off, she thought as she closed the door behind her, leaving a pile of clothes on the floor next to the couch. 

Sometime later, they headed to the shower, spending a little more intimate time as they soaped each other up and giggling like teenagers.  Johnny stepped out first and dried off, wrapping a towel around his waist he went out in search of his clothes. He brought TJ’s into the bedroom and laid them on the bed, which was in severe disarray. 

He smiled as he thought back as to how that occurred.  He quickly pulled on his jeans and sans shirt and shoes went out into the kitchen to find something to eat and made a pot of coffee.  Just as the coffee was finishing, TJ came out of the bedroom dressed and still toweling off her short hair. 

Johnny smiled and handed her a cup of coffee and went out onto her small balcony and sat in a chair.  She watched him as he sat his lean frame down admiring his physique as the sun played across his back, she came out and sat next to him.  It was late afternoon and they would have a beautiful view of the sun setting behind the hills shortly.  Neither spoke, just sat in the moment of being together and watching the sun set.  Little did they know there was one below watching… waiting.

Johnny had been holding TJ’s hand the whole time they sat together.  He shook it and looked at her.

“I think I’m in love with you TJ,” he said giving her hand a squeeze.  Trying to brush it off she laughed.  “You know, in my tribe, we’d be married now.  We a’hisiilke’… sit together.” She mused and gave a small giggle, she too felt deeply for him.

“That’s what we call it too.” He remembered.  What would his partner think of that, or Chet! What would the Department think!

“Not too much different then.” She smiled at him.  Suddenly Johnny looked alarmed and let go of her hand.

“Oh, I’m sorry TJ, I didn’t…I mean, we aren’t…ah oh, hell!” he jumped up and went back inside, TJ following him, an amused look on her face as she watched him pace around nervously.

“Johnny, calm down!” she reached for him, “Geez, we aren’t on the res!  This is just…well it just is what it is.  Let’s take it a day at a time and see where it goes.  If it doesn’t work out, well, that’s okay.  I’m not expecting you to want to spend the rest of your life with me?  I’m just a nobody, a plain ugly gir…” she didn’t finish her sentence, she had let out her inner fears.

 

 

 Johnny stopped and just looked at her, his mouth agape.  She was afraid he’d bolt right now and at the moment she didn’t want to lose him.  She wanted this to be forever, but also knew they had gone very fast and needed to slow down.  Truly see what they were really feeling.

“No, nooo, TJ, that’s not... I mean… I do LOVE YOU,” he stammered taking her hands in his.

“I love you too.” She smiled up at him and he pulled her to him, embracing her as if he would never let her go.  “You don’t know how much this means to me, to be able to say to someone that I love them.” He whispered, he couldn’t even say it to his partner who had been through so much with him and had told him repeatedly he loved him like a brother.  How did she cut through his walls and defenses so quickly?

TJ felt the same way, she pulled away from him and looked him in the eye.  “Let’s go for a walk and talk okay?” She said as she pulled him toward the door they needed to take a break and talk things out. 

Johnny had to stop and put on his shoes and a shirt first and then grabbing their jackets they left and spent the rest of the evening and into the waning hours of morning walking, sitting and talking.  Each one talking about their lives, good and bad on the Reservations, the hardships and some of the abuses.

 Johnny couldn’t tell her all of them, some of them were so deeply buried that even Roy knew only the tip of what had befallen him as a boy. 

TJ’s mother was German and married the handsome young Marine sergeant that was an American Indian, fascinated with the Old West and the noble savage.  She soon found that her life wasn’t that glamorous and left him with a 4 year old daughter. 

He did what he could, but until she was in school, he sent her to live with her Grandparents until they passed and then she got the tragic news he had been killed in Vietnam and then she stayed with her Aunt and Uncle.

 Her Grandparents were loving and taught her a lot of the Navajo ways, but her Aunt was less so and berated her continuously.  Although she was never beaten severely, her abuse was more emotional and verbal. 

She found her refuge in the mountains and escaped there whenever she had the chance.  It wasn’t until she was in school, that she learned to stand up for herself and she found she could disappear in the white man’s world. 

One day in high school, she and a friend were out late, against curfew, when they were jumped by a couple of guys.  She managed to fend off her attackers, but not before her friend was brutally beaten, nearly to death. 

A Police Officer drove up as she was fighting their attackers and managed to chase them off.  They attackers were never caught and brought to justice, probably because they were both Indian’s and no one seemed to be too interested in protecting them. But the officer that helped her was helpful as much as he could and he saw to it that the girls were given care and treatment despite some resentments and bias. 

She admired his integrity and compassion and it was there that she had sworn to her friend she would never let that happened to anyone else. 

Once she turned 18 she took off and when she turned 21 she signed up for the California highway Patrol.  It was nearly four in the morning when they had returned to her apartment. 

Johnny had let her into his past and she had shared with him, how could two hurt and lost souls find each other and fall into such a deep kindred of spirit? 

Johnny hated to leave, but both of them were to be on duty in a couple of hours and of course it was the countywide disaster training.  He kissed her at her doorstep and turned to leave.  TJ grabbed his hand, tears welling up in her eyes. She was hopelessly in love and the thought of being out of his reach was almost unbearable. In only a few short hours they both would have to go to work.  Her gesture brought him back and they spent the last few hours together.

***

Johnny made it home, showered and grabbed his gear bag and headed into the station.  He was 30 minutes early and so he got dressed and headed to the break room.  B Shift was just up and around and had coffee on when he walked in.

“Wow, that’s one for the record books” exclaimed Dwyer.  “Johnny is early – geez, by 30 minutes!”  He chuckled and walked over to him and put his hand on Johnny’s forehead. 

“Well you aren’t running a fever…so you aren’t sick.”  He handed Johnny a cup and went over and grabbed the coffee pot and poured the hot brew for him. He failed to see the dark circles under Johnny’s eyes from lack of sleep.

Johnny, grinned sheepishly, he didn’t want to tell anyone about TJ, yet he was about to bust a seam.  He thought he’d better break the news a little more slowly.  “Well, since today is gonna big a big day, thought I’d just get a jump on things and make sure you guys didn’t forget to restock the squad.” He grinned as he quickly swallowed a gulp of coffee to contain himself.  He sat down and the rest of the morning chatting away with everyone casually as the A shift men started to drift in.  Johnny bore the brunt of teasing graciously for being the first man in, he wasn’t going to even let Chet ruin his wonderful feeling.

Roy soon arrived and grabbing a cup of coffee he sat down alongside his partner.  He kept looking a Johnny suspiciously, but thought he didn’t want to say anything in front of anyone else.  There was something different about Johnny and it had something to do with him being out of contact the entire days off, at least his mood was much better. He did notice the dark circles under his partner’s eyes and knew that he’d not slept.  Before he could say anything the Captain came in.

“Morning guys, lets head out for roll call, because we’ll be tripped out at 0800 for the drill. Want to get the equipment checked out and ready to roll.” He said anxiously.  He clapped his hands as he turned on his heels and headed out into the bay.  The rest of the crew scrambled after, lining up for roll call.

“Ok men, we are going to forego housekeeping duties, let’s just hit the equipment and be ready to roll.” He stated matter of fact and dismissed everyone with a wave of his hand. 

Everyone knew that the Captain took these drills seriously and wanted the station to make a good showing at the scene.  He was proud of his men, they worked cohesively together and were close both on and off the job.  They had gained a high reputation among the other stations and headquarters and he didn’t want that reputation to be tarnished.  Each man took to their tasks diligently. 

Roy sidled over to his partner as they were checking the squads’ equipment and said under his breath. “Hey junior, you are acting like the cat that swallowed the canary.  What’s up, what did you do this weekend anyway, looks like you didn’t get much sleep?” he cautiously glanced around making sure no one heard him.

“Can’t tell you now Roy,” Johnny looked up and glanced around as well. “I’ll tell you later.”

He whispered, inferring he wanted the conversation to be private with no eaves dropping by a certain fireman.

It wasn’t long and the klaxon sounded.  A bombing at the stadium, all stations were given the alarm to respond, each one given an entrance and location to set up.  Even though this was a drill, they responded code 3, lights and sirens.  The trip would still be 25 minutes if traffic cooperated, which gave Roy a chance to question Johnny further.

“Okay pally, what’s up?” he questioned as he steered the squad through and around traffic.

“Roy, you aren’t going to believe this…,” He looked over at his partner who smirked.

“Yeah, I’ll believe just about anything when it comes to you.” He reached over and patted him on the shoulder, “so what gives, that you’d pass on Joanne’s home cooking?” knowing how much Johnny loved to eat and how he adored his wife’s cooking.

“Well,” he paused, “You know that CHP Officer?” he began.

“Yeah the female?”

“Yeah the fe…I mean the wo…I mean Parker,” Johnny retorted, annoyed.

“You didn’t?” Roy shot him a glance and smiled, knowing before Johnny told him that they had gone out.

“Yeah we did, her name is” Almost giving her Native name, “Gr…um...TJ, she is a really nice girl and we had a great time…We went hiking in the mountains…”  Johnny starting talking as if the damn burst and was still talking about her when they arrived at their assigned station. 

Roy slid out of the squad shaking his head as he went around and opened bay doors and started grabbing equipment.  He paused as Johnny reached in for his turnout coat.  “You got it bad junior. Is that why you haven’t slept?” he asked and continued as a big brother would. “I just hope you don’t get disappointed and hurt.  You know how you can fall for someone and it doesn’t end well.” 

Johnny looked him in the eyes, his face serious, something Roy had never seen when it regarded a woman. Usually it was the other way around and Johnny ran. He had left out some of the details of their days off He was content for Roy to think they were just going out together and good friends.  He wasn’t sure if he could tell Roy under their Tribal laws they were considered married or that THEY considered themselves married. He thought Roy would hit the roof, so he decided to keep that part of it in check for a while.

“I think this one will be different.  Regardless how it ends,” he said softly letting the last sentence trail away in a whisper,  grabbing equipment he turned and set off to meet with the commander in charge of where they were to go. 

Roy followed somewhat stunned by his partner’s sudden change in attitude.  But he never had the chance to follow up as they were put to work immediately triaging casualties from the disaster drill.

 By noon, everyone was given breaks in intervals, so Johnny never got to see much of the rest of the squad until the drill came to an end and everyone gathered for a debriefing.  The men were exhausted and ready to head back to the station for dinner and a shower. 

For the next two days, the shift seemed to drag for Johnny, he tried to keep to himself a lot, not wanting to say much about Parker. But he didn’t want everyone to raise any suspicion and start asking a lot of questions either, so he tried to play his usually goofy self. 

Only Roy could see he was hiding something.  Johnny was thankful that there was enough call outs to keep them busy and out of the station from prying questions.  On one particular run, the call came of a MVA involving a Police Officer. 

Johnny’s heart skipped a beat as he quickly though of TJ.  He was in the squad before everyone else and nervously took the slip of paper Roy handed him.  “Relax junior…it will be okay.” Roy said as he piloted the squad out the bay doors.  He knew what Johnny was thinking and this could be bad if it were the fe…woman Trooper… Parker.  Roy suspected that Johnny was indeed infatuated with her, as he usually is with most women, but usually something goes wrong and he falls hard… but what Roy didn’t know was that Johnny had indeed fallen head over heels in love.

When they arrived on scene, followed by the Engine, it turned out to be a county squad that had crashed during a pursuit and the officer, thankfully, had only minor injuries and was transported to Rampart with Roy in attendance.  Johnny would follow in the squad, but not before a CHP car pulled up and out stepped Parker.  Johnny’s heart leaped into his throat at the sight of her and he had to work on composing himself as she approached him.  He looked around toward the engine and the rest of the crew cleaning up and putting away equipment.  He felt sure they were watching him talking to the CHiP Officer.

“Hi Johnny” she smiled blushing, “I get to do the paperwork.” She spoke with all the professionalism she could muster because at the sight of him, her heart was pounding she was sure someone could hear it.

Johnny cleared his throat and smiled “Hi ah, Parker…ah…Officer...” He nodded “I was just heading into Rampart, Roy is riding in with the officer.  He is ok, just some minor bumps and bruises, but he’ll be fine,” he said in his best authoritative voice.  He thought his knees were going to give out as he looked into her grey eyes.

“Thanks, I’ve got this.”  She started to turn, then said over her shoulder, quietly “Good to see you, I am off in the morning.” She smiled winking and walked over to the crashed squad and the other officers that were there. 

No one noticed the interaction between the two other than her being given the details on the officer’s condition.  Johnny got into the squad and headed for the hospital, when he arrived he walked down the hallway from the emergency entrance to the nurses’ station whistling his no name tune.  Roy watched him as he headed his way, ignoring some of the nurses that passed by him.  Boy, he does have it bad, Roy mused as he turned toward Nurse Dixie McCall.  She noticed it too and perked up as Johnny approached.

“Well hi there handsome.” She smiled at him.  She had grown fond of Johnny and Roy, but mostly Johnny, if only she were only a few years younger…she let her musings drop as Johnny smiled his engaging grin.

“Hello Dixie…How are you today.” He sighed, stretching his arms and patting Roy on the back. He was walking on air and he didn’t care who wondered why.

“Oh oh…” she looked at Roy who smiled.

“Yeah Dix, he’s got it bad.” Inferring Johnny was smitten by a girl, he wouldn’t say who, that was Johnny’s business, but it was obvious Johnny had fallen for someone.

“Who is she?” Dixie wanted to know, especially if he was off the market, that would mean a lot of sad nurses.

Johnny only grinned, but before he could comment further, the HT chimed, saving him and they were off to another call.  Dixie smiled after them and could only hope he wouldn’t get hurt, again.

The rest of the shift went quietly, Johnny tried to remain aloof from the rest of the crew, he couldn’t concentrate on any of the conversations that was being bandied about during the course of the evening as he mind was constantly on TJ and the events of the last few days, Johnny pretended to bury himself in a magazine, until Chet started in on him.

“Hey Johnny, saw you talking to that female CHiP today at the accident scene.” He started out, Johnny only buried himself further into the magazine.  Roy looked up from his paper and watched the interaction, he knew Johnny was trying to avoid Chet, but the little Irishman couldn’t let go, he was like a terrier once he got started.

“Hey, you hear me…what did she have to say there?” Chet was prodding, the rest of the crew just tried to ignore him and watch some TV before turning in.

“Yeah, I hear you. “Johnny answered annoyed and tried to concentrate on his magazine that he found he could only focus on the pictures and then barely.

“So, what did she want?” Chet sidled up next to Johnny in his chair.

Johnny slammed down the magazine and turned to him. “She was assigned to cover the accident and she was just asking me about the officer’s status, that’s ALL!” his voice raised toward the end and he felt his face flush as he nearly shouted at Chet.  He stood up and started to leave the room.

“Geez, Gage, you don’t have to bite my head off.” Chet replied innocently as if he was the harmless party. 

Johnny glared at him and threw up his hands as he stomped out and headed for the dorms.  The rest of the crew turned toward Chet giving him a disapproving glance.


“What?  I just asked him a question and he goes off like the 4th of July.  It’s not my fault.”

Chet said as he got up and got himself a drink out of the refrigerator and looked at Roy for help.

“Don’t look at me.” Roy said as he put away the paper he was reading and thought he’d better go find Johnny and diffuse the situation.  He found Johnny in the locker room washing his face with cool water.  Roy waited until he had dried his face and looked up.

“I suppose you are going to try and play peace maker?” Johnny sighed as he turned around and leaned against the counter.

“No, no I’m not.  But I just want to be sure you are ok.  I know Chet can be obnoxious at times, but you did take it pretty personal.” Roy said in his quiet way.

“Yeah, I know.  I don’t know why I let that bug me.  Guess I’m just beat.” He said as he threw away the paper towel and with a bashful grin he started for his bed.

“Guess I’ll turn in and get some sleep tonight.” Emphasis on the sleep, he said, hoping they would have a quiet night.   As everyone turned in for the night, Johnny found he couldn’t sleep, he was thinking of his next days off and being with TJ.  He tossed and turned and finally somewhere in the night he drifted off thinking about her in his arms.

***

Parker got off shift and was too tired to change into her civies, grabbing her bag and jumping into her jeep she hardly remembered the drive home.  As she pulled into her parking space and stepped out of her vehicle, her stalker came up behind her.  She jumped as she turned and bumped into him.

“Geez Gary, what the hell are you doing here?” she exclaimed as she composed herself.  He leered at her trying to grab her. She shrugged out of his reach and stepped back, taking a defensive stance.

“I saw you with him…,”he sneered “You know you can’t have him, you belong to me.” He spit out the words, he was unkempt and his eyes were bloodshot as if he’d not slept in days or taken care of himself. He looked like a wild animal.

“You’d better leave Gary, it’s over.  You and I are through,” she said fiercely. She looked around making sure he wasn’t going to back her into a corner and there were witnesses.

“No it’s not, not for me.” He snarled. “You’ll see” he stood menacingly in front of her, his fists clenched as if he wanted to strike her.

“Gary, we were never anything, we just went out on a few dates.  Get over it!” she warned him.  “You had better leave, NOW!”  She ordered pointing toward the road.  A few people arriving home were starting to gather from a distance. 

Gary pulled himself up and grudgingly turned.  “Thisss is not over!” He hissed and pointed at her and then left.

 A few of her neighbors came up to her and ask is everything was okay.  Gary scowled at some of them as he stomped off. He was humiliated by her in front of strangers, which only escalated his desire to possess her.  She’d exclaimed that he was just a bum and she’d told him to take a hike or go to jail. 

With a shudder she headed for her apartment.  Once inside she locked the dead bolt and pulled the drapes on her sliding door.  For the rest of the night she didn’t venture out or turn on a light.  She sat in front of the television, not watching anything in particular and every time she heard a door slam or someone walking down the hallway she jumped. 

Somewhere in the early hours she dozed off, awakened by the sound of someone knocking on her door.  She jumped up startled and it took her awhile to clear her foggy brain, then she heard Johnny’s voice and leaped to the door opening it and as he stepped in, she embraced him emphatically.

