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The real reason why Roy DeSoto doesn’t wear a wedding ring.
Ruth Jones stepped out of her shower at 4:15 a.m. She was right on schedule. “Jackson,” she said to her cat who was sitting on the bathroom counter, “Today is the day. I can feel it. It’s going to be my lucky Sunday.” She took the size 14 jeans that have been hanging in her closet forever and said a prayer as she put them on.
“One foot in . . . . second foot in, stand up and pull.” She said out loud as if she was a sports announcer urging the unprecedented event. “Okay zipper up . . . (ugh) three quarters up, come on, just another 2 inches and then the button.” Nothing. Okay, what if I lie down on the bed and try it again, she thought and she flopped onto the mattress and inhaled. It worked! “Yes! Jackson! The zipper is up! Button buttoned. Whew!”
Lying there, she paused to catch her breath with her arms out by her side. Jackson took the opportunity to jump up and stand on her body.
“Now if I can just stand up,” she said and paused. “Jackson, maybe if I roll off the bed I will be able to stand.” Ruth grabbed her cat and together they rolled off the bed. She did it! The jeans were zipped and buttoned and she was standing up. But when she looked in the mirror, well . . . it wasn’t pretty.
Mr. Kelly, her high school physics teacher, would mention something like force times pressure equals explosion or something like that but clearly, today was not going to be the day afterall.
She said “Amen” as she released the button and zipper and took a well-needed breath. “Oh well, maybe next week Jackson.” The jeans are going to go out of style before I can even wear them! she thought.
Returning the jeans to the hanger again, she took out her comfortable pants and slipped them on.
“Shit, I’m gonna be late for the bus. Bye Jackson, see you later,” she said as she slipped on her tennis shoes, grabbed her bag and left her apartment.
Hank Stanley sat at his kitchen table reading the Sunday edition of The Los Angeles Times when all of a sudden he felt two arms from behind him hugging his neck.
“Morning Daddy, did you have a good night’s sleep?” questioned Maggie, his oldest daughter.
“I surely did,” he replied.
Maggie turned and sat in the closest chair to her dad and even scooted it up a little closer. “Daddy, I need to ask you a favor,” she said.
“Apparently,” he said.
“What?” Maggie was confused.
“Whatever you need must be huge to get you downstairs before 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning.” he explained.
“Well it is important.”
Hank folded the paper back, put his hands on the table and said, “Okay. Go for it.”
“Well Daddy,” Maggie started her obviously planned speech, complete with gestures, “My 17th birthday is next week and I really really really only want one teeny tiny thing.”
Hank couldn’t help but smile. “Let me guess. A teeny tiny slumber party with all of your friends?”
He continued to guess. “A teeny tiny stereo with a turntable and an eight track tape player?” Secretly he hoped that was what she wanted because he and his wife had just that thing hidden in their bedroom closet, already wrapped.
Damn, thought Hank.
“Daddy, I know that you know what I want.”
“Nope, I give up. You’re gonna have to tell your old man. What is this teeny tiny thing that you just have to have?”
“My driver’s license.”
Hank sighed. He and her mom have openly discussed this for months. “Amanda I’ve told you, your mom and I aren’t ready to let you drive a vehicle yet.”
“But Dad,” as she started to plead her case again, “Last year all of the sophomores had to take Driver’s Ed and, I’m a junior now and all of my friends are getting their licenses and it’s not fair that . . .”
He just looked at her without expression.
“Oh please Daddy can’t you and Mom think about it again, please?”
Hank closed his eyes, took a deep breath and paused. He knew how important this teenage rite of passage was and he knew that eventually they would have to give in. After he took another deep breath he admitted, “Okay Margaret, I’ll talk to your mother again, but I can’t promise anything.”
“Thanks Daddy!” she said as she leaned forward and kissed her Dad on the temple. “But you do know that I’ll need some driving practice too?”
She was amazing. In less than two minutes she got me to do what she wanted and then roped me into getting her behind the wheel.
“Okay,” he said, knowing that he had “been handled” by a teenage girl. “How about after school tomorrow we go and find some place safe where you can practice.”
“Yes! I love you Daddy!” She kissed him again as she started to go back upstairs.
“Hey, where are you going?”
“Seriously. Daddy, it’s early. I’m going back to sleep!” and she disappeared as stealthily as she arrived.
Hank just sighed.
Roy walked into his bedroom and found Joanne in her slip, putting on her make-up in front of the bathroom mirror. “By sweetie. I’m heading out.”
“Wait, I was just on my way to fix your breakfast,” she said as he came up behind her to kiss her neck.
Joanne smelled wonderful. “I had a bowl of Wheaties. That’s enough because Johnny is picking up doughnuts this morning. You smell wonderful by the way.”
Joanne turned to face her husband, “You don’t smell so bad yourself.” They kissed as passionately as two people who wouldn’t see each other for the next 24 hours could.
“What did Johnny do, lose a bet with Chet or something?”
“I don’t know but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.” Roy said adding, “Hey, I needed two bucks so I took 2 dollar bills out of your purse but, I put in a ten dollar bill, okay?”
“Wow, a fabulous kiss and an eight dollar tip. This is going to be a great day,” Joanne smiled.
Roy picked up his overnight bag. “I’ll call you later. Don’t forget about Chris’ spelling test tomorrow.”
“Got it.” she said.
“Morning Johnny, the usual?” asked Ruth from behind the pastry counter. Every time Johnny Gage stepped into the store her heart skipped a beat. And today he was wearing his uniform. Bonus!
“Yeah, the usual. Thanks.” He said, looking passed her and into the back room.
“Hey, you lose a bet with Chet again?” Ruth chuckled.
“No, it’s just my turn to buy.” He said as he continued to look in the back room. “Hey, is Jill here?”
“No she’s off today. You’re stuck with me.” She secretly dreamed. “How about that rain storm yesterday? It’s a good thing I got to work before the heavens opened . . .”
“Do you know if she is currently dating anybody?” interrupted Johnny.
Ruth sighed, “I’m not really sure. You’ll have to ask her yourself.” Bringing the box to the register Ruth said, “Okay that’s 2 cake doughnuts for Captain Stanley, 2 chocolate-frosted for Mike, 2 cinnamon rolls for Marco, 2 glazed for Roy, 2 chocolate frosting with sprinkles for Chet and jellied-filled for you. Anything else?”
“Nope that just about does it. Keep the change.” He said as he left the shop.
“Damn,” she said to herself pondering the same thing every time he comes into the store. Considering the fact that she was a larger-than-normal woman who takes up a lot of space, he always managed to make her feel so invisible.
“Looks like you two have perfect timing today,” Captain Stanley said as he watched Mike Stoker and Marco Lopez walk in at the same time carrying their packs.
