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One For The Money
“You cannot tell me I cannot go with you. Do you really think I’d agree to that?” Lee was not sure if she was more hurt or mad at the idea.
“Be reasonable, Baby girl, you can’t go to Lame Deer.” Johnny was up pacing around. “I’ll only be gone a few days. Just long enough to present the plaques to Chief Sullivan and to the doctors.”
After he had gotten hurt in September, he and Lee had talked about a memorial in honor of his parents. She had always taken the money she had inherited from her grandfather and her parents for granted. WBS Real Estate and Property Management was one of the largest construction and real estate companies in California. Her grandfather, William Bishop Spencer, had also formed the WBS Foundation to provide support for a wide variety of worthy causes. While Lee left the company management to Ben Oliver, she had recently taken over more control of the foundation. The money would come from her and Johnny but go through the foundation to satisfy legal requirements and make the accountants happy.
“And are you planning on Kel sedating me for the whole time you’re gone? So I won’t spend every waking second afraid for you? Because if you don’t you may as well just sign me into the psyche ward now.” Lee glared at him. “Did you ever stop to consider that you could be walking into a very dangerous situation? That some bigots and idiots, red and white, may resent you coming back and see this as a slap in the face, not a kind and loving remembrance of your parents?” If she hadn’t been on the couch with her chair out of reach she would be storming out of the room.
“Stop over reacting.” Johnny snapped at her. “Listen to me, please.” He stopped pacing.
“I can’t…I can’t hear you over the screaming shrew in my head. I think before either of us say something we don’t want said we drop this conversation for now.” She said not looking at him.
Afraid if she did she would give in to the hurt showing on his face.
“Do you understand? That I can’t put you in a situation that may not be safe for you?”
“But you wanting to go to Lame Deer is fine, right? It’s just ---just inconceivable.” She looked at him. “----Especially without me… Can you understand my point of view? Will you even try? Why are you being so hard headed?” She asked with a sigh. He did not say a word. “This conversation is over…you won’t even try to see my point.” The dark eyes were narrowed and his lips were in a firm line as he stood there. She pushed herself to standing , then took a shaky step away from the couch, her look daring him to say something. The second step was even shakier. She was beginning to think this was a very bad idea but she was too stubborn to back down. Waiting for him to say or do something. Another step knowing it was not a matter of if, but when she was going to fall.
Wondering would he even try to catch her? She took another step and felt her legs give way. She bit her lip refusing to ask for help. She tasted the blood as she started to pitch forward.
Johnny stood there listening to her and caught him almost laughing. Even as mad as he was, he knew that was the worst thing he could do. Since that day he asked her to go dancing and she had ordered him out of her office, they had never had a real argument. Until now, oh, they had times they did not agree but never anything serious. Usually he gave her a crooked grin or she cocked her head and batted her eye lashes at him and it was over. Roy would say she was having a full-blown Gage rant. Cisco would have called her a hellcat. He just stood there listening not daring to laugh.
Except then she stood up and his heart dropped to the floor as she took a step. As she took the third he reacted and moved towards her. As he grabbed her, he saw the fear he felt mirrored in her eyes.
“Why would you? I knew you wouldn’t let me get hurt.” She said not looking at him. “I trusted you to be there for me. You should trust me to be there for you. Does that help you to see my point of view?” She could not keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She felt guilty at the look of shock on his face. “I am so frustrated. I wanted to make you understand. You would not listen to me. You saw the wheelchair and what I couldn’t do…For the first time you are seeing the wheelchair, not me.”
“No, I see you. My fragile beautiful green eyed lady, my wife.…I can’t let those people near you…I won’t take the chance they could hurt you.”
“I was standing there thinking about you…then I realized you were going to fall. What if you fell before I could get to you?”
“I never doubted that you’d catch me. Even if you were mad…you would not let me fall. After all, you are a rescue man.” He snorted. “It’s getting late and we both have to work in the morning.” She cocked her head sideways and batted her eyelashes at him. “And just what are all the other stupid things I have done?” However, there was a slight giggle in her voice as she said it.