  Johnny was happy to see her too and missed the fear that was in her eyes as she buried her head in his chest.  It wasn’t until later when they managed to pull themselves apart that he noticed her anxiety.

“What’s wrong, canteskuye?” (Sweetheart) he questioned her gripping her shoulders and frowning, they had started using each other’s native languages first for fun to compare, but now he meant the endearment.  She shook her head, hesitating to bring him into her troubles.

“It was Gary, he met me at my car last evening.  He was really over the top and threatening,” She explained as she backed away from him and tried to recompose herself from her momentary weakness.

“Is there anything you can do to get him to stop?” Johnny asked as he moved around to her and pulled her over to the couch and sat down.

“I could get a restraining order.” She said, then gave a small chuckle “Wow, a cop having to take out a restraining order – that will look good in the front page.” She shook her head imagining the headlines.

“Yeah but if he threatened you….” Johnny couldn’t help but reach for her and give her another embrace.

“Well, not exactly, so let’s just let it drop for now.” She lifted her head up to him and wrapped her arms around his neck, he reciprocated and bend down to her and their lips met, and soon Gary was forgotten as other matters developed.

Afterward as they lay together in her bed, Johnny brushing her short hair, “I could hardly wait to see you today, the last few days were maddening,” he mused as he played with her hair.

 

She snuggled closer to him, “I know, it was hard at times to concentrate on work…” she inhaled deeply snuggling even deeper, she loved his scent, she stroked his chest with a finger. “What are we going to do?” she said, rather than asked.  He stopped his brushing for a moment and frowned. 

“I’m not sure…we can’t hide this forever,” he stated.

“Why canteskuye, are you embarrassed to be with me?” she sat up teasing him by using his word for sweetheart. Johnny blushed and stammered.

“Why n…n..no.  I want to shout to the top of the world about us!  I’m crazy about you! It’s just everyone will be prying and saying that this is too soon and all that.” He brushed his hand across his own unruly locks of hair. He suddenly sat up as a thought ran through his head.  He turned to her “Why don’t you come stay with me for a while, until this Gary guy goes away.  That way I won’t worry about you.”

TJ sat up and looked at him “I don’t know Johnny,” she bit her lower lip thinking about all the ramifications. “First of all the Patrol doesn’t approve of couples living together if not legally married…and what if Gary follows me to your place?”  She turned away from him drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.  She lay her chin on her knees, contemplating his request.

“Well if he does, we’ll just deal with it…besides, you are the law!”  He grinned at her.  He shrugged his shoulders and continued “Besides, remember under Tribal Law we are already married, so we’ll just pull the ole Native card on them…” he reached his arm around her shoulders and gave her a quick hug, then started to tickle her side, which broke out into a pillow fight and ended in another passionate lovemaking. 

Time seemed to stand still when they were together and neither realized how the day had waned as they totally lost themselves in each other.  As they got dressed and wandered into her kitchen to make something to eat, Johnny was still thinking of her moving in with him, he presented it to her as temporary, but he didn’t mind if it became permanent.  He looked at her over a cup of coffee, casting her his most puppy eyed moony face.  “So, what about it, will you come stay with me for a while till this blows over?” he asked.

TJ found herself unable to resist despite her misgivings. She couldn’t bear to be away from him and the offer was too irresistible.  She nodded in agreement. In the back of her mind she was reeling, this whole relationship had been a whirlwind from the start and went against her hard and fast principles, yet she found all that didn’t matter when she was with him.

“Good, so, we need to give him the slip somehow…How about we go up into the hills and camp for a couple of days and come back early and get what you need and head over to  my place.” He planned out their deception as he paced the kitchen.

“I can pack up what I need and throw it in the jeep for now and then come back and take it over to your place in the morning,” she said as she headed for her bedroom to make the necessary packing.

 Johnny came in to help her and soon they had her jeep loaded and locked up.  She threw her backpack into his rover and soon they were headed up to the mountains.  Johnny always had his camping gear in his car so they only had to make a quick stop at the grocery store for some supplies and they were off.  The green sedan following, but as they turned into the park, it didn’t follow but continued on.  It didn’t take long for Johnny and TJ to get to their camping spot and set up. 

Their plan was to stay for their days off then head back down before daylight and move her things before Gary returned to watch her place. But in the meantime they had a few days to be free from worries and spend their days hiking and relaxing in their retreat away from the world.  Both felt if only they could stay here in this place and never return to the world would suit them just fine.  But unfortunately their time was soon over and they had to head back to reality.  Their plan succeeded as they awoke in the predawn and broke camp, hiking quickly back to the car and heading to TJ’s apartment. 

They approached the complex slowly looking for any signs of Gary’s car as they figured out it was him that had followed them to the park.  Seeing no sign, TJ quickly grabbed her keys and jumping into her jeep, she followed Johnny to his apartment across town.  She parked and started to grab items to take in, she noticed the paper stuck under the windshield wiper blade.  She hadn’t noticed it before in the dark, but now as the sun was rising she caught sight of it. 

She dropped her bags and quickly snatched the note before Johnny saw.  She opened it and read the scrawling handwriting {you won’t get away from me and your boyfriend will pay} was all it said.  She angrily crumpled the note and threw it inside her jeep and slammed the door. 

Johnny was beside her to assist with carrying her bags and noticed her slamming the door and her obvious anger.  He grabbed her bags and decided to wait until they were settled before he asked as she appeared sullen and wouldn’t look at him.  He knew it had something to do with her stalker.

 TJ, was angry, angry because of how Gary made her feel, vulnerable and afraid.  My GOD! She thought to herself, I’m a trained Law Enforcement Officer... heaven knows how many times I’ve faced certain death or danger and yet this is making me feel like I can’t swat a fly!  She followed Johnny into his apartment, barely hearing him giving her the grand albeit short tour of his home. “And here I do have a spare bedroom you can store your stuff…” he let his sentence trail off as he noticed she wasn’t paying much attention lost in her thoughts.  He dropped the bags and reached for her taking her chin with his hand and making her look up at him.

“Chikala he wonjetah .”(Little one).  The word came out so softly and tenderly as he himself was surprised he’d use this term that his parents had called him as well as his aunt.

“What’s wrong?  You need to tell me, don’t keep it to yourself.” He implored with her.  She looked at him with her piercing steel grey eyes, he could see tears welling there and it cut him deeply that she was so frightened.

“I hate this!” she cried burying her head in his chest sobbing, finally releasing the fear and frustration that she had kept buried for so long.  “I’m a cop for God sakes and he makes me feel so scared and frightened.” She confessed in between sobs.

 Johnny hugged her tightly his chin resting on the top of her head and he just held her, letting her let go of the pent up emotions, she looked and acted so like a frightened child and all he wanted to do was protect her.  Soon she recovered and with a deep sigh pulled herself together and they spent the rest of the day trying to put her stalker out of their minds. 

They made a trip to the grocery store to stock up on food as Johnny hadn’t been for a while and the cupboards were bare and went about setting up house for the two of them.  Johnny had one more day off, but TJ had to return to duty the next evening, she wasn’t sure how she would tell her District Commander about her living conditions and thought perhaps for now she would just say nothing. 

Each time they left the apartment though, each one scanned the area for the dark green sedan.  Johnny thought to himself, next time he saw Officer Vince Howard he’d mention to him about the sedan and have him keep a look out for it.  He didn’t want to let TJ know he was doing it, but he felt anything he could do to get this guy to back off he would.  He wasn’t a fighter and he didn’t like violence and he was confident that TJ could take care of herself when the time came, but why did she have to, if he could help.  Time came for TJ to head off to work too soon for the couple and it was hard to tear themselves apart, but soon she was pulling into the station and as she got of her jeep, Gary approached her.

“Gary, what the hell!  You need to get over this and move on!  What do you think you are doing coming to my station?”  She bristled at him.  He appeared different today, not menacing, but pathetic and pleading. He was also getting bolder to approach her at a police station!

“TJ,  pllllease, don’t leave me!” he begged he tried to reach out to her and she pulled back.  She didn’t notice that several of her co-workers were standing close by watching and hearing everything.  “Why did you dump me?”  He stepped toward her and she backed up again.

“Don’t come any closer!  You need to leave, NOW!” she demanded and pointed out the drive.

“You know I can arrest you.  Don’t make me!”  She resisted the urge to give him a right cross to his chin he made her so mad. His demeanor changed as she summarily ordered him to leave.  He rose up to his full height and growled at her.

“You’ll pay for this and so will that skinny boyfriend of yours!” he threatened and before he could do anymore, her co-workers approached, the taller blonde CHP officer already in uniform stepped in between TJ and her stalker.

“Sir, I believe the lady asked you to leave and I think it would be in your best interest to do so.” He nodded toward the exit placing both hands on his gun belt.  Gary spun around and walked away casting a furious glance back over his shoulder at TJ.

“Thanks Jon.” TJ said feeling rather embarrassed that he had stepped in.

“Hey don’t worry about it. Who is he anyway?” he said smiling as they turned together towards the station.  TJ didn’t want to give a lot of details, but lying wasn’t in her nature.

“He’s an old…” she hesitated to call him a boyfriend, as they only went out a half dozen times and she saw that he wasn’t the guy for her.  Too demanding and possessive. “Ah, we dated a little up north and he apparently can’t let go.” Was all she said as she went into the women’s locker room to change.  Jon let the matter drop and went on into the squad room for roll call. 

TJ quickly got changed into her uniform her mood was sullen and she slammed her locker when she was finished and headed for the squad room.  She slumped into a chair at the back of the room and kept her head down, barely acknowledging anyone who said hi to her.  She opened her note book and scribbled absentmindedly as the shift sergeant briefed the night shift.  After dismissing everyone, TJ still sat in her chair oblivious to seeing everyone leave the room.  Her sergeant approached her and cleared his throat, TJ jumped and slammed her note book shut and looked up.


“Mind if you join us for the shift?” he tried to be light and easy going, but he could see that something was bothering her and it wasn’t like her to behave so sullenly.

TJ saw that she wasn’t going to get out of brushing him off as easily as she did her co-worker earlier, taking a deep breath she started to explain what had happened.  Sergeant Masters sat down next to her and listened while she explained to him about Gary.  They had dated only a few times and he started getting very possessive and demanding and she broke it off.  He started to stalk her everywhere so she put in a transfer to get away from him. 

Up until now he had been relatively harmless in his threats, more so pleading to get back together, but now he was becoming more threatening as she was seeing someone new and he couldn’t deal with that. 

TJ let out a deep sigh as she finished her story, she was surprised at once she started talking about it, she revealed everything, almost, she didn’t mention her moving in with Johnny. She felt frustrated that she had revealed her troubles to her Sergeant, she didn’t want to appear as she couldn’t handle her own problems and seem weak in his eyes. 

Sergeant Master’s took in a deep breath and thought carefully before he spoke.  He’d never had to deal with something like this from one of his officers, as all of them were men and didn’t have this type of problem.  He knew that TJ was capable of handling herself, but when it was a personal matter judgment could become clouded.

“I’m sorry to hear about this.  First thing, I want a full name and what type of vehicle he is driving, I’ll spread the word to the shifts to give your apartment extra patrol.”

“No Sarge.” She spoke too quickly. “I don’t want to get everyone involved in my problems.  Hopefully he’ll give up and go away.”

“I don’t think so Parker, he’s gone this far to follow you to LA County and he was stupid enough to approach you here at work…that makes it my problem.” He spoke matter of fact.  “Besides, I won’t allow any, ANY of my officers to deal with a Cretan like him by themselves, you hear me?  We are family in this station and we look out for each other.” He spoke as he got up, he gave her a pat on her shoulder in reassurance she smiled at him, thankful for his words as they meant a lot to her and his affirmation that she was part of the district.  She wrote down the information he requested and handed it to him.

“Do you feel ok staying at your place alone?” he asked, she swallowed hard for a moment and shook her head.

“Ah, actually, I’m staying with a friend, we gave him the slip and so he doesn’t know where I’m staying, for now.” She got up and together they left the squad room.  Out in the hallway several of the guys were lingering, Jon Baker and Frank Poncharello were closest as they waited for TJ to come out.  Sergeant Masters spoke first to the group.

“Guys, a couple of you know about the incident that occurred out in the parking lot this evening before shift involving Officer Parker.  This guy is a stalker and apparently is following her around.  Be on the lookout for a green Ford Sedan, probably Shasta County plates, subjects name is Gary Bernard. Right now he’s only made verbal threats, but treat this as use caution he may become violent and dangerous.” He stated to everyone.

 TJ felt horrible and terribly humiliated that everyone had to find out about this, she felt that they would look down at her now since she couldn’t handle her own personal problems.  She couldn’t look anyone of them in the face. She focused on a tile square on the floor as the sergeant gave out the information.  It was Jon who spoke first to her that made her look up and realize the guys were on her side and sympathetic to her predicament. They didn’t see her as weak and incapable of doing her job.

“Hey, don’t worry Parker, we’ll keep a look out for you.  Nobody needs jerks like that bothering them.” He smiled and giving his helmet a twirl and joined his partner as they headed out for their patrol duties.  Parker nodded to her sergeant as she started toward the door. “Thanks Sarg.” She tried to be convincingly brave.

“Hey, don’t try to take this character on your own, if he gets violent, you call for backup.” He held his hand up to stop her protest and she just smiled in acknowledgement and headed out to her squad.  The shift seemed to go on forever and she couldn’t wait to end it and get home to see Johnny. 

On her break she called him and she spent her whole time talking to him.  He would be heading into work in the morning for his next 48 hours and she wouldn’t get to see him before he left.  She didn’t know how she had fallen so hard and fast for him and that he felt the same way, she kept thinking that at any moment the bubble would burst and she would be alone.  The end of shift finally arrived and she quickly finished her log and changed and headed out before anyone could stop her and say anything.  She’d rather not expound on the situation any more than it was and she preferred to avoid any comments from the guys, no matter how supportive they were.

 She arrived at Johnny’s apartment he had already left for work.  He left her a charming little note beside the coffee pot and had made her some breakfast that was still warm in the oven.  Smiling she poured herself a cup and took out the food and picked at it as she thought about where she was at and what she was doing.  She just couldn’t believe herself, that within a short time of meeting someone, she was moved in and living with a guy!  What happened to her steely resolved to resist becoming vulnerable with someone, letting someone inside her defense barriers.  She aimlessly wandered around his apartment looking at his meager furnishings. 

She smiled thinking, he didn’t have much, but more than she did.  As she walked behind the couch, her hand ran across the finely woven Indian blanket.  Her grandmother was a weaver and she appreciated the fine details and texture of the wool. 

He had a few other Native decorations spread out in between beautiful photographs of scenery.  She walked over to his book shelf and looked at the couple of photos he had placed.  One was of him and his partner Roy DeSoto in their full gear and another by their squad.  The other two photos were of a handsome couple and a small child that could only be Johnny, so she surmised it was his parents.

TJ didn’t have any photos of her parents, until now she didn’t think it strange or miss it, but the thought crossed her mind why she didn’t.  Finally she wandered into the kitchen and cleaned up after her breakfast, then headed off for bed.  She wouldn’t see Johnny for 3 days as he was on his long shift.

***

 

Gary had followed the couple up to their camping hideaway, he thought he’d drive on up the road and then circle back and wait.  He was planning his attack, how he would take care of that smartass fireman and get his girl. As he drove he failed to pay attention to the road and took a hairpin curve too wide, sliding into the rock face on the upside of the road.  Cursing he climbed out of his vehicle and assessed the damage.  Two flat tires and a busted radiator, Gary kicked the flattened tire and slammed his fist on the steaming hood.  Now what was he going to do? 

As a stroke of luck, a motorist coming from the opposite direction stopped to render him assistance.  In a flash Gary’s mind quickly found a solution to his problem.  He knew that the cops were probably tipped off on the identity of his vehicle and now it was disabled.  As his would be rescuer exited his vehicle Gary bent over and picked up a rock, as the stranger stepped up to look at the car damage, Gary came up behind him striking the back of his head and the stranger dropped in a heap next to the green sedan. 

Quickly, Gary dragged the man into his vehicle, grabbing his weapon and supplies and putting them into the newly acquired vehicle, he managed to maneuver the green sedan to the edge of the road. He climbed into the new car and he brought the front bumper up to the back end of the sedan and pushed it over the edge. He watched  the vehicle tumbled and fall down the steep canyon sides. When it hit bottom there was a flash and he heard the explosion and watched the car go up in flames.  Smiling to himself he climbed into the new vehicle and headed for town.  When he arrived and found TJ’s jeep gone, he fumed for a bit, then decided to wait.  As he lingered he spotted a patrol vehicle slowdown in the area and make several passes, spooked, even though he was in a different car, Gary took off.  He had a hunch that TJ had moved out and was staying with her new boyfriend, so he would find out where that was.

***

Johnny drove into the station lot with a few minutes to spare, fortunately he was already in uniform, so all he had to do was grab his gear bag and throw it into his locker and make roll call.  He ran into the locker room, everyone had already left and were in the kitchen when he threw his bag in his locker, slammed the door and headed out to the bay as he heard the Captain calling for lineup.  Johnny actually beat everyone who were sauntering out of the kitchen.  He smiled at everyone and brushed his hair back as Roy came up beside him. 

“Mornin’ Roy” he grinned.  Roy gave him a cursory glance, and smiled back.

“Morning Johnny,” He said as the Captain approached them.

“Welcome back everyone, you too John.” He nodded at Johnny, they had missed him at the usual morning coffee and the fact that he was already in the bay was surprising.  Captain Stanley meted out the duties for the day and dismissed everyone.  Johnny began to retrieve equipment out of the squad for morning checks.  Roy squatted down beside him.

“Well how did your days off go?” Roy asked, usually he saw his partner during their days off at least once as his wife always invited Johnny over for dinner.