“I had to pick up Marco today Cap. We carpooled.” said Mike.
“My sister needed my car today for some reason that only she and my mother understand. Something about a festival or the planning of a festival or who knows? Sometimes it’s just easier the give in to the females in my family,” Marco admitted.
“Boy I understand that,” said Stanley remembering the conversation with his eldest this morning.
“Hey what’s up? Are we having a meeting outside?” Chet Kelly asked as he too walked in with his overnight pack.
“No, just shooting the breeze,” Stoker replied.
“So, did everyone bring in a couple of bucks? Gage is bringing the doughnuts this morning, and I’m feeling kinda lucky.” Chet said rubbing his hands together.
“Yeah, I got my two bucks,” said both Mike and Marco as they followed Chet into the locker room.
Hank watched them leave the apparatus bay and thought out loud, “I really should put an end to this. Gambling on county time, but what the hell?” As he turned to go back to the office, Roy pulled up and parked. He reached in the passenger seat and grabbed his bag.
“Did you bring your two bucks today?” smiled Hank.
“Got them right here in my pocket,” said Roy. “Can’t wait.”
“Okay, let’s meet in the day room before roll call. Pass it along to the others.” Cap instructed.
“Got it.” Roy said as he entered the locker room.
Stanley went and officially relieved Hookraider and as the men on C shift were leaving, Johnny pulled up, parked and brought his bag and the box of doughnuts into the locker room.
“Morning, morning, morning guys, how was your Saturday off?” said Johnny as he put his bag in his locker. Without waiting for a reply he turned and walked out with the doughnuts, “I hope we have a fresh pot of coffee.”
“Okay, we need to hurry. Put your money down, quick.”
Each of the remaining A-shift crew put down their two bills on the bench.
“Ruth, heart.” said Mike.
“Jill, smiley-face.” said Marco.
“Jill, heart.” said Roy.
“Ruth, cat,” said Chet as he gathered the eight dollars and ran with the guys to the day room. When they got there the unopened box of doughnuts was on the table and Johnny and Captain Stanley were pouring themselves a cup of coffee.
“Okay Cap, you are the official witness, ready?” Chet asked.
Cap reached for the box of doughnuts and turned it to face him. “Heart.”
“Aww” said Marco and Chet who had just lost the bet.
“What the hell are you doing?” asked Johnny who just wanted to eat. He grabbed the box and opened it. Everyone looked in as he did.
When the top of the box flapped back, Mike said, “Yes, I won!” He held out his hand as Chet reluctantly placed the winning bucks into it.
“Good job Stoker,” said Roy and the Captain.
“Would someone like to tell me what the hell is going on,” said Johnny as he picked up an individually wrapped jelly-filled doughnut.
“I have not become part of this. I’m just an observer.” Cap insisted.
Roy thought it was time to come clean with his partner. “You see Johnny, every time one of us buys, we get a box of doughnuts. Sometimes there is a smiley face drawn on the cover and sometimes there is a cat or a heart.”
“And that’s what you bet on?”
“There’s more. When you get the doughnuts there is something special. Look.” Roy said as he walked to the box to use it as a visual aid. “You see. Twelve doughnuts.”
“So?” questioned Johnny as he continued to eat the doughnut in his hand.
“He’s clueless.” said Chet.
Roy continued to explain the second half of the bet. “Don’t you get it John? Jill wasn’t there this morning right?”
John just nodded.
“We knew that too. Because every time you pick up the doughnuts from Ruth, there is a specially-wrapped jelly-filled doughnut on top of the other ones. See, no one has picked up one yet and there are a still a dozen in the box. That doughnut that you’re eating is a little gift.”
“A gift for who?” John continued to question.
“Completely clueless!” said Chet as he reached in a grabbed his two sprinkled pastries.
“I’m getting out of here,” said Captain Stanley as he reached in and grabbed his two.
“John,” Mike said as he made a reach for his two chocolate frosted, “You always get an extra doughnut when Ruth is at the counter. She draws a cute cartoon on the box . . . ”
“But they always draw on the top of the boxes,” interrupted Marco.
“. . . . but,” finished Mike, “you get a cartoon and an extra doughnut. Don’t you get it? Ruth has a thing for you.”
Johnny made eye contact with everyone in the room as they were all enjoying the doughnuts. He thought his co-workers had gone crazy.
“You guys are nuts. It’s just a . . . mistake. I don’t even know her. Jill is the one I’d want something extra sweet from,” he smiled devilishly as he grabbed his second doughnut.
“That’s because you’re insensitive to women,” commented Chet as he was getting a cup of coffee.
“She must really like you Johnny, none of us gets an extra doughnut,” said Mike adding that “she and I usually have a great time talking about the weather or she’ll tell me an old joke. She’s quite funny.”
“Ruth speaks Spanish when I go in there. I mean, it’s really bad, but she asks me to give her a new word to learn every time,” described Marco.
“She also knows all of the overnight statistics on any game.” Chet added. “She says that she reads the sports section on the bus to work, just to keep up.”
Johnny looked at Roy for some type of support. “Sorry partner, she’s always asking about Joanne and the kids.”
“You see, insensitive to women.” Chet repeated as he used his index finger to snatch the sprinkles that fell on to the table. “The one man who she wants to be noticed by, barely knows her name.”
“Well, she’s not my type, if you know what I mean?” explained Johnny.
“Roll call!” yelled Captain Stanley from the office ending the whole debate.
After the men lined up, Stanley made the usual announcements from headquarters. “We’re scheduled to have another drill at the movie studio next shift so today we’re going to go over the procedure. Hookraider said it was a pretty slow day for the engine yesterday but he did say the squad was in and out all day. Marco, you’re the cook for the day. Mike, you check the hose rack. Roy, you and Chet are on general cleanup and . . .” Hank smiled, “. . . the one who is insensitive to women should check the squad’s medical supplies.” Everyone, except John Gage laughed.
Then the klaxons sounded
Squad 51 Difficult Breathing, 1215 LaSalle Street, cross street Pitt, 1-2-1-5 LaSalle Street
“Hey, that’s just a couple of miles from here. Take a right out and head to Commerce. Stay in the left lane.” Johnny said as he and Roy got into the squad.
The address turned out to be a veterinarian’s office. When they pulled up they were met by the elderly man who called them. His wife seemed to be breathing a little hard. Come to find out, the woman was having a reaction to the new flea medication that was administered to her dog. A little bit of oxygen and she was fine.
Returning to the squad Johnny said, “Why don’t we stop off at Rampart and get the supplies?”
“Let’s go, let’s go!” Joanne yelled from the kitchen. “You know I hate walking in to church late.”
Chris said as he loped down the stairs, “Mom, after church can I go over to Jimmy’s house?”
“Jenny what happened to your barrette?” Joanne said as she gathered her purse and handkerchief.
“I don’t know?
“I just did your hair. How did you lose it so quickly?
“Do you want me to go get another one?” Jenny asked.
“Nope, we don’t have time, we have to go. Chris, go close the garage door and meet us in the wagon.” said the frenzied mom.
Joanne started the car after she and Jenny were buckled in.
“I wish we had one of those electric garage door openers.” Chris stated as he got to the back seat behind his mother.
“Me too,” she said as she looked in the rearview mirror as she started to back up.
“Morning Carol, we need to get some supplies. Can you help us?” Roy asked.
“Sure, do you have a list?” she asked holding out her hand.
Roy reached into his shirt pocket and unfolded the paper that he and Johnny just compiled. Johnny went into the closet and got one of those empty white boxes to hold the supplies.
“John, Roy, good morning,” said Dixie McCall as she came up to the nurse’s station. “Beautiful day isn’t it?”
“For some it is.” Johnny said with a bit of sarcasm.
“Well someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,” Dixie replied.
Feeling that he could find an ally with the head nurse, Johnny started to plead his case. “Dixie, you’re a woman right?”
She simply said, “I’d like to think so. Don’t you think I’m a woman Johnny?”
“Well get this, the guys at the station are giving me a hard time today. They are describing me as being insensitive to women. Can you believe that?” he said.
Carol, who was still filling the supply box, chuckled to herself.
“Well?” He said expecting a quick supportive answer. “Am I insensitive to women?”
“You?” Dixie said, “The man who a few years ago created a chart listing all of the nurses here at Rampart by age, height and weight?”
“That’s right! I’d forgotten about that.” Roy said adding the missing information.
“What did he call it? His Desirability Chart.”
John stood there silent as if he was slapped across the face.
Roy, Carol and Dixie continued to remember the early years of the youngest paramedic. “Remember he complained that he might be forced to consider taking out Candy Stripe girls,” Roy added.
John just turned and walked away.
“Uh oh. I think we’ve upset him.” Carol said as she completed the paper work for the supplies.
“Roy, he does know that we were just kidding him? Right?” questioned Dixie. “Tell him we were just kidding him okay.”
Roy grabbed the box and the handy talkie and left saying, “I’ll do my best. Thanks Carol. See you later.”
When Roy got outside Johnny was already in the squad. After he put the supplies away he walked around to the driver’s door. He looked through the open window and saw Johnny just staring forward. He was doing some serious thinking.
“You know,” said the senior paramedic, “We were just picking on you. We didn’t mean anything mean.”
“I know.” he said simply.
Roy said as he started the engine. “Let’s hope for an easy day.”
Then the radio beeped and the dispatcher read a list of companies that never seemed to end.
“Wow. I jinxed it didn’t I,” said Roy as he pulled away from the emergency entrance.
Structure fire, USC residence hall, 1215 Trojan Way, that’s 1-2-1-5 Trojan Way, cross street President’s Drive.
“Damn. A college dorm on a Sunday morning. This is not going to be good.” Johnny said as he wrote down the information.
Engine 51 got to the scene before Roy and Johnny, but since they weren’t the first company to arrive, Captain Stanley ran to Captain Johnson of 86’s to get his assignment.
Johnson explained to Stanley and another captain who just arrived, “Six story residence hall, 300 male students possible. What we got is an interior fire, seems to be in the north stairwell area and throughout first and second floor. Lots of smoke. Stanley take your crew and start on the fifth and sixth floor. Bring hose packs and have your crew evacuate the floors.”
“Got it.” Stanley said as he trotted back to the engine. Roy and Johnny had arrived. “Okay men, full turn out and tanks. We’ve got the upper two floors. Stoker, report to engine 86 and keep the radio close by. Lopez, Kelly, grab two hose packs. Gage and DeSoto you’re in charge of getting the residents out. The north stairwell is inaccessible. Let’s get going.”
There was an explosion somewhere from behind the six story building. What the hell
is going on? thought Captain Stanley.
Within a minute they entered the building.
“Stop it.” Jenny said.
“What?” Chris said not so innocently.
“Stop it!” Jenny repeated.
“What? I’m not doing anything.”
Joanne didn’t know what was going on in the backseat so she looked in her rearview mirror. “Don’t make me pull this car over!”
“Mom, Chris is looking at me.”
“I am not.” Chris lied. “Who would want to look at you? Yuck!”
“Mom!” Jenny started to cry.
“Chris, stop looking at your sister!” Joanne demanded. Why are they never like this when their father is in the car?
“Mom I’m not doing anything.”
“Hey, we just got out of church. You would think that you two would be nice to each other?”
“But I’m not doing anything Mom, I promise.” Chris said with his fingers crossed behind his mom’s seat.
“Yes he is. He’s looking at me!”
“You two are going to cause me to get in a wreck now stop it! Chris, look out the window. And do not look at your sister until we get home and maybe the rest of the day. Now I mean it!”
Roy and Johnny led the way up the south staircase to the fifth floor. The smoke was thick. Marco and Chet attached the hose packs to the building’s water supply just outside of the stairwell door.
“Man, I can hardly see through this,” Johnny said as he put his hands in front of him to fan away some smoke.”
“You take right, I’ll take left.” Roy said.
Once hooked up and activated Marco followed Roy, and Chet and Cap followed Johnny.
Both paramedics banged on the dorm doors. Even though the building’s fire alarm had sounded, they were surprised to see many students still in their rooms. “Let’s go! We’re evacuating the building.” As the young men left their rooms in a myriad of clothing choices, Stanley pointed them back to the stairwell.
“All the way out. Quickly.”
After each room was checked, Roy and Johnny took the white marker from their turn out pocket and scratched an X on each door. It was going to be a long evacuation.
Stanley’s handi-talkie came to life: “Station 51. Send down a paramedic to set up a triage area. We’ve got some injuries.”
“Ten-four,” Stanley said. “Gage, go!” Johnny handed his marker to his captain and the search continued.
“Kids go change and please hang up your church clothes and don’t just leave them on the floor for me to pick up,” instructed Joanne as she put her purse on the stool under the kitchen wall phone. As she toed off her church shoes she said, “Chris I know that you have a spelling test tomorrow so we’re going to go over the words tonight before dinner okay?”
“Okay Mom. Can I go to Jimmy’s house?”
“I didn’t see their car when we drove by. Maybe they went out. Let’s wait awhile.”
“Hey, that’s on my spelling list. Awhile. a-w-h-i-l-e Right?”
“Correct now u-p-s-t-a-i-r-s!”
“Hey Jenny?” Chris said as he got to the bottom of the stairs, “Got you!” as he poked his sister on the shoulder.