“They were fine, stayed busy.” Johnny said as he set up the bio phone for morning call in. His aloofness concerned Roy, what had happened, did TJ dump him already?  Not really a record in that department, somehow Johnny seemed preoccupied and it nagged at Roy.

“Must have been really busy.  You didn’t even stop by or call,” Roy said.

Johnny nodded at Roy as he called into Rampart and was waiting for their response.  Roy decided they’d talk later, for sure Johnny would probably start in about his date for the rest of the shift.

“10-4 Rampart.” Johnny signed off.  As he replaced the equipment back into the bays on the squad the klaxon rang and the crew was dispatched to a possible heart attack call.  Upon arrival a frantic woman met them at the curb and led them into the modest home.  In the living room they found a middle aged man slouching in a chair, breathing hard and in obvious pain and discomfort.  Immediately Johnny and Roy set down their equipment, each working in unison to establish the necessary items.

 Johnny began to check out the man’s vitals as he questioned the frantic woman about his health history.  As he spoke to her in calming tones, she started to relax and became involved in answering his questions.  He looked over to Roy who had set up the bio-phone and reported the readings.

“Roy, his pulse is 100, respirations shallow and labored and PB 150/100.” He said as he took his pen light and scanned the man’s pupils. “Pupils equal and reactive, his a bit cyanotic and diaphoretic.”  As he spoke Roy handed him an O2 cannula and turned the volume of air on.  He then lifted the receiver to the bio-phone and called Rampart General.

“Rampart, we are with a 50 year old male, complaining of pains in his chest and left arm, he is somewhat cyanotic and diaphoretic.  Vitals are; pulse 100, respirations shallow and labored, BP 150/100.  We have him on 2 liters O2 and the cyanosis seems to be dissipating.  We also have him hooked up to the monitor and will send you a strip on lead 2” He finished waiting for the doctors reply on the other end.  Johnny had finished placing the electrodes on the man’s chest and signaled to Roy to start the feed.

The voice of Dr. Kelly Bracket replied and gave him the orders he had already anticipated and he saw that his partner had already gotten out the IV items and was ready to stick, when Roy gave affirmation to the orders given from Bracket.

“IV, D5W TKO and .5 mg MS, 10-4 Rampart.” He said out loud.  Johnny had already inserted the IV needle before Roy had finished and was starting the drip.  Roy handed him the MS syringe. 

“There that should get you feeling better in a minute.” Johnny said as he finished pushing the MS into the IV tube.  “Now just relax and we’ll be taking you into the hospital for follow up.” He said this to both the man and his wife.  “Ma’am you can either ride along in the ambulance or follow in your vehicle.” Johnny said as the ambulance crew arrived and brought in the gurney.

“Is he going to be alright?” she asked, still nervous, but calmer as she watched the efficiency of the two paramedics and their calm demeanor as they worked.

“Yes ma’am, they’ll take good care of him there at Rampart.” Johnny smiled at her as he moved equipment and helped with transferring the man to the gurney and load up for transport.  He jumped into the back of the ambulance as Roy took the remaining equipment out to the squad and followed.  After they had handed off their patient to the hospital ER staff, they filled their supplies and left, returning to the station.

 Upon their arrival the engine was gone, apparently dispatched to another run while they were busy.  It was lunch time and Johnny headed to the stove to see what had been started.  He sniffed at it and turned up his nose and headed for the refrigerator to see what he could scrounge up.  He made himself a sandwich and poured a glass of milk and downed it in several bites, washing it down with the milk.  By the time he finished, the engine and crew had returned. 

Before anyone could dust off from the run, the klaxon sounded again.  It was going to be one of those days…this time it was for a MVA.  Both units responded and arrived a short time later to find 3 vehicles in an intersection.  Two victims wound up having to be extricated by the jaws and were in serious condition requiring two ambulances and both paramedics to ride in the ambulances.  Chet drove the squad to the hospital.  It had taken several hours to extradite the victims and was well into the late afternoon when everyone returned to station. 

No one had the energy to fix a meal and Chet made the suggestion they order and have delivery pizza.  No one objected as they each slumped into chairs exhausted.  No one noticed Johnny’s quiet mood, figuring he was just as beat as the rest and too tired for conversation. 

After their consumption of the pizza they all slowly cleaned up the kitchen and squad room and prepared for sleep.  It didn’t take anyone very long to fall fast asleep.  Several hours into the night the klaxon sounded for a house fire.  Everyone leaped to their feet diving into their turnout pants and boots and making their way to the waiting vehicles.  By the time they arrived the house was fully involved, thankfully everyone had made it out and were gathered across the street with a neighbor.  It took several hours to put the fire out and clean up, it was nearly dawn by the time they returned to the station.

 Each man tried to lay down and get a couple hours more of sleep before the morning klaxon radio check went off.  The first one up was Johnny… he couldn’t quite get back to sleep when they returned and he gave up and went into the kitchen to make coffee.  He was sitting at the kitchen table, his mind lost in thought about TJ and didn’t hear anyone else as they slowly started to stumble in.

 After everyone perked up with morning coffee, they all proceeded to prepare for the day. 

Johnny started to get antsy and was watching the clock, Roy was about to say something when he looked up and found his partner gone.  Wondering where he had gotten off too, he went to look for him.  He finally found him in the lounge on the phone, he had his head turned into the corner and was talking quietly, not wanting anyone to hear his conversation.

At the end of the conversation he heard Johnny say something that he didn’t understand, not wanting to appear that he was eaves dropping, he quickly left the doorway and returned to the squad.

“Yes, I know, I miss you too.  Just another 24 hours and I’ll be home.  O’techila. (I love you)” Johnny said, he glanced over his shoulder making sure no one was listening. He thought he had heard someone a moment ago.  Seeing no one he finished his call to TJ and hung up.  Running his fingers through his unruly hair, he sighed and returned to the squad. 

Roy was keeping himself busy tinkering around polishing and rubbing the lights.  He acknowledged Johnny and kept on polishing.  Before anyone could speak the klaxon sounded and they were off again to another medical call.  This one was bad, it involved a child that had drowned in a neighbor’s pool, despite their best efforts the child was DOA to the hospital.  Both men always felt for the victims they lost, but children were always the worst. 

They lingered a little at the nurse’s station, but neither felt like talking much and Dixie came and went as the ER was busy, so she didn’t have time to say much to the two.  They finally got their supplies and silently drove back to the station.  The rest of the shift went quietly, as if the loss of the child caused a lull in the activity.  The rest of the crew gave the paramedics their space, as each man knew how hard it was to lose a child.  The next morning, Johnny was eager to leave and gave everyone a quick good bye, he had four days off and he couldn’t wait to see TJ and make up for lost time.

“Geez, what’s with Gage, got a hot date?” Chet asked. As soon as they were released Johnny sped out of the station to his vehicle and gone.

“Yeah, something like that,” Roy said as he accompanied Chet out to their cars.

“You mean, all this shift he was mooning over a girl?” Chet stated incredulously.

“Not just any girl.” Roy smiled as he got into his car.  Chet came over wanting to find out more as Roy had teased him.

“Who?  Who is it, anyone I know?” Chet asked.  Roy just smiled and started his car.

“You’ll find out sooner or later.” Was all Roy said as he pulled out leaving Chet dumbfounded.  He smiled as now Chet was going to drive himself crazy for the next few days off until he found out who Johnny was seeing. 

***

Johnny pulled into his parking spot unaware of the car that was sitting half way down the block, waiting, watching.  He hurriedly headed for his apartment and could hardly get the keys into the lock and open the door.  TJ wasn’t home yet from her night shift, she probably had to work overtime.  As he entered the living room, the phone rang, it was TJ telling him she was on her way and had in fact made a late minute bust that required some paperwork and overtime. 

He quickly stowed his gear, setting out his laundry and made a pot of coffee and would prepare a light breakfast for TJ when she arrived.  He showered and shaved, which he didn’t have to do regularly, as being part Indian, he didn’t have much facial hair.  He had just finished when she walked in.  He met her at the door and gave her a big hug and a very passionate kiss, having missed her for several days.  She dropped her bag and returned his embrace and somehow, breakfast was skipped and they found themselves in his bedroom. 

It was noon when Johnny woke up next to TJ, she was cuddled into his side sound asleep. 

Carefully, not wanting to disturb her, he managed to slide out of bed and get dressed.  He needed to get laundry done and grabbed his stuff and headed down to the laundry room.  As he finished stuffing his clothes in the washing machine he looked out the window and saw a man walking in between their vehicles looking inside.  The man was unkempt and dirty looking, Johnny figured it was a bum looking for something to loot out of the cars.  He ran outside and approached the man.

“Hey, whatcha doing?” he asked as he approached.  The man looked at him wildly, sending a shiver through him.  He was hoping his approach would scare the man off.  The man turned toward Johnny in a menacing manner that stopped him in his tracks. “You just go on and get out of here or I’ll….” He didn’t get a chance to finish the man laughed out loud.

“Or what, call your girlfriend cop on me?” he sneered, Johnny knew right away that this was TJ’s stalker. 

“I said beat it!” Johnny postured himself to stand as tall and tough as he could.  He may look skinny, but he was wiry and strong and could hold his own in a fight if he had too.  He’d had to stand up for himself all his life and had been in a few fights along the way.  The man wasn’t ready for a full out confrontation just yet and with a snarl he spun around and walked away. 

Johnny watched him until he disappeared out of sight, as he turned he looked up at his apartment, seeing that the drapes were still closed he returned to finish his laundry.  By late afternoon, TJ had gotten up and Johnny fixed her a nice supper.

“I could get very used to this….you are spoiling me.” She said in between bites.  He sat across from her admiring her as she ate.  He found it hard for him to eat as he watched her, happy she enjoyed his cooking.  She didn’t have much time before she needed to get ready and leave for night shift. 

Johnny didn’t tell her about meeting Gary, he didn’t want to worry her, so he left it be.  She kissed him good bye and left.  Johnny almost felt lost in his apartment now, alone.  He didn’t know what to do, but then he went to the phone and called his partner.  Soon he found himself over at his best friends sitting on the patio having a beer with the man he called a brother.  They sat for a while without speaking as Joanne was getting the kids ready for bed and they were alone.

“So, what’s going on?” Roy asked, he knew there was something on Johnny’s mind and he wanted to tell Roy, but wasn’t sure how to say it.

“Roy, its TJ and me…,” he started, Roy didn’t speak but listened, he knew that’s all he could do for now and this was important for Johnny and he needed his friend to listen.

“Well, we are more than just seeing each other.” Johnny stated, Roy took a sip of his beer and swallowed. “We have…ah…well…she is staying with me.” He said simply, Roy wasn’t sure how to follow that but remained silent.

“She….we...ah hell Roy, we have been sleeping together and as far as we are concerned, under our tribal cultures….are considered…married.” He finished running his hand through his hair and leaning back in the chair, giving a large sigh as if he finally got a big secret off his mind. He looked at Roy expecting him to try and talk him out of the relationship, that it was wrong, he waited holding his breath.

Roy took a big gulp of his beer and swallowed as he digested this last bit of information.

“Wow.” Was all he could say presently as he thought carefully about what his next words would be.  He wanted Johnny to be happy and regardless of how fast the two of them fell for each other, he wanted to be supportive to his partner and help him in any way.

“Do you love her?” he asked, knowing that Johnny had had sexual relations before, but never one where the girl moved in and so quickly.

“Yes….yes I do…love...Her…very much.  So much that it hurts when I’m not around her,” he said as he turned and looked at Roy in earnest, he was relieved that Roy actually seemed supportive.

This was huge for Johnny, he had so much emotional baggage from his childhood and to fall for someone and say he was in love wasn’t something he did easily.  He couldn’t say it to his Aunt or to Roy and his family, but they knew he did in his own way.

“I don’t know how the departments are going to handle the living together situation,” Roy said quietly.

“I’m not sure either.” Johnny replied, “We thought we could throw the Indian card at them…might catch them off guard for a while.” He smiled, he was also thankful that Roy didn’t try to tell him what a bad idea the two of them living together was or talk him out of the whole situation.  He understood and would stand by his friend no matter what, right or wrong.

“Yeah, that would be a new wrinkle for them wouldn’t it.” Roy laughed amused at his friends joke.  Johnny didn’t joke much about his heritage and it was refreshing to hear him be candid about it.

“So, you mentioned an Indian thing, what is that all about?” Roy asked. Johnny paused, he had let that slip out as he mentioned them staying together. 

“Well, ah…it turns out that TJ is also half Indian, like me.” He smiled to himself as he thought of them together.  Roy suddenly understood their immediate connection.  He was amazed that the two of them were drawn together so quickly and now it made sense. “So, under both our tribal laws, because we’ve, ah…sat together.” He used the Indian term, feeling a bit awkward about saying they’d slept together. “We are considered married in the tribal way.” He finished taking the last gulp of his beer.  Roy sat and digested all of what Johnny had just confided in him.

“I just hope you know what you are doing and that you two have thought this out carefully.” Roy continued, acting like the big brother.

“We have, we’ve done a lot of talking and as much as we love each other, are going to take it one day at a time…if it doesn’t work out…well…it will be okay.” He finished his voice was almost in a whisper and sad as he contemplated that the relationship might not work out and at the moment he couldn’t accept that.

“Well, if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask or talk to me.” Roy said as he finished his beer just as Joanne stepped out to join them.  She smiled and took a seat across from them.

“So what have you two been talking about?” she asked as she took a sip of coffee she had brought out with, her looking between her husband and Johnny’s serious faces.

Roy looked at Johnny and raised his eyebrows toward her.

“What?” she asked looking at the two of them a bit perplexed.  Johnny then proceeded to tell her about TJ and them living together, he never once brought up the fact that some of this was prompted by TJ’s stalker.  He didn’t want to get them involved or worry.

 After reassuring Joanne that he knew what he was doing and that he asked they keep the information private for a while, they promised they would honor his wishes, he bid them good night and headed home.

 For the next couple of days, the two lovers had only hours in between them going off to work.  When Johnny returned to his 48 hour shift, they wouldn’t’ see each other until he was off and then TJ was returning to day shift.  So the pattern continued for several months, making the most of the days off they did have together. 

With the time they had they spent their days off in the mountains and camp and let the world disappear.  Days hiking, talking and enjoying each other’s company.  The time spent only deepened their bond for each other and soon they began to think about making more permanent plans of staying together.

 During that time as well, they forgot about the stalker, who had returned to the city and contemplated his next step toward his possession of TJ and what he’d do to the skinny fireman.  But he had to act when the time was right and not go crazy as he did when he had confronted her at the station. It was hard to find a pattern in their coming and going and he wanted to be sure he got both of them at the right time.  But the longer he waited and watched the further from reality he became.

Upon the couples return to civilization they had one night together before each left for their respective jobs.  TJ was still on day shift and Johnny was going in for another 48 hour shift.  Their parting was less painful as it had been in the beginning as things were settling into a routine and their relationship had grown stronger and more meaningful.  As TJ left for her shift she found herself reminiscing the last few days and still at times found it hard to believe she had fallen so hard for Johnny and she was questioning herself how it happened?

***

Johnny’s return to duty was plagued by his own insecurities about his relationship with TJ.  They had spent a lot of time talking and getting to know one another and felt the relationship had truly bonded, but he couldn’t help think how it happened so fast and yet it felt so right.

 He quickly pushed his doubts out of his head when he arrived at the station and entered the squad room where everyone was gathered over coffee and discussing the event of the last shift.  Johnny greeted everyone and got his cup and sat down.  He was more relaxed than he had been in the previous shifts as he felt more at ease after his long weekend with TJ. 

Roy and Chet both noticed that he appeared his old self with a slight exception, Chet couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but Roy knew and he was happy to see his partner in a good place with his relationship with TJ.  He took a seat next to his partner and smiled at him.

“Must have had a good couple days off,” he said as he sipped on his coffee.

“Yes, it was spectacular.  Went camping the entire time, we really had a great time and talked about a lot of things.” Johnny said quietly as he mentioned he was not alone.  Fortunately Chet didn’t hear it as he was talking with Marco.  Captain Stanley popped in grabbing a cup of coffee and spoke to his men.

“Good morning guys.  We’ll be having roll call in about 5,” he said as he disappeared out the door.  Everyone finished their coffees and washed out their cups quickly to make it to roll call on time.   They knew the Captain liked punctuality and no one wanted to be called out for being late and get latrine duty. After roll call and each man was assigned their respective chores, the first priority was checking equipment.  As Roy and Johnny huddled over the various equipment boxes, Roy leaned in towards his partner.

“So you had a good time with TJ?” He asked quietly.

“Yes, we discussed a lot of things, about our careers, what we wanted in life and where this relationship was going,” said Johnny.

 Roy raised an eyebrow, this was deep for Johnny to have that type of conversation with anyone let alone a woman. 

“Wow, this is the real deal,” Roy stated as he shut the lid on the drug box and returned it to its bin on the squad.

“Yeah, I think it is.” Johnny smiled as he too put back the equipment boxes he had been checking.  He shut the door on the squad bin and turned leaning up against it looking dreamy eyed.  Chet caught the look and couldn’t help himself.

“Johnny, what’s got you so moony eyed looking?  It couldn’t be over a girl could it?” he asked as he walked over to Johnny. 

Johnny looked down at him for a moment contemplating what he was going to say, at this point he didn’t care if anyone found out about him and TJ, but before he could speak the klaxon sounded.  The call was for a fire at a large apartment complex.  The men went into action, heading for their vehicles, Johnny breathed a sigh of relief that for the moment he didn’t have to deal with Chet.  Upon their arrival to the fire 15 minutes later it was fully involved.

 Since it was a large complex it required several fire companies, the blaze roared like a beast, lapping out the windows, blowing black smoke into the air. Upon being filled in by the acting scene commander, Captain Stanley informed the two paramedics that there was still a potential for people inside on the higher floors and that they were to go in, joined by two other paramedics to search each floor and rooms.