“Mom! Tell Chris to stop touching me!”
Joanne just closed her eyes and sighed. Just as she was about to banish Chris from looking at and touching is sister for the rest of his life the phone rang.
“DeSoto residence,” said Joanne. “Hey Mom. Perfect timing. Didn’t you always tell me that when I had kids, you’d hope that they would be just like Eileen and me? I can tell you I did. Chris and Jenny have been fighting all morning.”
“Joanne,” said her mother.
Joanne could tell by her mother’s voice that something was wrong. “Mom, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know how to tell you this but . . .”
As the crew got closer to the north side of the building there was another explosion.
“Roy, over here!” Marco said as he saw the unconscious male under the desk in his room. Marco put down the hose and grabbed the student by the shoulders and lifted him up as Roy grabbed his legs.
Roy took off his air mask and held it over the victim’s face. It didn’t take long for the boy to start to gasp as he regained consciousness.
“Let’s get him out of here,” Marco said as the heat was getting unbearable.
Together the three of them made it down the five flights and into the triage area where Johnny was there helping the victims.
As Marco was leaving to go back to his hose, Roy asked him to wait a second.
“Johnny, you got it here? There are probably a couple more where Marco and I just came from.”
“Yeah, I got it. Go ahead.”
“You don’t understand Mom!” Margaret Stanley said as she watched her mother chop up some seasoning for the rump roast.
“Yes I do. You’re too young to drive a car.” said Emily Stanley, the sometimes overstressed mother of two teenaged girls.
“It’s not fair Mom. How old were you when grandma and grandpa let you get your license?” Maggie thought that was a fair question.
“That doesn’t matter. You are too young to drive.”
“But Mom, all of my friends are driving now.”
“And I suppose,” Emily started the classic response, “If all of your friends wanted to jump off a bridge, you’d want to do that too?”
Maggie stomped her foot. She had lost this round. “Maybe Mom, I just might jump off that bridge!” Maggie stomped her feet hard as she climbed the stairs and slammed the door to her bedroom.
Emily took a deep breath and returned to her cutting board.
About an hour after Joanne’s mother called, Jenny came running in from the back door. “Mrs. Evans isn’t home.”
Chris added, “I tried to call grandma and no one answered.”
“I’m scared Chris.”
Chris pulled out the stool under the phone a little and stepped up to see the numbers on the wall above the phone that he had seen from a distance his entire life. There was the phone number for Station 51 but he had already called it several times. No answer.
There was the number for Mr. and Mrs. Evans from next door but they weren’t home. Grandma wasn’t answering, and the phone number for John Gage wouldn’t help him either. Then he saw an official looking number. He hesitated. Should I call this number? Am I going to get in trouble? Then, he heard his mother upstairs.
He made the call.
It seemed that the whole LA Country Fire Department was at the scene. When they had successfully evacuated the floors Stanley, Kelly and Lopez reported to the chief for their next assignment.
Roy got busy helping the victims. “What have we got here Lincoln?” He asked the paramedic from 86.
“Johnny is on a run to Rampart with two victims. We got minor burns, smoke inhalations and this one has some pretty intense cuts from flying glass. Help yourself.”
Roy took off his air tank and began helping.
“LA County Fire Department, Personnel Department may I help you?” said Marion Ellis, assistant to Deputy Chief Brian Marshall.
Chris said simply, “I need to talk to my Dad.”
Marion smiled a little because this was not the typical request she received. “And just who is your Dad young man?”
“My dad is Roy DeSoto, a paramedic at Station 51. I really need to talk to him please.”
“And what is your name young man?” Marion asked as she wrote down the information.
“My name is Christopher DeSoto and I really need to talk to my Dad,” he repeated.
“Christopher,” Marion started to become a little concerned, “how old are you?”
“Christopher, is anything wrong? Do you need me to send someone over to your house? Is there an emergency?”
Chris knew that if he could just talk to his father, he would tell him what to do. “No, I just need to talk to my Dad.”
“Okay son, I’m going to find your father for you. Are you sure this isn’t an emergency?”
Chris’ voice started to waiver just a little. “Yes ma’am, we don’t have an emergency, I just need to talk to my Daddy.”
When Chris said “Daddy” instead of “Dad” Marion could tell that the armor that this brave little man was standing behind started to crack.
“I’ll get him for you as soon as possible. Remember to call this number again if you have to okay.”
“Yes ma’am. Thank you.” and Chris hung up the phone.
Marion immediately pressed the intercom button. “Deputy Chief, we might have a problem.” Between the two of them they decided to find Roy DeSoto and send him home. Marion looked up the extension for the dispatcher and made the call. Sam Lanier would know where Squad 51 would be.
“Treatment Room 4” said Dixie McCall as she saw the first patient being wheeled in. She then looked at the second and said “Take him into 5. Dr. Bracket is waiting.”
Johnny followed the gurney into Room 5. “He’s breathing better Doc but I’m picking up difficulty on his right side. Second degree burns, right leg.”
“Thanks Johnny. Have they figured out what happened? We were listening on the radio and it seemed like all hell was breaking loose,” the doctor asked.
“Last I heard, someone in the dorm was trying to make his own alcohol and the contraption exploded got into the duct system and spread from there.” Johnny said, “The hardest part was convincing the mostly hung-over students that it was not a fire drill.”
“Bet they didn’t teach you how to evacuate a couple of hundred drunks from a building in your training, huh?” said Dixie.
“I have a feeling that the brass is going to seriously think about it after today. Doc, you need me because I really got to get back?” asked Johnny.
“No. Go ahead.” Bracket said.
“DeSoto, tell me what you got here.” asked Charlie Dwyer, who squatted down next to him, “I’m taking over for you. The Deputy Chief wants to see you.”
Confused as to why he was being replaced, Roy stood up and went over to the man. Years in the Army taught him to not ask why. “Yes sir? You wanted to see me.” he asked.
“Roy DeSoto, I’m Deputy Chief Brian Marshall from headquarters, do you have a son named Christopher?”
Immediately Roy’s heart sank and his expression went grey. “Yes sir.”
“My secretary Marion received a phone call from your son about 30 minutes ago. He seemed very determined to talk to you.”
“He called headquarters? Is anything wrong I mean . . .” questioned Roy.
“We really don’t know what’s going on but Marion and I determined that we should relieve you from your duty now and get you home.” Marshall turned and pointed behind him. There were numbers of LA County Fire vehicles throughout the area but Roy saw the car he was talking about. “She is in the car and she will fill you in on the ride to your house.”
Roy started to walk toward the car but Marshall stopped him. “Hey, why don’t give me your turn out? I’ll get it to your captain and I’ll tell him that you will call your station as soon as you can.”
“Thank you sir,” Roy said as he pulled off the oversized protective wear and handed it to the chief.
“DeSoto, I hope everything is okay. Let us know if there is anything we can do for you or your family.”
Chris was extremely quiet as he descended the stairs. He remembered to bring Lily, Jenny’s favorite stuffed animal. “Okay, she’s asleep. I’ve covered her up. We should just let her sleep,” he whispered.
Jenny looked at the kitchen wall phone and thought out loud, “What about the phone when Daddy calls? It might wake her up.”
“That’s right.” Chris thought. Since he was in charge, he had to come up with a solution.
After a few seconds he went to the living room and looked at the phone on the end table and its cord. He whispered, “Let’s take this phone out on the front porch and wait until Daddy calls. I think that there is enough wire to pull it outside the door. I can pick it up fast. That way it won’t wake her up.”
Jenny held Lily tightly as she agreed with her brother.
Climbing out of the ambulance back at the USC triage area Johnny looked at the remaining victims. “Dwyer, any more to transport?”
“Just these three,” Charlie described. “Two with minor smoke inhalation and one possible wrist sprain.”
“Okay, let’s load them in.” Johnny said as he determined that they all could walk into the ambulance on their own. He looked around and saw that the fire had settled down. Some engines were gone, some were picking up hose, and many firemen were on clean up duty.
“Where’s Roy?” asked Johnny.
“What do you mean gone?”
“All I know is that I was called in to take his duty,” Dwyer explained. “A chief from headquarters came, got him and drove him away.”
“Are you serious?” Johnny asked him, at first thinking that it was some kind of practical joke.
“That’s all I know.” he said. “Maybe Captain Stanley knows more. Look. I’ll clean up here and take the squad and I’ll meet you at Rampart okay?”
Johnny looked around the area and his captain was nowhere to be seen. The ambulance was ready to go so he gave up his search, got in and closed the back doors as the vehicle started to move.
“Why are they sitting on the front porch?” Roy thought out loud as Marion pulled into his driveway?
“Roy, I’ll wait here just in case you need me.”
Chris and Jenny looked up at the red sedan and saw their dad get out of the passenger seat. They ran to him as he made it to the sidewalk that connected the house to the driveway.
“What’s going on?” He said as he knelt down and hugged his children.
“Daddy you’re home!” Jenny whispered.
Chris said, “Don’t wake her up Daddy!”
“Don’t wake her up Daddy please.” Jenny said overlapping her brother.
“Chris, what is going on?” Roy asked as he looked up at the window to the master bedroom.
“I’m sorry that I called Daddy . . . but I didn’t know what else to do?” Chris said.
“Christopher. What happened?” Roy demanded.
His son whispered, “When we got home from church Grandma called and told Mom that Aunt Janet died in a wreck today and . . .”
Roy was stunned. He looked Chris in the eyes and repeated, “Janet died.”
“. . . and Mom has been crying all day and then Daddy . . . she started to throw up and Daddy and I didn’t know what to do and . . .”
“Okay, okay. You did the right thing. Stay right here.” Roy stood up and turned around, closed his eyes just for a second and walked back to Marion. He leaned down to the driver’s side window and spoke very softly. “There has been a death in the family. My wife is not taking it well and my kids were concerned about her.”
“I’m sorry Roy. Do you need me to do anything for you?”
“No. Well yes, could you tell my captain what happened and tell him that I will call him as soon as I can?”
“Absolutely,” Marion said. She then looked at Roy who was obviously stricken. “Are you going to be okay?” She paused. “Roy, take a second and compose yourself. Your children don’t need a second crying parent.”
“I know,” he nodded, “but she wasn’t just a relative, she was a close friend.” He wiped his eyes, thanked Marion again and watched her back out of the driveway. He turned back to his kids.
Chris and Jenny ran up to him and each grabbed an arm. “Daddy, please don’t wake her up,” they both whispered. “She’ll start crying again.”
They pulled Roy away from the house, quietly begging him over and over again not to make any noise and that if she wakes up again, she’ll start crying.
“Hey, hey hey,” Roy said softly as he knelt down and hugged his children. Come here. As he held them both, Chris on his left and Jenny on his right he sighed.
“Chris when did this happen?”
Still whispering he said, “When we got home from church. Grandma called.”
Roy looked at his watch, 5:50 p.m. “Have you two had anything to eat?”
They both shook their head.
“Okay,” Roy said as he stood up, “let’s go inside.” The kids panicked.
“No Daddy, she’ll wake up,” Jenny said as she pulled him away from the house.
“She’ll start crying again and maybe get sick again . . .” Chris warned quietly overlapping his sister.
“We are going inside.” Roy reassured his children as he took them by the hands. “I’m going to make us some dinner. I’ll be very quiet. I promise.”
As they got to the front door Roy saw the phone. “Chris, let’s put the phone back where it belongs okay?” Roy whispered as promised. He looked up the stairs. “Chris, are you sure she’s asleep?”
Roy went to the kitchen with his kids closely behind him. He opened the refrigerator and looked in. Knowing that he was not the best cook in the world, he’s eyes stopped when he saw the package of Oscar Meyer hot dogs. That will do he thought. He took a pot from the cabinet, put water in it and put it on the stove, all the while being watched.
While the water was heating up he went to the laundry room and took off his utility pouch and blue uniform shirt. Chris and Jenny followed him. Roy felt like he was one of those mother ducks with the ducklings following behind her. After he put is shirt on the dryer he turned to see Jenny clutching Lily. Jenny had tears flowing out of her eyes.
“Daddy, I’m sorry?” she cried softly.
Roy’s heart was broken. His little girl was sobbing. “Oh baby, why are you sorry?” he said as he knelt down to hug her. Between her confused emotions and trying to whisper through the tears, he couldn’t make out anything coherent. “Barrette” was all he could understand. When Chris and Jenny were younger, Chris would be Joanne and Roy’s translator from Jenny’s toddler speak to English. Roy looked at Chris and this time he just shrugged his shoulders as if to say he didn’t understand what the seven year old was saying either.
Roy picked up Jenny and carried her back into the kitchen and sat her down on the table. He then sat in a chair, grabbed a napkin and wiped away the tears. “Baby, you have nothing to be sorry for okay. Now blow your nose.” he said as he held up another napkin to her face.
“Good girl.” Roy said and as he wanted to change the subject he asked her, “Baby, why don’t you go into the pantry and get something that we can have with the hot dogs okay?”
Jenny nodded her head; Roy picked her up off the table and placed her on the floor.
“Chris, how long has your mother been asleep?”
Chris looked at the clock on the wall above the sink. “About an hour. Daddy, I covered her up.” He said still whispering.
Jenny came back with a can of Van Camps Pork and Beans.