 Johnny and Roy had gone into the building several times retrieving victims along with the other paramedic units.  Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, just smoke inhalation and the paramedics didn’t have to ride in with anyone to the hospital.

 As they packed up their gear, no one saw the disheveled man standing in the crowd that had gathered to watch the fire, he was intently watching Johnny’s every move.

 As the squad left the area, a white car followed, Johnny caught a glimpse of the sedan in the outside mirror and immediately sat up looking out the window over his shoulder.  He sat back and his partner noticed him start to become agitated.

“What’s wrong?” Roy asked, he too looked out his rear view mirror and saw nothing.

“That car that was following us?  Did you see it?” Johnny asked, again peering into the mirror to catch another glimpse, but the car was gone.  Johnny relaxed a bit, thinking he may have been imagining things, maybe it was just someone else.

“No I didn’t, what’s wrong, you act like you’ve seen a ghost?” Roy asked as he piloted the squad through traffic.  He couldn’t wait to get back to the station and get out of his smoky clothes.

“Aw, it’s nothing…guess I was imagining things.” Johnny said as he slumped back into the seat.  The car was still nagging him, but he tried to put it off.  He was glad that TJ was at work, at least Gary couldn’t bother her there.  He started to wonder if the guy had found Johnny’s apartment.  He looked around at his partner.  He chose to forgo telling him about the stalker or that was one of the reasons TJ moved in with him.

 Johnny suddenly had a helpless feeling as he thought about her alone in his apartment and Gary showing up and he wouldn’t be there to help her.  He squirmed in his seat and tried to not show outwardly his fear.  Before they returned to the station they were tripped out to another fire and joined the Engine at the scene 10 minutes later. 

“Roy, Johnny, we’ve got people inside, you need to get in and out, this structure isn’t going to last long.” Captain Stanley shouted as they got out of the squad and started to gear up.  The four story duplex was fully engulfed, flames coming out of all the top windows.  As they made their approach to the building they were followed by Chet and Marco on a hose. 

Johnny took his axe and broke open the door entering into the thick smoke filled interior, Roy following and the linemen close behind, a quick search of the bottom floor found no victims, so they continued up to the second level. 

There were several rooms and each man took an end of the hallway and searched room by room, by now the flames were lapping along the interior walls and at times they were on their hands and knees crawling between rooms. 

Roy found one victim unconscious but breathing and he quickly assessed no other injuries and hoisted the man in a firemen’s carry and proceeded out, he didn’t see Johnny and the flames were becoming more intense.  As he reached the head of the stairs he heard a loud groaning coming from behind him as the building was succumbing to the flames, with a final look over his shoulder, he thought he saw the outline of his partner heading towards him as he started down the stairs. The building was giving way and they needed to get out quickly.  Johnny was at the far end of the hallway when he first felt the hairs on the back of his neck raising and then heard the groaning of the building and spun around heading for the stairway, he saw Roy head down the stairs with the victim and he was nearly halfway there when he heard the second groan and the floor gave way beneath him and the last thing he remembered was pain and blackness.

Roy made it out of the doorway, but not before pausing beside the two linemen and yelling through his facemask, he told them Johnny was supposed to be behind him.  He had barely cleared the threshold when he heard the crashing of second story giving way.  He ran away from the building still carrying his burden and gently deposited the victim beside the squad on the lawn where the Captain had set up their gear.  He pulled off his helmet and mask and shouted over his shoulder to the Captain as he started to check over his patient.

“Cap, I don’t think Johnny got out before…” he let his sentence trail off as the Captain gave him the high sign and headed for the building. 

Other companies were attacking the fire from all sides and shortly the few lapping flames were defeated.  Captain Stanley entered the building to find Chet and Marco digging through the debris looking for their lost comrade. As he approached, Chet gave a holler and the digging resumed in earnest as a boot was found and they followed through and finally unburied the unconscious paramedic.  With a quick nod from Chet who checked for a pulse, Captain Stanley ran out to get Roy and a stretcher.

 Roy had placed his patient on oxygen. The vital signs were all stable and they required no further treatment at the scene and the ambulance was preparing for transport.  The patient was stable enough that Roy felt he could be transported without a paramedic in attendance and he quickly followed Stanley into the house. 

He assessed Johnny and decided to get him out of the unstable building and address any other issues in safety.  They quickly lifted him into the stretcher and carried him over to the squad.  As Roy checked Johnny’s vitals, Chet was on the bio-phone calling into Rampart.

“Rampart, squad 51…” he said glancing over at Roy.

“Go Head 51” came a male voice.

“Rampart, we have a Code I that was involved in a floor collapse.  He is unconscious, vitals to follow.”

“Will be standing by” came the voice, it was Doctor Kelly Brackett. He turned and motioned for the ER head nurse to come into the call station while he waited.  His frowning countenance told her that this was a bad one.

“Yeah, Kel?” asked Dixie as she came into the room.

“Station 51 has a Code I, was involved in a floor collapse, set up treatment 2 and have Joe Early paged.” He didn’t have to tell her what to set up for, she was well aware of what the potential injuries could be regarding an injured fireman and she set about to make the preparations.  Burns, smoke inhalation and internal injuries where top on the list of possible injuries.

“I’ll get right on it.” She said as she scurried out of the room. The com crackled as the fireman began to report vitals. “Pulse 35, respirations 12 and shallow and BP 100/60. Pupils are reactive, however sluggish, there are no obvious fractures, some minor 1st and 2nd degree burns as well as a large gash alongside the right temple and above the ear.  A dressing has been placed on the wound,” came the voice.

“51, start IV with Ringer, open wide.  O2 hundred percent and transport.”

He didn’t wait for the acknowledgement as he turned and left the room to await their arrival.

Roy had already anticipated the orders and was ready to go by the time the transmission ended.  Fortunately he hadn’t found any broken bones, just the nasty gash on the side of his head and obvious smoke inhalation as his face mask had been cracked and some minor burns around his face and neck that got exposed during the fall.

Upon their arrival at Rampart, Roy entered the treatment room carrying the IV bag and helped to transfer Johnny to the bed and switch over the O2 canister.  Dr. Bracket began his assessment. He flashed his pen light in Johnny’s eyes. Johnny started to protest as the light hurt his eyes and he began to regain consciousness. 

“It’s ok Johnny, you are at Rampart,” said Brackett. “Settle down and let’s get a look at you,”  He said as he continued his exam.  Roy stepped closer to Johnny’s’ head and put a hand on his shoulder and leaned down by his ear. “It’s okay partner, you are out of danger and let the doc take care of you ok?” He whispered. It seemed to calm Johnny and he stopped his struggling and laid back as he allowed his head to clear.

“How are you feeling?” asked Brackett as he continued his exam and allowing Dr. Joe Early to step in.

“Ba  hea  che,” He groaned as Bracket articulated his left ankle, that was sporting a nasty red bruise and starting to swell.

“Well looks like nothing broken, the ankle is probably just sprained, but we’ll get an x-ray to be sure.  You probably inhaled some smoke, so we’ll get you on some breathing treatments. The burns are minor, we’ll get something for those. You’ve got a concussion, with 24 hour monitoring, you should be able to go home tomorrow.

“Aww, dow…go hmmm now.” Johnny shook his head side to side and quickly decided that wasn’t so good of an idea as a wave a violent nausea gripped him.

 Roy anticipated his reaction and had Johnny turned and the emesis basis under his chin as Johnny emptied his stomach.  Laying back gasping and wincing, his eyes tightly shut, he realized there was no fighting staying at the hospital overnight and resigned himself. 

Brackett ordered medicines for the nausea and they stepped out as the x-ray attendant entered.

Roy turned to Brackett and sighed in relief. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said.  Brackett nodded, knowing how Johnny and Roy had escaped other dangers with far more severe injuries and the fact that Johnny had an inherent propensity for those kind of injuries. 

“I think he’ll be just fine, I just want to keep him overnight as a precaution. I’m going to give him a high dose of antibiotics to ward off any chance of pneumonia from the smoke inhalation and if he stays off the ankle for a couple of days that should heal nicely.  He is a very lucky young man.”  He smiled. 

Roy stepped back in after the X-ray machine and attendant had left to be with his partner.

“Roy…” Johnny gasped that brought on a fit of coughing from the smoke inhalation.

Roy stepped in closer to his partner to listen, “Yeah, what do you need, Pally?”

“Call T...TJ” he got caught up in another fit of coughing and he reached up to grab Roy’s arm.

“It’s ok, I’ll take care of it.  Don’t worry, okay?” Roy knew what he wanted and would take care of his best friend and partner.

Bracket watched the all too familiar exchange between the two men.  He had seen these two work together for several years and they were two of the top paramedics in the program. They had become very close and fond of each other.  Roy had even adopted Johnny and often referred to him as his younger brother.  Something Johnny needed very much in his life, to feel accepted and have a family again.  He wasn’t sure who Johnny was asking for, but then it wasn’t his business and he left the room giving out orders for Johnny’s treatment to the nurse standing by. 

Roy patted his partner on the shoulder and excused himself to make the call Johnny requested.

“I need to make a phone call.”  He said as he went to the phone at the nurse’s station and met Bracket there. Looking at the clock, Roy thought that she may be a work, so he called dispatch to contact the CHP District office and relay a message to call Rampart as soon as possible.

After he hung up he went back into the exam room where Johnny lay dozing as Nurse McCall got him ready to move into a room.

“How ya doing junior?” he asked as he stood next to him.

“I’ve been better, but glad it’s just a knock on the head,” he said wincing as he pulled the air mask off to speak.  Dixie took it out of his hand and replaced it on his face. “Breath young man,” she admonished him gently.  

Johnny rolled his eyes at her and she managed her best stern nurse’s face, implying she meant what she said and Johnny nodded his head, knowing it best not to argue with the head nurse!

“Did you get a hold of…?” he asked through the air mask.

“Yes I did, left a message,” he finished Johnny’s sentence and looked at Dixie who went about her business.  She was curious, but also as a professional knew when to mind her own business.  She’d find out later who they were referring too and since she already had an idea Johnny was seeing someone, likely it was who they were not saying. 

“Well partner, I’ll wait outside till they get you settled,” Roy said as he excused himself.  When he stepped out he found the rest of the crew walking down the hallway to find out about their youngest crew member.

“He’s gonna be okay, just a cut on the head that will need stitches, a sprained ankle and the burns are very minor, plus a concussion,” Roy stated as they circled around him. “They want to keep him overnight for observation.”  Everyone sighed with relief and smiled. “You can see him after they get him settled in.” Roy said as he led them to the Doctor’s lounge to wait.

 As they sipped on coffee and made small talk, Dixie poked her head in the door and pointed to Roy. “Roy there’s a call for you.” Roy jumped up and picked up the phone to the curious looks from the crew.

“Yes, hello.  Ah…Johnny was injured at a fire call today and he wanted to let you know…..yes…..yes…he’s alright….no…just a minor concussion and sprained ankle.  Yes they are keeping him overnight.  Yes….I think that would be fine.  Goodbye.” He said and hung up.

“Who was that?”  asked Chet.

Roy thought about what he was about to say, but they’d all find out soon enough.

“That was Johnny’s girlfriend.”  He paused as he looked at all the surprised faces, “She’ll be over in a little while to see him,” he said as he took his seat and took a sip of coffee to drop the conversation.  By the time anyone could form any thoughts on the matter, Dixie returned and said Johnny was in his room and that they could stop in.  They all jumped up and headed up.

Johnny was dozing when he heard the door to his room open and the crew from Station 51 entered, each man exclaiming hellos and how he was feeling.  His head hurt and he tried to be upbeat and smile, the nausea was abated somewhat from the medicine he’d been given, but he still felt he could lose his stomach contents if he moved wrong.  He hit the button to raise his bed to sit up a little more and Roy got him another pillow to prop him up a little better.  They guys made small talk for a while and were about to leave when Johnny’s door opened and in walked CHP Officer Parker.

***

Parker was out on patrol when she was summoned to the station for a message, when she arrived she was met by Sergeant Masters who approached her and handed her the message. 

“Hey there Parker, this came to dispatch for you,” He said as he handed her the message.  She took it and as she read it her heart dropped to her stomach and she paled.

“Everything okay?” he asked noticing her sudden loss of color.

“Ah…” she looked up and shook her head.  “I’m supposed to call Rampart ER.”  She said as she headed for the squad room to find a phone.  Her sergeant watched her and decided to follow her to be sure everything was ok.

As she hung up from talking with Roy, her color was better and she seemed calmer. 

“Is there anything you need?” Master’s asked.

“Well, if you don’t mind, can I go to Rampart for a while? My….friend is in the hospital and I’d like to stop in and check…,” she asked.

“Ok, take as long as you need, but let me know if you need anything,”  he said after her as she hurried out the door to her squad.  She felt better knowing Johnny wasn’t hurt badly, but she still found herself trembling as she started the car and pulled out onto the highway.  When she arrived at Rampart, she entered through the ER entrance and went up to the Nurses station.  Dixie watched her approach but didn’t realize she was Johnny’s girlfriend until she stopped and asked about him.

“Hi, I’m here to see John Gage,” she said.

 Dixie smiled at her and directed her to his room.  As she watched the young officer head toward the end of the hallway, she was mildly surprised that Johnny had started dating her. She wasn’t his usual model looking type.  But inwardly she thought maybe this was a good match.

 Each man looked at Johnny and then Roy and back to her as she spoke.

“Hi everyone, I’m…ah…I’m here to see John,” she said as she removed her Trooper hat and walked over to Johnny’s bedside.

Johnny tried to sit up a bit more and everyone could see the look he gave her, he was hopelessly in love.

“Hey canteskuye” he said not caring at the moment who heard him, his heart was in his throat and he was elated to see her. 

The Captain cleared his throat and spoke.  “Okay guys, we need to get back to the station and I’m sure Johnny wants to be alone,” he said as he ushered the men out, especially Chet who had started to say something and as the Stanley gave him a friendly shove out the door as Chet started to protest.  Roy lingered for a moment as he sized Parker up, as he’d not really met her or seen her up close.

“Hi, I’m Roy…ah…Johnny’s partner,” he said awkwardly as he held out his hand to shake hers.

“Yes, glad to meet you.  Johnny has spoken very highly of you,” she said taking his hand and looking him directly in the eye.  Roy was mesmerized by her stunning steel, grey eyes and could see how Johnny fell for her as well as her pleasant personality. 

“Well, I’d better go too, my ride is leaving,” he said as he gave his partner a pat on the shoulder. “l’ll see you tomorrow partner, get some rest,” he said as he left the room.

After they were alone, TJ reached over and gave Johnny a hug.

“Oh man, when I got the message to call, I was so scared,” she said as she held on to him.

“I’m sorry I scared you...,” he replied as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her.

“I can’t stay long, but I’m so glad to see you are alright.” She finally let go and stood up.

“Yea, they’re just keeping me for observation since I got a pretty good goose egg on my head.  I’ll be released in the morning,” he said reluctant to let her go as he clung to her hand and squeezed it.

“Good, I’ll pick you up when I get off shift.”  She smiled.

“I can’t wait,” he answered reaching for her chin to give her another kiss.  As she bent down to reciprocate Dixie walked in.  She cleared her throat and Parker stood up surprised.

“Sorry, but just coming in to do the hourly check.  I see that you are doing ok,” she said as she walked up to the other side of his bed and did a vitals check.  Johnny and TJ both were blushing and Johnny finally spoke, feeling he owed Dixie an explanation.

“Ah Dixie, you’ve met Officer Parker, ah TJ?”  He asked.  She nodded so he continued. “Well we are seeing each other,” he finished as he looked back at TJ and smiled holding her hand.

“I’m glad for you guys!” She smiled as she finished his blood pressure.  “Well looks like everything is pretty normal, everything is a little elevated, but I can see the reason why.” She grinned at Johnny and brushed his hair from his forehead as she intoned that she understood they were very much infatuated with each other.  She didn’t realize how much.  Johnny grinned sheepishly as he slid a little down in the bed. “Get some rest tiger.” She said as she left the room.

TJ looked at Johnny and they both broke out in giggles.  It was hard for her to leave and return to work, but she would see him in the morning, so she just had to get through the shift.

***

Roy and the rest of the crew returned to the station and everyone was chattering about Johnny’s girlfriend or at least Chet was doing the most.

“Wow, I’d never in a million years ever think that Johnny would hook up with her,” Chet said as he walked into the kitchen.  Everyone was taking a turn in the showers and getting cleaned up.

Roy wasn’t sure what Chet was inferring to by his comment, knowing what he had said early on about her.

“What do you mean by that?” He asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee and offered to pour for Chet.

“Well, guess I was wrong about her, you know…”Chet said as he took a sip and went over to sit down on the couch next to the station house dog, Henry.

“She isn’t really the usual type that Johnny goes after, the drop dead gorgeous kind,” he mused

“Yea, well, maybe this relationship will work out because she isn’t so gorgeous.  But she is cute.” Roy said as he joined Chet.

As they sat down, Captain Stanley and Marco entered and pouring themselves a cup of the brew sat down next to them.

“Well, I have to admit, she doesn’t seem the type of girl Johnny usually chases, but well, she’s probably got a lot more going for her than the typical air heads he’s dated in the past,” Stanley said

“Well, hang on, because I think they are really serious about each other and not like he’s been in the past,”  Roy stated.

“I know, the look on his face when she walked in… He’s got it bad,” Marco said stating the obvious they’d all seen.

Slowly after some more small talk and recapping the fire events, each man headed for the dorms to turn in.

***

Parker had a busy shift and it went quickly.  Several accidents on the freeway and an arrest had her in the station for the last few hours of her shift doing paperwork.  When she was finished and had everything turned in, it was time to clock out.  She quickly changed and headed for Rampart to stay with Johnny and take him home in the morning.

When she arrived, Johnny was sleeping and not wanting to disturb him, she pulled a chair next to his bed and sat.  She took a hold of his hand and laid her head on his arm and fell asleep.  The night nurse who came in every hour to check on Johnny tried to be quiet and not disturb her, but she did have to rouse him to do a neuro check.  When morning came around, TJ awoke with a start and looking up, saw Johnny watching her.  He smiled his crooked smile and she reciprocated.