“Great job sweetie. Look, Disney will be starting in a little while. Chris, why don’t you quietly go upstairs and get you and your sister’s school books. We can go over your homework for tomorrow okay?”
“Chris, don’t wake Mommy!” Jenny pleaded.
“I won’t, I promise.” he said.
Roy turned around and began cooking the impromptu dinner. “Jenny, go get some paper plates.”
He went to the wall phone and called the station.
“Station 51 Captain Stanley speaking,” said Hank.
“Cap it’s Roy.”
“Hey what the hell happened today? We just got back to the station. Is everything all right?” he inquired.
“To make a long story short,” explained Roy, “Joanne’s cousin Janet died this morning. Joanne was crying to thepoint where she was vomiting and Chris and Jenny were concerned and, they couldn’t find anyone who would answer the phone and, we were out at USC, so believe it or not, he called headquarters and well . . . you know the rest.”
“Is Joanne okay?”
“Not really Cap, but she’s sleeping right now.”
As simply as he could Captain Stanley asked, “If you don’t mind my asking, how did she die?”
“According to Chris it was a car accident. I still don’t know anything at all. Janet lives, um lived in an apartment off of Sunset by Dohenny.”
“I’ll see what I can find out and let you know.”
Marco made a quick dinner and salad as the rest of the crew took about thirty minutes collectively to shower away the smoky smell and change their uniform.
Johnny walked into the office buttoning his fresh uniform shirt and asked, “Cap, any word on Roy?”
“Yes, I just got off the phone with him. Let’s meet in the day room.” Stanley suggested.
Johnny’s anxiety level was high. What could have happened?
Once gathered Hank started. “Men, Joanne’s cousin died in a car accident this morning. She became distraught and the kids were worried about her and they couldn’t find Roy because we were at USC so, Chris called headquarters.”
“I hope Joanne and the kids are going to be all right.” said Chet.
“Do you know which cousin died?” asked Johnny.
“Roy said it was her cousin Janet.”
“Janet died?” Johnny was stunned.
“Yeah did you know her?”
“Yeah.” Johnny had to sit down. “Janet, Joanne and Roy were very close. Chris and Jenny called her Aunt Janet because she and Joanne were more like sisters than cousins.”
“God, this must be tough on them,” Mike thought out loud.
No one really knew what to say. In their line of work, they see car accidents every day. But this one was personal to the men in the room. The room became very quiet.
“Janet loved anything Hollywood. She worked for the costume department at Paramount Pictures.” Johnny said as he pointed to his uniform shirt, “She’s the one who got us those red vintage uniforms when we tried to ride the old engine in the parade.”
Mike brought Johnny a glass of juice.
Johnny continued. “Boy they had some stories about themselves growing up in high school. Janet and her mom moved back to Los Angeles when she was a freshman, I think.” Johnny paused and looked around. “You know, Janet is the reason why Roy doesn’t wear a wedding ring?”
“You know, I’ve always wondered about that. I mean Cap, you wear your ring right?” Chet asked.
“I always assumed that Roy doesn’t have a wedding ring because he can’t wear jewelry. I have an uncle who can’t stand to have anything on like a ring, necklace, even a watch,” described Marco as he brought the rice dish to the table.
Mike and Hank grabbed plates, glasses and utensils. They started dishing out the meal.
“No. The story is like this. We all know that Roy and his mother-in-law don’t get along, right.”
They all nodded. “Remember,” Chet said, “that he doesn’t think she has ever smiled?”
“Yeah well, Joanne and Roy knew that there wasn’t going to be a lot of support from Joanne’s parents for the wedding so they saved their own money and planned a nice intimate wedding at a small church. They had also bought two modest rings. Anyway, the morning of the wedding Janet, who was Joanne’s, what do they call it?” he snapped his fingers thinking that would make him remember.”
“Maid of Honor,” Dwyer said filling in the blank.
“Yeah, Maid of Honor.” Johnny continued. “Joanne put Janet in charge of Roy’s ring. Janet put it on her finger but was worried that it was going to slip off so she put it on her thumb and it got stuck.”
Johnny took a second and closed his eyes. He was visualizing Janet.
“Joanne and Janet tried everything to get that ring off but nothing worked, and an hour before the wedding, they had to send Janet with a friend to get the ring cut off. Joanne’s mother thought it was a sign from God and she insisted that the wedding between her precious daughter and Roy DeSoto be called off right then and there!
“But according to Roy, Joanne stood her ground with her mom and explained the situation to the minister. He said he could change the wedding script to just a one ring ceremony.”
“Why? Couldn’t they just get the ring, I don’t know, melted back together? asked Mike. “I mean the ring couldn’t have been a total loss?”
“No, you’re right but, Roy and Joanne talked about it and they didn’t want the ring that had been bought to symbolize their circle of love . . . which was now cut in half, to be a part of their new life together. So, they decided right then and there that Roy would never wear the ring.” Johnny paused. “They still have it. I’ve seen it in the tray on top of Roy’s dresser. Still cut and pulled apart a little.”
“This has to be tough on them all.” said Marco. As a gesture to Joanne and her family, Marco led the crew in a prayer before dinner.
They didn’t eat that much but Roy got his children to go into the living room and turn on the TV. They sat right in front of it and they turned down the volume so low that you couldn’t hear a thing. With them occupied, Roy finally had the opportunity to check on Joanne. He quietly walked into the bedroom.
The last thing Roy thought he would do when he saw his grief-stricken wife was smile, but he did. In the mist of the tragedy the family had experienced today he saw Joanne, curled up in the middle of their bed covered by Chris’ Star Trek bedspread. The Starship Enterprise was protecting her.
He went to the opposite side of the bed to look at Joanne’s face but her hair was covering it, so he gently pulled it back. The kids were right. Her eyes were a bit swollen from crying. The paramedic in him reached out to take her pulse but when he took her wrist Joanne jerked back and woke up with a start.
“Smoke! Kids!” She said as she instinctively jumped out of bed to find and protect her children.
“Hey, hey, calm down it’s just me.” Roy said as he rounded the foot of the bed and pulled her into an embrace. Damn! He thought to himself. What a horrible way to wake up! He forgot that even though he had removed his uniform shirt, the rest of him still smelled like smoke! Damn!
“It’s okay. It’s just me. There’s no fire.” He whispered as he held her even closer repeating over and over again, “It’s just me. There is no fire. It’s just me.”
Roy could feel her heart pounding. “It’s okay, it’s me, and I’m home. Chris called. Calm down baby. I’m home.”
“The kids are okay. Take a deep breath. Come on, you have to slow your breathing down.” Roy was holding Joanne so tightly that he realized both of their heartbeats were pounding. “We both need to calm down.” Stroking her hair and rocking back and forth, Roy felt that this “dance” was the best thing for them both. After about a minute and, while still holding her hands, he backed up a step and looked at his wife. She looked devastated.