“Good morning,” he said softly as he gave her hand a squeeze.  TJ stood up so she could reach his face and gave him a kiss.  She then crawled up onto the bed and lay next to him as he wrapped his arm around her and she nestled up against him.  Dr. Bracket entered the room to find the couple.  He politely cleared his throat and they looked at him.  TJ sat up and got off the bed as Bracket stepped up alongside Johnny.

“How are you feeling this morning?” He asked as he began to check Johnny out. “And who is this nice young lady?” He asked glancing over at TJ and smiling.  He knew Johnny’s reputation for having lots of dates with girls, but he’d never seen one this close and with him at the hospital, and he had not met TJ.

“Doc, I want you to meet TJ Parker, we...she’s my girlfriend,” He wasn’t sure how to introduce her as she was much more than that.

“Haven’t I seen you around before?” Brackett asked as he continued to do his exam.

“She’s a CHP.” Johnny beamed as he grasped her hand and brought it to his mouth to kiss it. Then Brackett put it together, he didn’t recognize her out of uniform.

“Well, I see that you two are pretty serious,” Kelly said as he finished his exam.  He leaned on the headboard of the bed and smiled at Johnny.

“You don’t know how much,” Johnny replied as he looked deep into her steel grey eyes.

“Well, how about you getting out of my hospital and letting some sick people use this room?”

Bracket stated as he took Johnny’s chart. “I’ll fill out the paperwork and get you out of here.”

He said as he turned to leave. “Oh, yes, nice meeting you TJ,” he said and walked out.

Johnny couldn’t wait for a nurse to come in, he pulled the IV out himself and got out of bed, initially he was a little dizzy and he had to lean back against the bed for support.  TJ grabbed him and helped him sit down on the edge.

“Hey take it easy…you don’t need to prove anything here bud,” she said as she pushed him back to stay sat down.  By then Dixie had entered the room, carrying some folded scrubs, she looked at Johnny and the dangling IV bag and frowned.

“Johnny!” He cringed at her forceful tone and knew she was displeased with his removal of the IV needle.  She summarily dumped the scrubs on his lap. She tried to seem angry with him, but it didn’t last as he looked up at her with his brown eyes in his most lost puppy look he could muster and she gave in.

“I swear I don’t know what’s worse to have as a patient, a Doctor or Paramedic!” she said as she checked his arm to be sure it wasn’t bleeding at the needle sight.

“Put those on, since your clothes were cut off yesterday.” She pointed to the scrubs in his lap.  TJ giggled at Johnny as Dixie chastised him.

“Hey, whose side are you on,” Johnny looked astonished at her apparent glee at his expense.

“Canteksuye, of course yours.” She was still trying to stifle a giggle as she spoke to him.  Dixie looked at TJ, surprised at the name she called Johnny, she’d never heard it before and wasn’t sure what she was saying or what language it was. 

She knew that Johnny was part Indian and spoke his native tongue, but TJ didn’t look the part, maybe it was a word Johnny taught her, mused Dixie.  Bracket returned with Johnny’s discharge papers and handed them to him.

“Just stay off the ankle for a couple of days and just aspirin for the headache and see me in a week,” Bracket said as he handed over the paperwork and with a wave left the room as he was paged.

“You be sure you get some rest,” Dixie admonished, pointing at him, implying he take it easy from any extracurricular activities he may engage in…she didn’t need to say it as Johnny blushed as he looked down and gave her a hooded look through his long lashes.  “Wait here and I’ll get your ride.” She said, indicating the standard protocol of taking a wheel chair to the car.

The ride back to Johnny’s apartment was quiet, each lost in their own thoughts and fears for each other as they came to realize the inherent dangers of each other’s occupations and how quickly things could change.  Realities that neither had given much thought to being single and no one to care for or be cared about.

Johnny shuddered as he thought about the fire, he used to be fearless, running headlong into a burning building didn’t bother him, but when he felt the floor give way beneath him all he could think about was TJ and how she would deal with his getting hurt or worse dying in a fire.  Now he knew how Roy felt at times when he spoke about Joanne and the kids and growing up with no father.  They had known several firemen that had died and left families behind, some were good friends.  He tried to push those thoughts and feelings deep down inside him and put on a cheerful face for her.

TJ helped Johnny hobble up to his apartment and got him settled on his couch.  She sat down beside him and looked at him as he made himself as comfortable as possible. 


“We need to talk,” she said.  He understood and resigned himself to the seriousness of the situation.

***

Gary Bernard was furious. He sulked away from Parker after her standing up to him in the station parking lot and he found himself falling over the edge of reason and there was no turning back. The more he watched the two lovers together, the more he found he wanted to possess what he couldn’t have.  It started to affect him physically as well as his mental state.   He had to have her and no one was going to get in his way of possessing her and if he couldn’t have her, no one would. 

He drove around the city for hours returning to Johnny’s apartment and growing more frustrated by the minute when he saw her helping Johnny up the stairs. He’d been to the scene of the fires, watching and saw when they carried the young fireman out. He was hoping in his favor, but now all the more agitated as he saw the young man had survived.  He waited.

He missed the first few mornings Parker had left Johnny’s apartment. Their crazy schedules had made it hard for him to keep up if he had left for any reason.  Gary smiled and settled in to watch and wait. He sat up and smiled, this would be easy, he thought.  He reached over to the passenger seat and picked up the revolver he had purchased, turning it around in his hand, he pointed it out the window and followed the pair as they walked up the stairway and as they entered into the building he made a sound as if he had pulled the trigger and fired.  Laughing to himself he laid the pistol back down and deciding he was hungry, drove off to find a fast food stand and return later.

TJ had called in and asked for several days off that she had coming so that she could stay with Johnny.  While on the phone with her sergeant, she was told that a green sedan matching Gary’s description was found at the bottom of a canyon and had burned with the lone occupant inside.  They were waiting for an autopsy report for verification it was indeed Gary Bernard, but for the moment they were going on the fact it was.

 TJ sighed a sad breathe of relief. Relief it was finally over, but saddened that he had to die.  She told Johnny about the findings and then they proceeded to talk, their love and devotion seemed to deepen and strengthen and they felt nothing could break them apart. They both came to terms with the inherent dangers of each other’s occupation and felt confident in each other and the Great Spirit to watch over them.

 Later that afternoon Roy stopped by, he had called the hospital in the morning to see if Johnny was still there, in the habit of being the one who would pick him up and tend to him, now he felt a bit jealous that his role was being taken away from him.  TJ answered the door and let him in.  Johnny half rose from the couch with a hearty greeting.

“Hey Roy, glad to see you.” Johnny tried to get up, but Roy stepped around the couch and held out his had to have him remain seated and took the chair next to the couch.

“Glad to see you are feeling better,” Roy said as TJ brought him a cup of coffee and handed one to John.

“Still have a headache and the ankle is sore,” he said as he thanked TJ for the coffee and reached out to take her hand tenderly.  Roy was amazed at the connection the two had made in such a short time and for Johnny to be so forward with his emotions.  Roy just prayed that she wouldn’t hurt him and send Johnny into the closed off emotionless person he was before he partnered up with Roy.  TJ looked at Roy as she sat on the floor next to Johnny and sensed Roy was mulling something very important in his mind.

“I’ve taken a few days leave that I had coming to stay with him,” she said as she patted his hand he had placed on her shoulder and smiled up at him.

“That’s great,” Roy said as he sipped his own cup of coffee.  “I will have to get used to you being around and being a part of Johnny’s life.  I hope that you will also know that you are welcome in our family and that you can become as important in our lives as Johnny is.”

Roy wanted to be sure she knew where Johnny stood with him and that he would look out for him and didn’t want to see him get hurt.

“That’s very gracious of you Roy.”  She looked at him with her steel grey eyes which made Roy feel she could see right through him.

“We are a’hi’siilke’,” She said, “We sit together.”  This was the first time Johnny had heard her make the reference of marriage in her native tongue to anyone but him.  She confirmed to him at that moment she was committed to their relationship and would stay beside him.

Roy looked at them confused, he knew she was half Indian like Johnny, he didn’t know what tribe and her speaking native was different than Johnny’s dialect.

Johnny looked over at Roy and grinned.  “She says we’re married,” he said it jokingly and acted as if it were a sentence of life long misery than what he truly felt for her.  She reached up and grabbed his pillow and gave him a light tap with it.  “Owww!.” He exclaimed halfheartedly, giggling in amusement at her reaction.

“Well, I don’t know how that is going to fly with the ’White Man’s legal authority and what our two departments are going to say about it.  Did you consider that?” Roy asked, knowing this relationship could become a problem for them if they weren’t “legally” married under the white government and they both worked for government agencies and that he and Johnny had discussed it the evening he had stopped by.  He just wanted to be sure they both were looking at this with both eyes open.

John looked at his partner long and thoughtfully.

“I understand, we both do and we will deal with that when the time comes…I know they just will look at us and think we are just living together and that’s a taboo,” he said solemnly. He felt at the moment that he couldn’t be without her and the thought of their departments forcing them to split up was something he wasn’t prepared to deal with. 

Roy watched as the pair looked at each other and he could tell they were quite serious about each other and it would take more than departments to separate them.  “But if they require more, than I’m ready and willing to take that step and make it legal in the white man’s law.” He looked down at TJ who had a look of total wonder and gratitude on her face and the two couldn’t have looked any more in love than at that moment.

“Well, anyway, Joanne wants you to come over for dinner and you might as well introduce TJ to her,” Roy said as he got up to leave.  “You know how Joanne feels about you and your welfare Johnny,” He stated as Parker rose to walk him out.  She walked with him to his car as she wanted a chance to speak with him privately. 

“Roy, I want you to know that Johnny and I are going into this with open eyes.  I promise, I would do nothing to hurt him.” She stood next to him at his car laying a hand on his arm to reinforce her sincerity.

“I know…, it’s just hard to take this all in, you’ve only known each other for, what two months?” He asked as he unlocked his door.

“Yes, but if it’s right, it’s right.  Johnny and I spent a lot of time just getting to know each otherWhen we realized we were in love, it was too late.” She smiled looking down at the parking lot, she scuffed around a rock with the toe of her shoe. “There was no turning back…”

“So how does your heritage play into this?” he asked, curious to know who she was.

“I’m half Navajo.” She stood up straighter. “Guess we found ourselves kindred spirits as well.  We understand how it is to live in two worlds, not always fully accepted in either. 

Fortunately, I don’t stick out as much as Johnny does,” she said as she glanced up to the apartment, she saw Johnny standing at the patio doors watching them.  She didn’t notice the white sedan around the corner watching as well.


“Well, I am really happy for the both of you,” Roy said as he too looked up to see Johnny watching them. “I am happy for Johnny, as he deserves as much happiness as he can get.  Has he told you much of his childhood?” Roy looked her in the eyes.  He wanted to be sure she understood how fragile his emotions were.

“Most of it, I know there are some dark places he hasn’t shared, but I know the look of a lost child.  One who has been beaten and cast away.”  Her eyes looked beyond Roy and seemed lost in a memory of her own as she acknowledge Roy’s question.  Roy picked up on her words and understood why they were drawn so closely so soon. 

“Well, if you ever need help, you let me know and I do understand Johnny and if he has troubles, call me, okay?” he said as he got into his car. “And don’t forget, dinner tomorrow night, okay?” he said out the window as he drove away.

“I will, don’t worry.” She waved as he drove away and she turned to go back inside.  She took a deep breath and stepped inside the apartment.  Johnny met her, hobbling from the patio doors.

“Canteskuye,” he said as he wrapped his arms around her waist. “We’ll get through this ok.  I can’t believe the departments would force us apart.” he said as he buried his face in her hair and kissed her.

“I know Johnny.”  She returned his embrace and soon they found themselves in the bedroom.

***

Johnny and TJ arrived at Roy’s home the next evening.  Roy’s children, Jennifer and Chris met them at the door and Jennifer leaped up into Johnny’s arms.  He managed to keep from falling over due to his weak ankle as he hobbled into the living room followed by TJ.  Jennifer and Chris watched her silently until Johnny introduced them.  As TJ shook Chris’ hand and smiled at Jennifer, Joanne came out from the kitchen.

“Hi Johnny, I’m so glad you came.” She said smiling and coming up to give him a hug then stepped back and looked at TJ.  Momentarily TJ felt taken aback, not sure how this woman was sizing her up.

“Um, Joanne, this is TJ Parker.  She is a CHP officer.”  He put Jennifer down and reaching out to TJ, took her by the waist and drew her to him smiling at Joanne.  Joanne looked at Roy and back at Johnny.

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you TJ?” She questioned the first name, not sure if she heard right and reached out to take her hand.  “Roy did mention that Johnny was seeing someone.  You are very welcome.  Please make yourself at home. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”  She led TJ further into the room.

“Is there anything I can help with?” TJ asked feeling still a bit on trial by Joanne. She came to realize how much Johnny meant to them and would not tolerate him being hurt in anyway and it may take a while for her to be accepted and at ease with Joanne’s welcome and offer of friendship.

“Why sure.” She smiled as she led her into the kitchen.  What an opportunity to find out more about this new girlfriend of Johnny’s.

Roy and Johnny passed through the kitchen to sit out on the patio. As they did, Roy turned to Johnny and asked if he wanted a beer.  Johnny nodded as he hobbled behind Roy. He playfully grabbed TJ from behind and gave her a peck on the cheek as he took the beer from Roy and followed him outside.  TJ giggled at Johnny and gave him a small shove as he let go.  Both laughing like school kids.

Joanne watched and realized these two weren’t just dating, their relationship had moved far beyond anything that she had seen Johnny be involved with before and she was happy for him. 

“So TJ, is it?” Joanne asked.

“Yes,” she replied, as she was certain she was going to be scrutinized and grilled for a while by Joanne to see if she was good enough for Johnny.  How wonderful for him that he had people who cared so much about him.  She wanted to be part of that too and looked out the patio doors at him wistfully.

“Ok, TJ, where do you come from?” Joanne continued as she directed TJ to where the plates and glasses were to set the table.

“We traveled around a lot, I was born in Germany and lived mostly in Arizona,” TJ offered.

“Oh that must have been difficult,” she said, “What about your parents, are they still around?”

“No,” she said matter of fact. “My mom split when I was about four and I’ve never heard from her, and my dad… ah, he was killed in Vietnam,” TJ stated matter of fact, as if they were strangers to her and she didn’t expound on any details.

“Oh, I’m so sorry.  Where about in Arizona did you live?” Joanne asked, seeing she was going to have to keep pulling information out of her as TJ wasn’t forthcoming in details about herself.

“Near Chinle.” She said as she finished setting the table.  Joanne finished setting out the food and she waved to Roy through the window to have them come in.

“Guess I don’t know where that is,” Joanne commented

“It’s up in the northeast corner of the state, the four corners,” Was all TJ said. 

Joanne wasn’t sure what to think about her, she wasn’t very open about her past and yet Joanne couldn’t help but feel at ease around this girl, her quiet manner and straight forwardness.  In fact she liked her. She just hoped that she was the right girl for Johnny.  The guys came followed by the kids and they all sat down for dinner.

***

After Johnny and TJ had left and the kids were off to bed, Roy and Joanne sat together in the living room.  Joanne spoke first in regards to the young couple.

“I think TJ is a nice girl, she is a little reserved but very grounded and I think that is what Johnny needs,” she said sipping on a cup of coffee.

“Yea, it’s hard to fathom that they have fallen in love so soon after meeting, yet when you watch them, they act as if they’d been together all their lives.  It’s weird.  Did she mention she was part Indian?” Roy said as he took a sip of his brew.

“No, she did say she had grown up in northeast Arizona. I never put that together with anything, but isn’t that a big reservation there?” 

“Yes but she doesn’t look very  much Indian, guess that’s good for her as she can pass for white pretty easy and not get some of the hassle’s Johnny’s experienced growing up.”

“Wow, guess she is more reserved that I imagined.  I just hope this works out for the two of them and no one gets hurt,” she said as she finished her coffee and snuggled closer to her husband.  He hugged her and without saying it, agreed with her statement.

***

 

The next morning, TJ decided to head to the market for a few items they were running low on….one thing for sure Johnny had a good appetite and she found it hard to keep  him fed. 

She planned on preparing him a traditional Navajo dinner and needed a few more items to round out the menu.  She’d only be gone an about an hour and felt comfortable with leaving him alone for that length of time.  After she had gone the phone rang and Johnny picked up.  On the other end was Sergeant Master’s.

“Hello?” Johnny answered.

“Ah, hello, this is Sergeant Masters from District 7 LA station and I’m calling for TJ Parker, is this the correct number?” Masters was a bit surprised to hear a man’s voice at the other end.

Johnny paused for a moment, not sure how to answer at first.

“No, I mean, yes this is the correct number, she stepped out for a while, can I take a message?” He quickly composed himself and hoped the man on the other end didn’t read too much into his answering of the phone.

“Okay, could you have her give me a call when she comes back in,” he stated and then asked, “How’s her friend that got hurt?”

Johnny sucked in his breath and then answered, “Ah, fine…will be ok, just need some rest.” He tried to be vague about who he was referring to.

“Ok, well thanks.” Masters hung up and sat for a moment. Could it be?  Was she spending time with this guy?  Oh well, for now it didn’t matter, it sounded like they were just friends, but then again if so, she was staying with him and that could appear as inappropriate behavior for the CHP.  But due to the circumstances, he let it slide, she was new to the area and she was trying to avoid a creep that was stalking her and probably felt safer staying with a guy for now.

***

When TJ returned to the apartment Johnny told her about her sergeant’s call and she immediately called the station.  Masters wasn’t in at the moment and he would call her back.  TJ started to worry about what he would have called about.  She tried to put it out of her mind and started to prepare dinner for Johnny.  When she had everything close to being ready, she went into the bedroom and after what Johnny considered the longest he’d ever seen her take to get ready, she reappeared in full Native dress.  She hesitated for a moment as she stood in front of him as he looked her over, she felt a bit self-conscious, running her hand over her skirt to smooth it out and fiddling with her turquoise necklace.  “Well?” she finally asked breaking the spell that Johnny seemed to be under.

“You look beautiful.” Was all he could manage to say as he took her in and stepped over to her and embraced her.

“Well, thanks,” she said, not sure about his remark, if he really meant it.  She stepped away from him and headed for the kitchen.  He followed and she promptly had him sit at the table as she served him his dinner.

“Traditionally the women would wait for the men to eat first,” she said as she sat down across from him and watched him dig into his meal. 

“This is wonderful, what is it?” He asked around a mouthful.

“Its mutton,” she answered, pleased at his obvious pleasure in enjoying the food. He stopped for a moment, then said “You eat too, we don’t have to follow all the traditions you know.” He smiled as he continued to savor his meal. 

She grabbed a plate and joined him, surprised that it didn’t taste half bad and brought home memories of her grandmother, who taught her how to prepare traditional meals.  It made her a bit homesick, but only briefly as Johnny emptied his plate and was begging for more.

She smiled, “I’m going to make you fat!” she giggled.  He grinned and swallowed before he spoke.

 “Maybe, but I can think of a few things to work it off!” he said wickedly to her and she instantly caught onto his inference.  After the meal was finished, he helped her clean up and put everything away and then taking her by the hand he hobbled out to the living room with her in tow and sat down on the couch pulling her onto his lap.

“That was an incredible meal and what an incredible woman who made it,” he said as he kissed her cheek.  She nestled into his chest and savored the moment.  Her mind raced back to her Aunt who had always berated her and told her she would never find a husband, especially one as good looking as Johnny.  Oh how she wished she could parade Johnny in front of her just for spite.  She was lost in her thought and didn’t hear anything else Johnny said for a while until he pushed her away.  “Did you hear me?” he asked frowning.

“Oh, what?  Sorry, is was just lost in thought.” She smiled.

“I said, I really love your dress, did you make it?” He asked.

“Some of it, some of it belonged to my grandmother and she passed it down to me,” she said absently as she fingered the long beads of Turquoise.

“Do you miss her?” He asked quietly as he saw that her thoughts were far away.

“Yes, yes I do, she was so kind and wise,” she said and then she straightened up, “A lot nicer than my Aunt.” She gave a huff, indicating she and her Aunt must not have gotten along very well.

“Well… guess we both have Aunts we didn’t like,” he said as he pulled her back to him.  He rubbed his eyes as he did so and TJ sensed he must have another headache due to the concussion.

“You’ve been up a lot today. You are probably tired, why don’t you go lay down and I’ll be in shortly,” she said as she stood up and reached out her hand to help him up.

“Yea, guess you’re right, I am feeling beat and have a head ache,” he said as he hobbled into the bedroom. 

After he had lain down, she closed the door and went over to the phone in the kitchen and called the station again.  She hadn’t heard from her sergeant and knew he should be back.  When she finally got through, he still wasn’t in as there had been a bad crash on the 405 and everyone was tied up.  Still trying not to worry, she figured she’d find out in the morning when she returned to duty. It was probably the coroner’s report on Gary.  She sat on the patio for a while sipping a cup of coffee and enjoyed the sunset as it turned into evening, then quietly slipped into bed with Johnny, not wanting to wake him.

The next morning she was up and ready for work when Johnny finally stumbled out sleepily.

“Good morning sleepy head.” She smiled and poured him a cup of coffee and kissed him while she handed it to him.  He rubbed his eyes and yawned as he gratefully accepted the cup.

“Mornin,’” he yawned, “Wow I slept pretty hard last night.” He took a sip.  “Must have been that wonderful home cooking.” He bent over to kiss her.

“Well, sorry I have to run, am running late, I let you sleep as long as possible,” she said as she grabbed her gear bag and started for the door.  She turned and admired the half-naked man standing in the kitchen sipping coffee.  Wow, she hated to leave, but duty called. “Try to take it easy today, okay?” She said as she opened the door. “Love you,” she said as she stepped out. 

She didn’t wait for his reply as he watched her leave and as she shut the door he spoke words that were very difficult for him to say.  “I love you too.”  Wiping his face with his hand trying to clear the fogginess in his brain, he decided to go back to bed for a while and see if he felt better later on the way he found the bottle of aspirin and took two with the rest of his coffee.

TJ made roll call in time and noticed everyone grew quiet as she walked in, looking around she became wary of their silence and wondered what was going on. Sergeant Masters spoke first.

“Welcome back Parker, sorry I missed you yesterday.” He said as he walked to the front of the room to begin briefing.

“First order of business,” he said as he surveyed the room and his eyes fell on Parker. “The green sedan that was found at the bottom of Topanga Canyon was indeed that of Gary Bernard, but the body was not him.  So now we have a John Doe to be identified and my guess is this Gary is now out and about in the John Doe’s vehicle.” He paused as TJ sat upright, eyes wide.

She started racking her brain to recall if she’d noticed the new car in the area. She became angry at becoming complacent since they all thought Gary had perished in the crash.  She never took him to be so deviant and resort to murder to get back at her.  Now she grew antsy, she couldn’t wait for briefing to be over so she could call Johnny and warn him to look out for it. Her sergeant continued.

“Folks, we don’t know what he is driving, so be on the lookout for anything unusual.  Parker, I want you to be sure you are calling in all your stops and someone is near to sit back and watch.  This guy has stepped up to murdering people and I don’t want you ambushed out there.  I’ll see to it there is a restraining order put out on him as well.” He concluded. 

Parker gasped, she didn’t want a nursemaid and she looked around at her comrades, none of any were giving her anything but supportive thumbs up or comments.  Dashing out afterward, she headed for the phone and called, no answer, damn, maybe he went back to bed or Roy may have stopped by to take him out for coffee.  She’d try back later.

 Later never came as the day was hectic.  A serious crash on the Freeway had several officers tied up sorting through the mass of tangled vehicles and victims The responding fire station was Engine 51 and the B shift crew, plus a few other stations to deal with the number of casualties.  By the time the officers were done, it was several hours after shift ended.  TJ changed and was finally glad to crawl into her jeep to head home.  Sergeant Master’s had tried to catch up to her several times throughout the shift to check in on her, but they kept missing each other. 

***

Gary had watched the comings and goings of Johnny and TJ for weeks.  He was still fuming over his humiliation at approaching her at her station and he had finally worked himself over the edge, first by killing and stealing a car and now he was ready to take his next step.  He watched as TJ left for work and was working himself up to confront Johnny, when Roy DeSoto drove up and went to Johnny’s apartment.  Infuriated he put the car in drive and squealed away from the curb.  He’d have to wait another day.  He wanted his revenge to be sweet and it had to be right in order for him to make her pay for her dumping him.

Roy had to knock on the door several times loudly before Johnny opened it.  He was groggy and apparently Roy had awoken him as he stood in the doorway in his boxers and disheveled hair.  He let Roy in and wandered into the kitchen to see if there was any coffee left.

“Man you look rough, are you feeling okay?” Roy asked as he sat himself down on the couch.

“Just a head ache and I must have dozed off after TJ left,” he said as he started a new pot. 

“You don’t mind if I slip into the shower, maybe it’ll wake me up,” he said as he shuffled to the bedroom.  Roy was slightly concerned at his grogginess, maybe his concussion was worse than they had first thought.  Johnny was still in the shower when the coffee brewer chimed it was complete and Roy helped himself to a cup and sat back down. By then Johnny was dressed and looking a little better as he was still towel drying his dark locks and grabbed a cup for himself.  He sat down in the chair across from Roy and took a sip.

“You sure look better now,” Roy smirked, still somewhat concerned for his partner.

“I feel a lot better, must have done too much yesterday.” He nodded as he thought back on the wonderful meal TJ had made. 

“When do you go back to see Brackett?” Roy asked.

“I think day after tomorrow, hopefully he’ll sign off and release me back to duty.” Johnny rubbed his forehead as the dull ache started to come on again.  Roy took notice.

“I think you need a few more days, you still have a head ache.” He said, Johnny scowled at him, knowing Roy was right, but he hated being off work, besides, it was just a head ache.  He tried to shrug it off, but it gradually started pounding away at him.

Roy sat and they chatted for a couple of hours, catching up on different things, but eventually Roy saw Johnny’s face was starting to tense as the headache wouldn’t abate. He knew that TJ would be home in a couple of hours and so if anything would change with Johnny she would make sure he got to the hospital or called him.

“Well junior, guess I’d better be going, got a few ‘Honey Do’s’ for Joanne before going back to work tomorrow.

“Ok, well thanks for stopping by.  Sorry I’m being a bit of a drag.”  Johnny got up to walk with Roy to the door, but as he stood got a little dizzy and sat back down.  Roy immediately came to his side.

“You okay?” he asked as he looked at Johnny’s face.

“Yea, just got up too fast is all.  I think I’ll take a few more aspirins and lay back down,” he said as he tried to be convincing toward his partner, who didn’t buy if for a minute.

“Here, let me help you lay down.  I’ll get you the aspirin and some water,” he said as he helped Johnny to the couch, he returned quickly with the bottle of aspirin and a glass of water and made sure Johnny took them before he left.

”If anything changes or you start feeling worse, you call me ok?” Roy stated as he knew how Johnny had a habit of hiding his pain and injuries and didn’t like to be a burden on anyone.

“Kay…,”he said through closed eyes and clenched teeth.  Roy considered taking him to the hospital right then and there, but Johnny seemed to relax a bit as he lay there and perhaps he just needed more sleep.  He could only imagine what kept Johnny from getting any rest with TJ staying with him.

 Roy left and within a few hours later TJ arrived, she found Johnny still asleep on the couch.  She moved about quietly as to not disturb him.  She decided to go out for a run since she had missed workouts lately and that would give her time to scope out the neighborhood if Gary was hanging around.  She made a four mile loop around the neighborhood and didn’t see anything out of place.  She felt a lot better as she got back to the apartment and went inside.

  She had showered and started dinner by the time Johnny finally woke up, he was looking a bit dazed momentarily and she grew concerned how pale he looked.

“Hey canteskuye,” she leaned over to give him a kiss feeling his forehead in the process as she caressed his face. He was slightly warm, but nothing to be concerned about.

“Hey, missed you,” he said sleepily.

“How are you feeling?” She knelt down in front of him, her hands on his knees.

“Still have a head ache,” he said as he rubbed his eyes and ran his fingers through his thick sable hair, yawning.

“Is that all?” She asked looking into his brown eyes.

“Yes, that’s all, it’s just….it’s feeling better now.  Roy stopped by this morning and I had a couple of aspirins then and fell asleep,” he said as he pulled her up into his lap.

“Johnny, you don’t have to be tuff for me…if you are hurting, you need to let me know okay?” She said as she brushed his hair back from his face and gave him a peck on the cheek. 

He nodded and then changed the subject. “I’m hungry, I slept through breakfast and lunch!” he exclaimed.

“Sit right there. It’s almost ready,” she said, as she untangled herself from him and retreated to the kitchen.  She brought him his dinner to him on the couch and snuggled in beside him and they ate in silence, mostly because Johnny was too busy shoving food into his mouth and her because she was worried. He failed to see her frown as she thought about his health and the fact they may not be done with Gary Bernard just yet.  She wondered how it was going to end… would he need to be arrested before he would stop.  They spent the rest of the evening huddled together on the couch.  Johnny drifted in and out of sleep as she let her mind worry over current events.  She found herself still laying up against Johnny by morning. 

Looking at the clock she realized she needed to get a move on to be on time.  She gave Johnny a gentle nudge to wake him. He moaned and tried to push her away. 

“Johnny, wake up!” She persisted and she finally got him to open his eyes, which he quickly shut as the light hurt.

“Just let me lay here a while okay?” He groused as he laid his arm across his eyes to block out the light.

“I’ve got to get going, you going to be okay?” she asked as she scurried about.

“Yea, be okay.” He was barely audible. “Yea, don’t worry, if I get to feeling too bad, I’ll call Roy.” Johnny grimaced.

 TJ didn’t like it and thought to herself she should call Roy now.  Looking at her watch, she found she had no time, so she’d wait until she got to the station.  With a quick kiss on his cheek, she said good bye and left.  Johnny barely acknowledged her leaving and was soon fast asleep.

***

Gary had returned later in the evening to take up his vigil on Johnny’s apartment, he never saw anyone come or go for the rest of the night and he perked up when he saw TJ dashing out to her jeep and driving off for work.  Now was the time to make his move and started toward Johnny’s apartment.

 Several times, he caught himself and chickened out, then turned and started toward the apartment.  He’d done this four or five times before he worked up the courage to go all the way.  He knocked on the door and waited until Johnny hobbled over to answer. Before Johnny could open the door all the way, Gary burst through the door knocking Johnny over. 

He slammed the door while brandishing his hand gun at Johnny who was struggling to his feet and shaking his already hurting head.  He motioned for Johnny to move back into the room, when Johnny was too slow to get up as he head was in a fog and he was still groggy from the concussion.

 Gary kicked him in the ribs causing Johnny to roll into a fetal position while his assailant continued to kick him. Finally, Gary reached down and grabbed him by the shirt and looking around, his eyes settled on the kitchen chair. The large man effortlessly lifted Johnny up and dragged him over to it and deposited him there. 

Johnny could barely comprehend what was happening, everything was a blur and his head was really pounding.  His concussion had gotten worse from the repeated blows, his ribs hurt and it was hard to breathe without burning pain in his side.  He tried to focus and assess his injuries, aside from the concussion, he figured he had a few severely bruised ribs maybe even fractured. He could barely comprehend who was talking to him and for what reason. His vision was blurred so that he could hardly make out who stood over him, but as the fog lifted somewhat in his brain, it dawned on him that this could only be the stalker.

“What do you want?” Johnny asked through clenched teeth as he fought back the nausea that was rising in his stomach and he was gasping with every breath.

“Shut up!” Gary spat at him as he took a coil of rope out of his pocket and proceeded to tie Johnny’s hands behind his back. Johnny winced as his arms were jerked back and the rope was tied tight enough that it cut into his wrists.

“Why don’t you just leave us alone?” Johnny pleaded, with that Gary took the back of his hand and struck it across Johnny’s face.  He tasted blood on the inside of his mouth from the blow. He reeled from it to only aggravate his already pounding head.

“I said shut up.” He again waved the hand gun in Johnny’s face. He then went to the patio doors and pulled the curtains closed.  He returned to Johnny, contemplating his next actions, pacing back and forth.

“I told her to leave you and she wouldn’t listen, now, she’s going to pay for it,” he sneered at Johnny who cringed away.  Gary laughed.

“Ha, she’s not gonna like what she sees after I’m done with you, pretty boy!” he grabbed Johnny’s face with his hand and squeezed it causing Johnny to flinch away, which only brought another slap across his face and another.  Johnny bit his lip as he fought not to cry out, he hung his head trying to clear it, tears started to well in the corners of his eyes and he fought them back.  His silence only agitated Gary more and he began to mercilessly beat away on Johnny, at some point, blessedly he passed out and could no longer feel the pounding.

Gary finally realized he was unconscious and quit, he didn’t want to finish the job until she came.  He wanted to have her watch as he did away with her boyfriend. Somewhere in his perverted sick mind, he thought that killing Johnny would make her want him and stay with him.  He thought that eliminating Johnny was the only way. 

He waited.  Johnny started to groan as he regained consciousness, Gary didn’t like his moaning and started pacing again, he saw that Johnny was trying to get his hands free and he immediately smacked him across the head, then came round and punched him in the stomach, eliciting a grunt from Johnny that turned to retching as between the blow to his stomach and his pounding head, he could no longer withstand the nausea and lost the contents of his stomach. 

He had leaned over to the side and he heaved and hung agonizingly as his stomach continued to spasm.  He gasped and tried to sit himself up.  Gary grabbed him and shoved him against the back of the chair and in the process, threw in a few more punches.  He pulled up a chair in front of Johnny and pulled out a knife, he menacingly let the blade stroke across Johnny’s face, laughing evilly. 

“Now what would she think if I cut up this pretty boy face of yours, hum?” he pushed in on the knife hard enough to break the skin and a small trickle of blood began to run down along the path of the blade.

 Johnny tried not to wince, he started to draw himself inward, he’d been beaten as a child and knew where to retreat in his mind to hide from the pain and ugliness.  Gary jumped up at Johnny’s lack of response, angry at him and struck him repeatedly. 

Johnny blissfully passed out again, his face bleeding and swollen from the beating, he doubled over from the repeated punches Gary delivered to his ribs and stomach.  Finally satisfied Gary sat back to wait, he had to be careful and not kill lover boy too soon.  He wanted that for TJ to see.

He became restless as her usual arrival time past.  He began to worry, she may have figured out he was there and had called for help.  He would pace up and down and periodically look out the closed drapes.  He heard Johnny moan as he started to regain consciousness.  Gary came back to hover over him as he lifted Johnny’s head up to look at him. 

Through tear filled eyes, Johnny tried to focus, but couldn’t.  Gary let go of his head with a shove that made Johnny’s head only hurt more.

“Pleasss… why…yu… do..in this t.. mm..e?  Can yu jus.. lea..…, I won.. sa..y an..thin.. to...” He managed to whisper.  Gary only responded with a blow to Johnny’s stomach which caused him to double over gasping.

“Oh that’s real funny.  You don’t think someone might ask how you got the fat lip?” Gary laughed.

“I’ll te…ll the…. I din’t see wh..who di.. this, I wa….s jum..ed an… ca..ugh b..b sur..pris.  They… be..lie..e m…e.” Johnny gasped out, he felt he was going to throw up again and held on gasping to control his stomach.