“Joanne, you have to do something for me and I know it is not going to be easy. You have to go in there and take a long bath or shower or whatever, and you have to put a cold towel on your eyes okay.” He paused. “We have two very frightened and confused children down there. We’re going to have to sit and have a talk about what happened today, about death, what it means and what they can expect over the next few days. We’re their parents. We owe them that much and . . . we are going to have to control our emotions while we do it. You and I have to put some normalcy back into our children’s lives. Okay?” Roy pulled her into a tight embrace again.
Joanne didn’t say a word but just nodded her head against Roy’s chest.
“They’re watching Disney right now,” Roy added as he started the dance again. “While you are taking your bath I’m going to use the kid’s bathroom to shower away this smoky smell. Okay?”
Again, without speaking she just nodded her head.
“But I promise you; once they go to bed you and I can sit at the kitchen table and cry our eyes out. Okay? But not now. We have to pull this together for their sake.”
Roy rarely used the hall bathroom at the house and even though the fixtures were normal sized, he felt like a giant standing in a bathtub with yellow duck safety stickers and a mermaid shower curtain. Once he stood under the hot water and started to use Jenny’s Breck shampoo on his hair, he felt all of the emotions of the past few hours come to the surface. He knew that his family needed him to be strong but hell; Janet was a big part of his life too. So while the shower hit his body, the loud sound of the water allowed him to grieve. The giant cried.
Joanne was still in the bathroom. Roy was pulling on a t-shirt that he got from his chest of drawers when he saw the ring on top of his dresser. He started to pick it up when the phone rang. Roy sat down on the bed as he answered it.
“Roy, Captain Stanley. I called around and found out that Station 47 responded to the accident.”
“Did they say what happened?” asked Roy. Joanne had just come out of the bathroom in her pajamas towel drying her hair.
“It was a head on collision.” Stanley described. “Guy crossed over the yellow line. You know.” He paused. “I don’t know if this is going to make a difference but 47’s Captain Pierson said it was apparent that Joanne’s cousin was killed immediately; she didn’t suffer.”
Roy knew what he meant. Responding to far too many of these accidents himself, he could tell if a victim’s death was quick or if it was one that lingered. “Thanks Hank. And the other driver?”
Hank just shook his head. “Drunk. A few cuts and a broken femur. Sorry.”
“Yeah,” Roy said. “Me too.”
“Well. What happened to the other driver?” Joanne asked as she was just hearing one side of the conversation.
Roy knew that Joanne couldn’t handle that right now. “I’ll tell you later sweetie.”
Then he said back to the phone, “Thanks Cap. Oh and Cap, may I ask you a question?” Roy paused to collect himself. As a father he knew that this was a day when a bit of Chris and Jenny’s childhood innocence would be lost.
“This is the first time our kids are old enough to be included in a relatives passing. How do you talk to your children about death?” he asked as he looked at Joanne.
Hank thought back to when his father passed away. “I don’t think there is a tried and true plan to follow. Just answer their questions as honestly as you can.”
“Thanks, and can you tell Johnny that I’ll call him sometime tomorrow.”
“Sure, and by the way, the guys are going to bring the Porsche to your house in the morning.”
“Okay. Thanks again.”
As the credits rolled up the screen for Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Roy and Joanne came down the stairs. Roy went and turned off the TV as Joanne asked Chris and Jenny to sit next to her on the sofa.
“I love you both so much,” she started as she hugged them both, “and I am so proud of you for taking good care of me today.”
“I love you too Momma,” Chris and Jenny said almost in sync.
Roy could see that Joanne was having a hard time keeping her composure. He could tell by her hesitations as she carefully chose her words, and her low voice that she was trying very hard to keep it together for her kid’s sake.
Between them both, Joanne and Roy explained what happened this morning and what Joanne’s family was going through now and what was going to happen at the funeral later this week. They were going to get through this as a family, because that’s what families do, support each other.
After the conversation Roy and Joanne took the kids upstairs. Joanne got Jenny to take her bath while Roy reviewed Chris’ spelling words for tomorrow’s class. Afraid of not having enough hot water, Roy told Chris that he could take his bath in the morning.
They all gathered in Jenny’s room and said a prayer for Aunt Janet. Joanne and Roy kissed Jenny goodnight and then did the same for Chris in his room. Once the lights were off in each room, Roy and Joanne slowly made their way downstairs to the kitchen.
At 8:04 p.m. Hank closed the door to his office. Whenever he was at the station, at 8:05 p.m. he would call home to talk to his family. It was a Stanley routine that was done since his girls could talk.
As he dialed the last two numbers he prepared himself for round two of the driver’s license soap opera. Luckily Amanda, his youngest, picked up the phone. “Hello Dad. How was your day?”
“Joanne, do you want me to open up a can of soup for you?” Roy asked hopefully as she sat at the kitchen table.
Joanne just shook her head.
Roy was concerned about Joanne becoming dehydrated. “I’m going to get you some orange juice. Okay?” Roy got up and grabbed a glass, poured some juice in it and placed it on the table in front of his wife.
Joanne just looked at the table.
“You know, Janet wouldn’t like this. You and me being so upset,” he said as he sat down across the table from his wife.
Joanne made a few quick nods, still looking at the table.
“No. She wouldn’t like this at all.” Roy tried to start a conversation remembering the good things about Janet’s life. He knew that if Joanne heard some of the good things about Janet, maybe, just maybe, Joanne would come out of her fog.
“I’m kinda glad that your mother saddled us with Janet.” Roy remembered back to their high school days. “And don’t tell me that your mom had nothing to do with it; sticking us with a sophomore when we were seniors. I wanted to have some special time with my girl, you know, but somehow your mom and your aunt shoved Janet into our plans every weekend.” He paused. “But after awhile you know, I really looked forward to our times together.” He paused again.
Joanne was still silent.
“On Monday mornings my friends would talk about all of their so-called sexual conquests and I would just tell them about the crazy things we did instead.”
“Adventures,” Joanne said softly.
Roy smiled as Joanne joined the conversation. “That’s right. You, me, Janet and her crazy adventures . . . and my pitiful green Chevy Nova that barely got us anywhere. Boy, I remember some of the crazy things she talked us into.” He thought for a minute. “That sand castle competition . . . which we lost. The damned thing looked like a haunted house instead of a castle.”
“Remember how sun burned you got. You looked like a beet for a week.” Joanne added.
“What did Janet used to say? ‘It’s our duty to explore Hollywood for all of those who can’t.’” He stated. “Sometimes I felt like Lucy, Fred and Ethel who were always getting into trouble when they spent time in Los Angeles.”
Joanne had still not touched her orange juice but at least she had raised her head.