“How can I believe you?” was Gary’s response as he got up and paced some more.  It was getting dark when he heard someone at the door, the key in the lock and the door open he looked at Johnny who was again unconscious.  TJ walked inside not seeing either man when she entered.  She turned and closed the door and as she turned she called out and stopped mid-sentence as Gary stepped out from the kitchen.

“Hello TJ,” he sneered, “Come in and join us.” He waved his gun at her.  She dropped her jacket and keys and hurried into the kitchen. The sight of Johnny tied to the chair nearly beaten to death sent a cold shiver through her.  She turned in fury at Gary, but stopped as he held the gun pointed at her.

“How could you!  You should have left him out of this.  It’s between you and me!” she snapped at Gary angrily.

“Shut up and sit down!” he retorted back pointing her to the other chair.  He stepped between the kitchen counter and the table, keeping her at bay and where he could watch both.  “I told you to leave him and come back to me!” he growled out the words. “You wouldn’t listen and now look what you’ve done.” In his mind he was not to blame, it was all her fault.  “Now, I’m going to make you pay for dumping me and going with him.”  He took the muzzle of the gun and raked it along both sides of Johnny’s face. 

“No, Gary don’t!” she half rose out of her seat.

 He quickly pointed the gun at her. “Please…..I’ll go with you….please don’t hurt him anymore,” She begged.  Deep down she was furious and afraid, her fear only adding to her anger.  She didn’t like being afraid and helpless. She looked over at Johnny, devastated at seeing his injuries and concerned as to how serious they were, she couldn’t bear to lose him.

Gary was oblivious to her pleas, he was lost in his own insanity and there was no return.  He couldn’t stop now.  “Before I finish him off, I will make him suffer for a while longer.” He again paced the kitchen looking between TJ and Johnny. He mumbled to himself and then turned to Johnny.  Gary pulled out the knife he had cut Johnny’s face with and wielded it at him. 

“No, stop….Gary.” she tried to plead again, but knew it was pointless. There was no getting through to him.  Without warning he took the point and cut along Johnny’s other cheek drawing more blood.  Johnny didn’t flinch or cry out but TJ knew he was conscious as she saw his breathing change, something Gary failed to notice.  He grabbed Johnny’s head by the hair and pulled his head back and drew the knife across Johnny’s neck, leaving a fine thin line of blood.

Johnny looked through swollen eyes at TJ’s and they locked.  He wasn’t going to show weakness and holding her in his gaze he found strength to withstand the torture. 

Gary caught on to the look and with rage he took the knife and drove it hilt deep into Johnny’s thigh.  Johnny couldn’t help but cry out then doubling over and Gary’s sneering laugh was too much.

 A rage welled up inside TJ, this had to end now and she was willing to die if need be to save Johnny from this animal.  She gave a feral growl and with teeth clenched and all her might as a lioness would protect her young, she brought up both feet, placed them on the edge of the table and gave it a ferocious shove into Gary, causing him to fall against the kitchen cabinets and then to the floor as he lost his balance.  In lightening quick reflexes, TJ jumped to her feet, lunging between Johnny and Gary, drawing her off duty weapon from the small of her back.  Johnny was fast passing out and the last thing he heard were two shots being fired and then darkness.

***

Sergeant Masters was a bit concerned when he saw TJ rushing out and making several phone calls.  He decided after shift he would try and speak with her.  As it turned out they were on overtime because of the crash and he had left the office.  Something in the back of his head was nagging and he decided to hang around and try to catch her before she left. 

He got held up by one of the other Troopers and missed her.  He grabbed Jon Baker and Frank Poncharello that were still at the station finishing paperwork and asked them if they knew where she was staying. Neither was for certain, but they had an idea.  So Sarg called over to Station 51 for Johnny’s address.  Since it was B shift working, no one thought anything about it and gave out his address.

  With the two officers in tow they headed over for Johnny’s apartment.  As they drove up, they spotted TJ’s jeep parked next to Johnny’s Rover and started toward the apartment when they heard two shots fired.  Quickly they headed for the apartment.  As they approached the door, it was locked and Ponch broke it down and they entered weapons drawn.  What they found shook them to the core. 

***

The klaxon sounded at Station 51. Everyone had just finished dinner and was clearing up. Dishes were set in the sink as the squad was called for a shooting situation. As the address was given, the crew gave pause.  Paramedics Dwyer and Grant were on duty and responding and each felt their guts tighten as they knew the address. 

Dwyer called out to his captain who handed him the call slip.  “Better call Captain Stanley, this is Johnny’s address,” he said as he put the squad into gear and hit the lights and sirens as they pulled out of the bay doors into the night.  It was 10 minutes before they arrived and were met at the parking lot by Officer Baker who stopped the crew before they rushed head long up to the apartment.

“We’ve got three victims up there,” he explained and needed to prepare them for what they were going to find.  “One is a fatality, the other two are still alive, barely,” he said as he led them up the stairs.

 The responding paramedics had gone through the paramedic program with Johnny and tried to push aside their friendship to remain professional and help their comrade.  When they entered the apartment both men were still taken back by the gruesome scene, but quickly set about responding to the two victims.

Before Dwyer took Gage, he did a double check on the fatality victim to be sure, he then turned to Johnny who the Officers had cut the ties on his hands and lain him on the kitchen floor. 

Dwyer checked for a pulse and respirations, he then grabbed the PB cuff.  Grant was by the other victims side, both were unconscious. They quickly went about checking vitals and then set up the bio-phone.  Dwyer relayed his patient info to him as he repeated them to Rampart.

“Rampart base this is squad 51 – do you copy” He struggled to keep his voice calm, but there was still an underlying hit of trembling.  He took deep breaths as he cleared his throat as the hospital responded.

“Rampart, we are at the scene of a shooting, we have three victims. Number one is DOA.  Number two, a white female, age approximately 24 with a gunshot to her left upper quadrant.  She is unconscious.  Pupils are reactive, pulse is 100 and respirations are 12 and shallow, BP is 90/60.  Patient has lost significant amount of blood, we have placed a dressing on the entrance wound and bleeding has stopped, there is no exit wound.  Victim number three is a white male, age approximately 26, he is unconscious, has multiple bruises and contusions over his face and head, also on his upper torso with possible fractured ribs, possible pneumothorax.  He has a deep stab wound in his left femoral artery which is bleeding profusely and a tourniquet has been applied.  Vitals are,” he had to pause and steady himself before he could continue, “Vitals are, pulse very erratic and barely discernable, respirations are shallow, BP is 90/40. He is diaphoretic and shocky.  We’ve elevated his legs.” Grant rubbed his hand over his sweating forehead as he waited for Ramparts reply.  He was relieved when he heard Dr. Kelly Brackett on the other end.

“51, start IV’s on both victims, D5WTKO, how close out is the ambulance?” Was his reply.

“Also on victim number two, patch him in and send a strip.”

“They are just pulling up now, should be 15 minutes to arrival at Rampart.” Grant could hear the sirens pulling up and he sighed with relief.  Already in anticipation of Brackett’s orders, Dwyer had opened Johnny’s shirt and saw the multiple bruises. He gasped in horror, but quickly attached the electrodes to Johnny’s chest and hooked up the data scope.

“Rampart, you should be receiving on lead two,” Grant said into the mic.

At Rampart, Dr. Brackett has a furrowed frown on his face as he watched the strip feed out of the data machine.  He didn’t like the looks of the read out, but for now the victim was holding on.

“51, add a bolus of Lidocaine to victim number two and transport ASAP!” He said as he flipped the mic button.  He turned and waved at Nurse Dixie McCall who popped her head in the call room.

“Dix, prepare two rooms, we have a couple of bad traumas coming in,” he said as he left to prepare himself. He shook his head as he thought this was just another shooting trauma and unaware of who the victims where.

The ambulance arrived with one stretcher.  Grant had asked one of the crew to bring the back board and they would transport both victims at once to save time.  Both patients were fading fast and they needed to get them to the hospital soon.  As they two were loaded up, Dwyer asked Sergeant Masters to call the station and give his Captain more information, then both Grant and Dwyer rode in the ambulance, asking if one of the CHiP would drive the squad.

Hank Stanley was settled in watching TV for the evening with his wife when the phone rang.  He got up with a sigh, not wanting to be disturbed and answered a bit haughtily, the tone quickly changed as he heard who was on the other end.

“Oh my God!” He exclaimed which brought his wife to his side immediately.

“Yes, yes, I will.  Do you know how serious?” He asked as he grabbed his wife and hugged her to him.

 She could only imagine the phone call was bad news about a firefighter as she saw him pale instantly as the speaker on the other end relayed the information.  He hung up and gave his wife an extra hug as he fought back tears.  When he was able to compose himself, he told her about the phone call.  For the moment all he knew was the squad was responding to John Gages address for a shooting. 

He would be filled in more as soon as they knew.  She gasped in horror and could only stand in shock.  Hank decided to wait for the next phone call before he called Roy.  That call came 20 minutes later and he wasted no time from there to make the call to Roy and he himself headed out to the hospital.

Roy took no time after the phone call to rush to the hospital. When he arrived, he met with Sergeant Masters who along with Jon and Ponch were waiting in the doctor’s lounge.  Both Johnny and TJ were in surgery.

 Master’s filled Roy in as best he could from what they could piece together without Johnny or TJ’s accounting. Roy was shocked when he heard the couple had been stalked as Johnny never mentioned anything about it.  During the next hours to come more of the crew from Station 51 filtered in to be with their fallen comrade. The air in the room was solemn and no one said much as each was lost in their own thoughts.  Time ticked by and finally Nurse McCall stepped in, she had a somber tired look about her as she walked over to the coffee pot and poured herself a cup. She turned and sipped on the brew before she spoke to her waiting hopeful audience.

“Well they are both out of surgery. Both lost a lot of blood.  Johnny from the femoral artery that was severed and TJ from the bullet fragments.  They are in recovery now and will be moved up to ICU shortly,” she said and took another sip as she looked over her cup at the anxious men.

“Wha….what…is the prognosis?” Asked Roy recovering first from the news.  Being a paramedic he knew the severity of their injuries and was able to gather his thoughts quicker than the others.

“It’s going to be touch and go for a while. They are both considered critical at this stage and that’s why they are going to ICU for at least the next 24 hours.  After that, we’ll see,” she said feeling hopeless she couldn’t offer better news.

“Well,” Roy braved a smile, “We know how tough Johnny is, he’ll pull through.” He tried to be as positive as he could for the others and give them encouragement that everything would be fine.  The others nodded in agreement as they looked upon the Troopers who still reserved their hopes.

 It was always hard when a comrade is injured on the job, but this was tragic as it had nothing to do with their careers, but because of one deranged psychopath.  Each officer mulled over in their own minds what they could have done to prevent this tragedy.  But TJ was a new comer and she had never made a big deal out of this man stalker her or said much. 

The first time they had known about it was the day he confronted her at the station and then they didn’t know much from that, could they  have been more attentive to TJ and pressed her into telling them more about her situation?  They felt guilty as they realized they had all been a bit standoffish when she first arrived and perhaps didn’t make her feel as comfortable as a male officer would have been welcomed, causing her to keep her troubles to herself. 

Dixie excused herself and told them she would check on the two and let them know when they could come up to see them.

When the crew and Troopers were allowed to see their comrades, they were only given a few minutes to stop in and give a quick hello and leave.  It was shocking to each man as they viewed their comrades, hovering between life and death with all the tubes, wires and beeping machines, the steady hiss of the ventilator as it pumped air into their lungs.  Not a man left the hospital with a dry eye and no one gave them fault for it.

Roy never left Johnny’s side. He took vacation leave to stand vigilant by his bedside while he fought for his life.  He found himself going between Johnny and TJs rooms, talking to them and holding out hope for their recovery. 

Throughout the days, other members of the crew would stop by and relieve him to go home and rest and then he would return.  Even his wife Joanne would stop by and spend time with TJ, as she had no family and was alone except for Johnny and even a few of her own comrades would stop in.  Sergeant Masters being the one who spent the most time with her. 

He couldn’t help blaming himself for not being more diligent in protecting her from the mad man. Why hadn’t he paid more attention to what was going on, but how could he when she didn’t tell him much, but he still should have been more involved in what was happening.

Johnny found himself floating, alongside of him flew an eagle, together they soared over the land and finally settled on a mountain top. The eagle transformed into a beautiful ethereal woman with long black flowing hair and wearing white buckskin leather.  Her eyes were steel grey and pierced his very soul.  The creature didn’t say anything but pointed down from the mountain to lights below.  He shook his head, he didn’t want to go there.  But the steel grey eyes held him, drawing closer to him…he remembered who she was…he had to go back, he couldn’t leave her…

Johnny gasped for breath as a man that was drowning and finally surfaced for air. He awoke from the blackness that had taken him. He could hear sounds from the machines he was hooked up too, but they didn’t register with him as to what they were. He had to return for her. He fought against the tracheal tube that was assisting his breathing, hands were trying to push him back down onto the bed, he fought, he tried calling out her name, was she still alive?

“Come on Junior, you got to stop fighting.” Roy was holding Johnny’s hand and talking close to his ear.  “It’s gonna be alright, just relax.”  Roy hit the nurse call button and when she stepped in, he asked her to call for the doctor as Johnny was coming too.

 Johnny heard words and the memory of Gary beating him flashed in his mind, he remembered the gun shots as the memories came flooding back, he thought of TJ, he began to moan, tossing his head side to side. As he slowly became more conscious, he began to struggle harder against the equipment that had been keeping him alive, still thinking he was in his kitchen and being tied to the chair and tortured.  His body protested in pain and he felt hands on his shoulders holding him still and he fought against it. He had to get to her!

 “Whoa there junior…, it’s ok,” Came the calming voice of Roy.  “Stop struggling, you’re in the hospital now, everything is going to be okay.  You are on a ventilator, so don’t fight it ok?  I’ll get the doctor to take it out.” Roy was close to his ear as he had to speak above the alarms ringing from the ventilator and heart monitor.

It wasn’t long before Dr. Brackett arrived.  Johnny was still fighting the tube and trying to pull it out on his own and Roy was struggling to hold his arms. Brackett anticipated that Johnny would struggle as he started to come around and quickly administered some pain medication hoping it would calm him down enough to remove the ventilator.  He waited for a few moments while the drug took its affect and Johnny appeared calmer. He was struggling to open his eyes as Roy continued to hold his shoulders and talk to him.

“It’s okay, Johnny, I’ll get that out for you,” Brackett said as he quickly unhooked the ventilator and grasped onto the tracheal tube. “Okay, I want you to cough, you know the drill,” he said as he pulled with steady, slow pressure as Johnny coughed weakly.  Once the tube was out, Johnny continued to cough and gasp, his throat irritated and dry from the tube.

  Roy had a cup of water for him to swallow and held it for him and allowed him to only take small sips.

“Where…..TJ???....Oh God….Roy?” he looked around wildly, he tried to sit up and Roy held him by the shoulder.

 “Hold on there….everything’s going to be okay.  Do you hear me….TJ is ok, you are going to be ok…”Roy tried to reassure his partner.  Finally after a few more moments Johnny stopped his struggle, his shoulders began to shake as he started to sob.  Roy let him bury his head in his shoulder and embraced his partner and friend, just holding him.

“TJ?  Is she okay? The gun shots?” Johnny managed between sobs. The sound of the gun fire ringing repeatedly in his head, they wouldn’t stop.  “Ho…..w….l…lon…I m out?” he asked as he tried to clear the fog that enveloped his brain. When he looked up at Roy, his image was blurred and the light hurt Johnny’s eyes.  He closed them tightly as the tears flowed freely from them.

“She’s going to be okay…You are going to be okay.  You lost quite a bit of blood as he got you in the femoral artery.  If it wouldn’t have been for TJ’s Sergeant and a few officers that followed her home, it could have been a lot worse.”  Roy tried to fill him in.

“I’ve got to see her, where is she?”  Johnny again struggled with getting out of bed, but he couldn’t manage more than a slight shift as his body protested and the pain medication was making him drowsy. He fought against it trying to stay awake.  He had to know – see TJ. The more he struggled and fought the medicine the more he feared the worst about what had become of her. 

“No….noo…!” he cried as both Roy and Brackett tried to calm him and reassure him. 

 “Johnny, TJ is going to be okay. Both of you are going to be okay,” Brackett reassured the young firefighter. He also ordered another dose of medicine to calm him some more.  The nurse returned and Brackett administered the dose and it wasn’t long before Johnny settled back, the medicine taking its effect and he couldn’t resist any longer. The last words he heard were from Roy before he fell back unconscious.  The words that he was desperate to hear, that she was still alive.  He slipped into a fitful sleep, still not sure whether to believe him or not, he called out her name several times as he sunk back into the blackness that kept him safe.

Roy looked at Brackett, they both knew this wasn’t going to be easy on any of them as they knew Johnny wouldn’t rest until he saw TJ.  Brackett didn’t know about their relationship and had advised against any visitors besides Roy and the crew while he was unconscious.  Roy pulled him aside and asked him to join him over some coffee and he would fill in the details for him about the relationship between Johnny and TJ.

“How is TJ?” he asked as they both sat down at the table over their cups of hot coffee.  They were both in the same ICU Unit, just across the hallway and he could see her door, but not into the room.

“She’s still critical, the bullet nicked the main artery and she lost a lot of blood, it was touch and go several times in surgery, she coded once,” Brackett explained. “Does she have any next of kin?” He asked. “I’ve only seen a few of the CHP officers stop in and of course you.”  Roy nodded in the negative.

“Not that I’m aware of.  I think Johnny said her father was killed in Nam and she had no other relatives.  Johnny is the only things she’s got close to kin,” he said.  Brackett looked at him quizzically. 

“Well you know they have been seeing each other.” Brackett nodded as Roy explained.

“Well, there’s more.  See she is also part Indian and according to their customs, the two of them are married,” Roy said. He didn’t get into all the details of what they two of them called it, but Brackett got the gist.

“I see.  I had no idea that he was that involved with her.” He frowned, having more pieces of the puzzle to answer his question about why Johnny had become so agitated at seeing TJ.

 

“Well nobody but me and my wife knew about that part of their relationship.  Everyone else just thought they were just dating.  Guess they both fell head over heels with each other and it just snowballed from there and then you add that crackpot that was stalking her, which Johnny failed to mention to me and now all of this.” Roy spread his hands and shrugged. 

Brackett didn’t comment further he was still absorbing the fact that Johnny considered himself married to the woman that lay clinging to life across the hall.  What would Johnny do if she didn’t pull through?  He hated to even think that far and pushed the thought out of his head. Now Brackett understood why Johnny had fought so hard when he had regained consciousness.  He made a visit to his other patient after that.

***

Roy stayed by Johnny’s side as he watched Johnny toss and turn in his drugged sleep, he would periodically call out TJ’s name or say something in what Roy could only comprehend was his Native tongue.  Johnny’s dreams and mental battle were taking its toll on his physical recovery and Roy worried as he watched the monitors, he could tell when the drugs were wearing off and his blood pressure and heart rate would spike high, his pulse racing and he sweated profusely.  Roy summoned Dr. Bracket during one of his episodes.  Brackett only shook his head and could only administer so much in drugs to keep Johnny sedated. 

“He’s fighting the sedatives and the only other thing as a last resort would be to sedate him deeply for a few days until his body can stabilize and heal.  The more he keeps fighting the worse it’s going to be for his body to recover.  I don’t like it.” Brackett said as he looked over Johnny’s chart and Roy watched his friend fighting for his life.

“Well, as his power of attorney, do what you have to do to help his recovery.  We both know Johnny, he’s his own worst enemy at times like this,” Roy commented shaking his head and running his hand through his hair.

They both looked at one another and realized that would be only one way to get him to calm down and start to heal.  Brackett left the room to prepare the orders and Roy took a chair next to his friend.  Taking his hand, he held it and spoke softly to him, as he did, he noticed that it seemed to calm Johnny and the monitors started to slow down and become steadier in their rhythms.  Brackett returned with the necessary medicines and introduced it in the IV port.  He watched the monitors closely as the medicine had its desired affect and Johnny drifted into a deep sleep.

“We’ll keep him under for a few days and then gradually start to bring him out and see how he does.” Brackett sighed, he added “It will buy us some time for TJ as well…”  He let the later trail as he cast a grim smile over his shoulder and left the room.

“Ok Doc.” Roy smiled.

The days melted together, there was a steady stream of co-workers that came and went to visit their fallen comrades.  Each taking a turn at holding vigil while the other took a break. 

Roy was by either Johnny’s or TJ’s side whenever he wasn’t working.  Gradually both patients began to improve but not without a few tense moments where TJ’s heart rate had dropped and she was near death, but miraculously with the quick work by doctors and nurses, they managed to bring her back and get her stabilized. 

No more details were able to be found in regards to the dead man Gary Bernard.  It was evident that he was the one who had beaten Johnny nearly to death and had lain in wait for the two and proceeded with his maniacal rampage.  It was also staggering to all that TJ had managed to overcome their assailant and fire one shot that struck him between the eyes and killed him instantly, but not before she had received a wildly fired shot from Bernard as he scrambled to his knees on the floor after he had fallen from her attack. 

She had stepped in between him and Johnny and blocked the shot from reaching him as she fell backward against him, causing Johnny and the chair to fall.  No one knew how much the couple had been in peril from this deranged man, as neither would confide their troubles to anyone, they bore the whole tragedy to themselves.  Now it was wait, wait for them to heal and move on from there.

After nearly a week in the induced coma, Brackett felt it was time to start to bring Johnny back.  He made sure that he was brought back slowly, so he wouldn’t struggle and fight. 

Everyone waited on edge as their friend and colleague returned to them. Johnny started to feel himself lift out of the darkness once more, this time he didn’t have the awful breathing tube down his throat and he was breathing easier. 

It was dark in the room except for a small light over a counter next to his bed. He slowly opened his eyes, listening to the noises that were always present in a hospital. He started to sort them out and he began to be able to focus on objects in the room clearly. He scanned the room slowly and his eye fell upon his partner sitting next to him, slouched in a chair asleep.  As he watched his sleeping partner, his best friend, the man he called brother he reached for the hand that was laying on his bed and grasped it, thankful for his friend being there for him. 

He gave it a squeeze as he began to recall the events that brought him to this point and he thought of TJ – Grey Antelope.  Roy jumped when he felt the grip on his hand and he immediately looked over at Johnny who was staring back, tears streaming from his dark eyes.  Johnny didn’t have to ask, Roy knew what he was thinking and put him at ease quickly.

“It’s okay, junior.  TJ is right across the hall and she’s going to be ok.  Brackett expects a full recovery, for both of you.  So just rest.”  He patted Johnny’s hand with his free one and the grip on his grasped hand lightened.  Johnny’s voice was still raspy from the ventilator tube as he spoke in a whisper.

“Have you spoken with her?” He asked

“No, she hasn’t regained consciousness yet,” Roy stated then added to keep Johnny calm.

“Brackett put her in a coma too, so she can rest and heal, just like he did with you,” Roy explained.

Johnny gave a small wan smile and laid back staring at the ceiling.  “What about Gary?” he asked in a toneless voice, trying to fight back the emotions the maniacal man invoked in him.

“Well, he isn’t going to be around to bother you anymore,” Roy responded, Johnny turned his head and looked at Roy sharply.

“They arrest him?” He asked.

“No, he’s dead.” Roy let the words sink in and when Johnny looked at him questioningly he continued. “TJ shot and killed him.” Roy watched his partner as his played out the scene in his head.

“He shot her?” Johnny rasped.

“Yes, he did, but she got a shot off at the same time and it killed him.”

Johnny shook his head as he tried to make sense of the whole situation and he finally let go of Roy’s hand.

“I want to see her.” He stated flatly. He still found it hard to accept Roy’s words that she was ok and going to recover.  His need to see for himself became overwhelming and he felt wild horses couldn’t keep him from her.

“I’ll check with Brackett and see when he’ll let you go see her, okay?” Roy tried to reassure his friend. 

He knew it would be a few more days before Brackett would let Johnny get up and be able to visit TJ.  But he would make the good faith effort for his friend to appease him and keep him quiet and calm. 

Johnny dozed off and on throughout the night with Roy ever vigilant at his side.  By morning as the day time activities and routines began and breakfast arrived for the patients, Roy gave into exhaustion and told Johnny he had to go home for some rest and would be back later as Johnny seemed to be doing better.

 Roy knew that probably one of the other crew men would be in to check in on Johnny anyway, which would give Roy some time to see his family and rest. 

The breakfast tray was place before Johnny and he made an effort to appear to eat before Roy left, once his partner was gone, he shoved the tray away and lay back waiting.  The usual morning checks were made of his vitals and his breakfast taken away and everything grew quiet once more after the morning flurry of activity. 

During one visit by a nursing aide who cleaned up Johnny after his breakfast, he casually started to question her as to the whereabouts of TJ.  Innocently the aide let him know she was just across the hall and with that she left him.

He lay and contemplated what he would do next.  It was too risky during the day to try and slip over to TJ’s room, he’d have to wait until night when the night shift takes over and relaxes their guard. 

As he waited he dozed off but awoke when he heard someone enter his room.  His first visitors were Chet and Marco.  Their worried expressions changed to happiness when Johnny greeted them, although he still appeared groggy and his voice was raspy.

“Hey, it’s great to see you are back!” commented Chet and Marco.  Johnny smiled weakly.

“Yeah, starting to feel a little better.” He said croakily, he wasn’t much in the mood for visitors so the chit chat was kept at minimum and the pair didn’t stay too long as they knew he was still weak.

“Well, glad you are feeling better.  We’ll see you later, ok?” Said Chet as they headed out the door. 

Johnny closed his eyes as they left, he could hardly contain himself in his desire to go see TJ.  Bracket stopped later in the day and noticed that Johnny’s lunch tray was undisturbed.

“Hi there hose jockey,” Brackett said as he entered the room, trying to remain light hearted.  He was concerned that Johnny wasn’t eating, as he’d been informed that he didn’t touch much of his breakfast as well.

Johnny nodded acknowledging Brackets’ arrival.  Kel, stepped up to his bedside and began his assessment of Johnny.

“Well, so far everything is looking good.  I think we can take the heart monitor off and 02.  Not much of an appetite yet?” He asked glancing at the food tray.

“Not really doc,” Johnny mumbled.

“Well, try to get something down, you don’t eat, you’ll be here longer.” Brackett noted Johnny’s depressed mood.  He felt it had something to do with the woman that was still in a coma across the hall.

“Johnny, I know it’s hard for you to accept, but TJ is going to be alright.  It’s just you aren’t strong enough to go see her and she isn’t up to visitors right now,” Bracket tried to reassure the sullen paramedic.

Johnny only looked up at Bracket with his brown eyes that reflected the sorrow he was feeling.  Brackett could only smile and patted Johnny’s shoulder as he finished his exam.

“Hang in there Johnny.  We’ll see how things are tomorrow, ok?” He said as he turned to leave.  For the rest of the day Johnny feigned sleep when he heard someone coming into his room. His mood became gloomier as the day trudged on. He wanted to see TJ so strongly it was all he could do to remain quiet. 

Finally after the evening shift had settled in and the hours ticked away late into the night, Johnny made his move. Pulling his IV out, he slowly he forced his sorely bruised body to get up, standing shakily for a few moments and letting his head clear. He slowly shuffled toward his door.  He looked out in the semi darkened hall way.  The nurses had gone for break and all was quiet. He slowly worked his way along the wall, holding himself up for stability and trying to ward off the dizziness he felt.

 He inched his way across the ICU Pod and toward where he hoped to find TJ.  He slipped into her room and made his way to her bedside.  He was horrified at the fact she was still on a ventilator and monitors.  She was so pale and frail looking.  He fought back tears as he gasped at her still form. He reached out to her and caressed her face tenderly and his tears turned to sobs. He felt his legs growing weak and he climbed into the bed and lay beside her, cradling her through the tubes and wires that were her lifelines.  He fell asleep with his face nestled in her neck and an arm around her.

When the nurses returned from their break and started their routine rounds they found one patient missing and began to search. They called Doctor Brackett at home, who wasn’t surprised by Johnny’s disappearance and calmly advised them to look in TJ’s room and he’d be in shortly. 

True to Brackett’s advice they found him curled up next to TJ and amazingly, as they check her out her vitals had started to improve from what they had been.  Also on Brackets advice they left Johnny as he was until Brackett’s arrival twenty minutes later. 

They filled him in on the improvement of vitals regarding TJ and he just shook his head.  He then went outside of hospital protocol and ordered that a bed be brought into TJ’s room and then he awoke Johnny.

“Okay there John, we’ve made arrangements for you to stay in this room with TJ.  But you’d better behave,” admonished Brackett. 

He was intrigued that TJ’s vitals had improved with Johnny’s presence and not one to judge or underestimate the power of love and touch, he felt it would be in the best interest of everyone concerned to move Johnny into the room. He checked Johnny over after he got him settled in his own bed once again. 

“Thank you Kel,” Johnny said as he couldn’t take his eyes of TJ.  His head was pounding from his excursion and he was exhausted, it didn’t take him long to fall asleep, with a little help from the shot Brackett administered.

The days were blurs as Johnny recovered and remained by TJ’s side.  He often sat beside her bedside, holding her hand praying silently over her. He would fall asleep, head lying on their hands.  It was while he slept that he felt her hand pull away from his and lay on his head. It took him a moment to realize what was happening and when he did he bolted upright and took her hand with both of his and raised it to his lips.  He looked at her face and watched as she struggled to open her eyes.  He smiled and kissed her hand as her steel grey eyes focused on him.

“I’m here canteskuye,” he whispered to her. Tears began to shamelessly fall as he smiled at her.  She gave a weak smile in return, he took his hands and cupped her face gently and bent down to kiss her. 

She tried to speak, but he hushed her with a finger across her lips.  “Shh, don’t try to talk, they just took out the tracheal tube yesterday, your throat will be sore and voice raspy.” He spoke to her quietly as if he didn’t want anyone to hear.  He was relieved that she was finally awake and he felt the moment fragile and he didn’t want to have it disappear. “Spirit, I thought you were dead,” he managed to whisper, his own voice was still raspy. “I don’t know if I could live without you.  Techila,” he said as his fingers lingered on her lips and she kissed them.

“You are going to be alright,” he smiled down at her, taking his seat next to her. He began to fill her in with what events he knew and their recovery as he knew the look she gave him was one of questioning.

“I’m so sorry this had to happen, it’s all my fault,” she said tearfully and tried to wipe her eyes with the back of her hands.  “If I would have stayed in my own apartment, you wouldn’t have been hurt.” She bit her lower lip as she couldn’t help the tears that now ran steadily down her cheeks.

 Johnny could say nothing more that seemed to comfort her so he climbed into the bed with her and held her as she sobbed, he joined her and they cried together until they could cry no  more and exhausted fell asleep.

He was awakened by Dr. Brackett as he made his rounds.

“Doc, she was awake for a while this morning,” Johnny smiled and was more of his energetic self that Brackett hadn’t seen for many weeks.  He smiled as he went about his exam of TJ.  As he did so she awoke and smiled at him.

“Well I hear that you decided to come back to us,” Brackett smiled and continued on with his exam. “You’ve had one worried young man over there that we couldn’t tear away from your side.”

TJ turned her head over to see Johnny sitting on the edge of his bed, watching her.

“I’m glad to be back,” she spoke in a whispered raspy voice, which caused her to cough. 

Johnny was at her side with a cup of ice chips and gave her a spoon full to ease her dry scratchy throat.

“How are you feeling?” Brackett asked her as he finished up her vitals.

“Tired,” she said faintly.

“Well that’s to be expected as you were in rough shape for awhile.  We thought we were going to lose you a couple of times there.” He patted her shoulder and glanced up a Johnny who gave him a frowned look.  He hadn’t been told all of how serious she was to spare him grief and worry in his recovery.

***

 

Johnny was released from the hospital a week ahead of TJ, but he spent every waking moment with her until she was able to come home.  During her recovery time, an investigation by her department had been initiated and both Johnny and TJ had to give their statements as to what happened that horrible day.

 It was heart wrenching for those who were present during the testimony to hear the agony and horror the deranged man had made them endure. 

When Dr. Brackett urged Johnny to take a break and go home and rest, it took all of the hospital staff, that knew Johnny and crew of 51 to convince him TJ was out of danger and could be left a day without him present.  With heavy heart and strong doctor’s orders the remaining crew escorted Johnny home and would offer him company to ensure he remained home, with the promise that Roy would be by TJ’s side. 

TJ slept most of the time. She was surprised when she awoke and found Roy sitting by her bedside.

“Where’s Johnny?” she asked alarmed, worried he may have had a setback as he never left her side, barely recovered himself, he was wearing himself to the breaking point of exhaustion.

“Shhh, we sent him home for a while to rest.”  Roy stood up next to her and spoke with the same reassuring tone he used with Johnny. “He was about ready to collapse and Dr. Bracket threatened him with putting him back in that bed over there or go home.” He smiled.  She relaxed and nodded her head in understanding.

“I am so sorry. I never imagined that this would have happened.  I would never have moved in with Johnny,” She berated herself.

 “Shh, now you don’t know that.” Roy soothed her, he found himself brushing her forehead as he often did for Johnny when he was emotionally upset. “He was out of his mind, how anyone could have known he’d carry out his insanity the way he did.” He sat down again his hand on her arm to reassure her.  Inwardly he gave a shudder just trying to fathom the depth of one man’s insanity to possess another and the lengths he’d gone to carry it out.

“In my book, you are a hero,” he said as he took her hand. “You saved Johnny’s life. You did what I don’t think I would have had the nerve to do,” he said. He could only piece together what the scene looked like from what the other paramedics had told him and what he had overheard from the CHP Officers. 

“Why couldn’t he have just left us alone?” she lamented drying up her tears, she hated to cry and feel vulnerable and now as weak as she was, she couldn’t help herself.

“You did everything you could, he was just nuts,” he replied.

“I know.” She turned her head away from him as another stream of tears tried to burst forth and she squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to stop them.  Roy did his best to console her, knowing that her becoming emotional in her frail state could be overwhelming and send her back physically. 

“Please TJ, try to let it go.  It’s over now and you and Johnny survived, you have the future together so now make the best of it.” He spoke. 

TJ finally controlled her sobbing and turned to look at him, transfixing him with her grey eyes.  For the moment she could only look at him, her emotions still betrayed her as she attempted to speak.  “You have to let this go and be strong for Johnny.  He is devastated about you being hurt and if you know anything about him, he will go to the ends of the earth for those he loves and you don’t know how hard it was for us to get him to go home and get some rest before he wound up back in that hospital bed,” Roy pointed to the now empty bed next to her.

She nodded as her eyes followed his hand.  “He loves you very much, something I’ve never seen him be with any other woman.  But he is vulnerable and takes things too literally and gets hurt easily over the smallest thing.  If you are depressed or upset, it will reflect on him.  You’ll both need time to heal from this ordeal no doubt, but be there for him.”

TJ smiled and finally got her emotions in check. “You’re right, I’m acting like a silly child.  It is over and now it’s in the past, we can’t change that.  I will be strong for Johnny, we will overcome the shadows.” She took hold of Roy’s hand and squeezed it. “Thank you for being his friend and brother and now mine.”  As she spoke,  Johnny entered the room, he couldn’t stay away and managed to give his “guards” the slip to come see his love.

“Hi there canteskuye,” he said as he came up to her side.  She returned the greeting as he leaned over and kissed her tenderly.  Roy stepped back and his eyes locked with TJ’s for a moment and then he made his departure.

“Well, I guess I’ll leave the two of you alone.” He reached for the door and smiled once over his shoulder, confident that the two would be able to work through their feelings and have a happy life.

The End

 Posted to Site 10/04/14

 

 

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