“What about,” Roy started “that adventure into the Hollywood Hills to look for that actor’s house. Remember we drove around until we found a kid who was selling maps to the star’s homes. What was that actor’s name? You know the guy who rode the horse with really tight pants in that western that she liked. The Big Valley, Gunsmoke . . . Laramie . . . was it Laramie?
“Yeah, the guy who looked a little like Dr. Brackett?” Joanne said.
“You think he does?” Roy questioned. “Well, all I remember is that the Nova ran out of gas and we had to walk uphill a couple of miles to get to a gas station. We were sore for a week.” Roy said. “That’s the time we just started calling her “Miss Adventure” because of all of the misadventures that she took us on.”
Roy paused and thought. He was still trying to get Joanne to think about the happy times.
“And her love of food vendors,” Roy said. “Do you remember that guy . . . Manuel who sold hot tamales from a cart on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Janet and I used to have a competition on who could eat the most. That’s when we started our ‘Chili today, hot tamale’ thing.”
“Roy,” Joanne started to say something but then just paused a bit. “Do you know that she called me last week to apologize for not calling me? She was finally so happy. She loved her job and her apartment. She had a good group of friends and . . . I was so happy for her.”
Joanne stopped talking, looked down at the table and the kitchen became very quiet.
“Baby, do you think you might be able to eat something. Chris says you haven’t . . .”
“No Roy . . . I just can’t.” Joanne started to cry again. She put her elbows on the table and put her head in her hands and cried.
Roy got up and walked around to Joanne’s side, pulled her up so she was standing, and the two of them walked to the sofa in the living room. Roy sat down and cradled his wife and they cried together, remembering the love of a good friend until they both fell asleep.
“Girls can I have a talk with you for a minute?” asked Emily Stanley as she walked up the stairs. Amanda met her in the hallway and together they entered Maggie’s room.
“I just finished talking to your father and he had pretty strenuous day.” She paused. “He doesn’t tell you much about his job and, it is for a good reason.”
“Mom, is Daddy okay?” asked Maggie. “He sounded okay when I talked to him.”
Amanda nodded as well.
“Oh, he’s fine.” She paused again. “He probably doesn’t want me to tell you this but, Roy and Joanne DeSoto had a relative killed in a car accident this morning and although Station 51 did not respond to the incident, if has affected them all.”
Emily sat on the bed next to Maggie. “Maggie, you have to realize that when your father is at work, he sees things that we can’t imagine. Most of it is bad. He sees people killed or severely hurt every day because of careless drivers, or drunk drivers or . . . you name it. Your Dad is having a hard time dealing with the fact that you too will be driving soon.”
Emily took Maggie’s hands and looked her right in the eyes, “We all know that you will eventually get your driver’s license, but I’m asking you, please give your father some more time. I guarantee you that this is harder on him then any of us. Please, just let him work through this on his own.”
Maggie reached out and hugged her mother. “Okay. I understand. Thanks Mom.”
“Lights out,” Stanley said as he turned off the lights in the apparatus bay. As he walked behind the engine, he saw Johnny sitting on the bench in the back of the station.
“John, you okay?”
“No, not really.”
“Is there anything I can do?” he asked.
“Cap . . . I’m angry.”
“Angry with whom? Did Chet play another prank on you that I don’t know about?”
Johnny paused. “No, I wish it were that simple.”
“So, who are you angry with?”
“Me. I really don’t like myself right now.” Johnny admitted.
“I am so . . . disgusted.” Johnny said softly.
Cap leaned on the building and said, “Start at the beginning.”
Johnny paused. “A few years ago Roy had asked me over to dinner. He has always said that Joanne’s purpose in life was to be a matchmaker and she had a single cousin and so, I went to dinner. That cousin was Janet. It eventually turned out to be a nice evening because Janet had a great personality. She was funny and I heard lots of stories about their adventures . . . but that was that.”
“And?” Cap said.
“The next time Joanne tried to set me up with someone I referred to the Janet incident and Cap . . . I described Janet as a dog.”
Johnny got up and pointed to the squad. “I stood right there in the apparatus bay and I called Janet a dog! Even though we had all spent a lovely night together, instead of being grateful and without thinking about her relationships with Roy and Joanne, the first thing that I thought of was that she was not pretty enough for me. I called her a “dog” Cap.”
He sat down again. “And now Janet is dead.”
Hank took a deep breath. He turned to go into the dorm.
“Cap,” Johnny stopped him with his question. “Don’t you have anything to say that’s gonna make me feel better?”
Hank paused. “No John, I don’t.”
Monday morning came.
At the DeSoto house, Chris took his morning bath, Joanne cooked eggs and, to Roy’s delight she ate a piece of toast and had a cup of coffee. Roy decided to drive the kids to school instead of them taking the bus. He thought that the school’s administration should know about what happened, just in case Chris and Jenny started acting differently.
At the station, Chet left first. Dwyer had to pull a double as his regular B shift was on. Marco drove Roy’s car and Mike followed him to eventually bring Marco home. They arrived while the station wagon was gone, so they just left the car in the garage. They didn’t want to bother anybody.
Johnny got in his Rover and just drove around. He was still “at odds” with himself. He decided that he would go on a hike through the hills to clear his mind. He turned to head home but then he realized that he was just a block away from the doughnut shop. He forced himself to turn into the parking lot and go inside.
“Morning Johnny, the usual?” asked Jill, the tall, thin blonde.
“No, not the usual today. Hey, is Ruth in the back?” he asked. He really didn’t know what he was going to say to her except he wanted to thank her at least for the special treatment that she has given him.
“No Johnny, Ruth is off until Wednesday,” she said asking, “So, no doughnuts? What can I do for you?”
“Nothing Jill, I’m sorry to have bothered you.” Johnny said as he left the shop. He promised himself that he would return in a couple of days.
When Hank Stanley got home he put his bag in the laundry room and went into the kitchen. Emily must still be driving the girls to school he thought. He grabbed a cup from the rack and poured himself a cup of coffee. His paper was waiting for him on the table in front of his chair. On the front page of The Los Angeles Times was a huge photo and story about yesterday’s USC fire. When he got to the bottom of the story and he read “Continued on A-12,” Hank looked up at the page numbers and thumbed the corner of the paper. When he pulled open A-12 he was surprised when he saw a folded note written on loose-leaf paper.
He opened the note and saw Maggie’s handwriting. The note was short.
Don’t worry about taking me driving after school. I thought about it and I can wait. I’m so proud of you.
Hank was intrigued. She finished the note with I love you! Maggie. He saw that the dot over the i in her name was in the shape of a heart. He then noticed a small postscript at the bottom.
P.S. Maybe when I get home we can talk about that stereo and slumber party?
Posted to Site 6/11/16
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