Johnny fell asleep quickly. Lee laid there listening to the soft rhythm of his breathing. While she was glad he was getting some good sleep there was still a part of her angry at him for being so stubborn and not understanding why she was so upset. She looked at the clock. It was 2 a.m. “And the bloody alarm is going to go off at 6,” she muttered to herself.
“Morning baby girl” He rolled over and kissed the back of her neck.
“No…gonna skip them this morning. And I think I am gonna work here today. It’s cold and rainy and I’m lazy.”
“Hum how lazy? To lazy for this?” He started kissing her earlobe and nibbling her neck.
Lee cleaned the kitchen, and then went into the extra bedroom they used as an office. She filled out what she could on the grant applications for the Lame Deer Fire Department and the clinic. She dialed the number she had gotten form the long distance operator.
“Lame Deer Fire Station.” The gruff voice answered.
“I’d like to speak to the Chief Sullivan, if he is available.” Lee said, sounding very businesslike and professional.
“This is Chief Sullivan. How may I help you?”
“I am calling from the WBS Foundation in Los Angeles. I have a few questions I need to ask before I can mail out the paper work for a grant that has been given to your station.”
“Now why would a Los Angeles foundation be giving money to a small town fire department in Montana?” He asked sounding very suspicious of the caller.
“The grant is in memory of Roderick Gage. Some of the few good memories John Gage has of Lame Deer are connected with your fire station. John has requested a small plaque be placed at the station in his father’s memory. His father was always supportive of John’s dream of being a fireman.”
“Did that dream come true? Often wondered what happen to him after his aunt came and took him away.” Collin Sullivan said.
“Yes it did. He graduated first in his class from the academy, was the youngest rescue man in the county and is now half of the best paramedic team in the county if not the state.” The pride in his accomplishments was reflected in the warmer softer tone of her voice.
“He seems to have made an impression on you. My wife always had a soft spot for that boy. Said when he grew up he was gonna be a ladies’ man Said his eyes reminded her of a lost pup.” Lee heard the soft chuckle in the man’s voice.
“Tell your wife that with those soulful dark eyes and wonderful quirky smile of his he is definitely a ladies’ man. I’m very proud to be Johnny’s lady.”
“A few of us …we talked to his uncle once about the way he treated that boy.”
“A few once?” The coldness was back in her voice.
“Yes, once. That talk got him a beating…a bad one. Then his uncle came bragging about what he had done. That if that stupid half breed went around telling more lies he’d get it again, maybe worse. What else could we do?”
“From what I know about your town then I can understand why you didn’t do more. I wonder if it would be very different now. There will be a few general guidelines for you to agree to in conjunction with the grant.”
“And just what are the guidelines and the questions you said you had? “Chief Sullivan asked wondering what the catch was.
“The money can only be used for training, equipment, station repairs. Not for any salary or administrative costs. And the plaque will be put up acknowledging the money was given in Roderick Gage’s memory.” She asked her question about size of the town, the area they served, the type of equipment they currently used. “Any questions?”
“No, just mail the paperwork to us and I’ll have our town lawyer look it over.” He did some quick calculating to figure out how much it would cost to get new tires for the engines. “Oh yeah, two questions…Can you give me your name and an estimate on how much money we’re talking about?”
“Leona Gage, Mrs. John Roderick Gage. The initial amount will be $50,000 with a minimum of $10,000 yearly after that. If you can get in touch with the clinic would you have them call me, please? Collect would be fine.” She gave him her home and work numbers.
“So the $50,000 will be split between us?” The Chief asked trying not to sound greedy.
“Oh no, there will be a separate but equal fund for Kathleen Gage.
Regardless what the narrow minded bigots of both races say and think, Johnny is a good man, his parents were good people who loved their son. And he loves them.”
“I didn’t know them well but when you saw Rod Gage with his family you knew they loved each other.”
“The papers will be in the mail in the next few days. “ She said good-bye and hung up. All the anger she thought she had under control came rushing back. She went out to the kitchen and began beating on the bread dough she had set out to rise earlier.
Johnny stood in the door way holding the picnic basket he had went out to the Rover to get. A look of total exasperation on his face.
“I gotta admit, Lee did teach you how to sit at a table. I haven’t seen you sitting on the back of that chair in awhile,” Chet teased.“Yep she may civilize you yet.”
Mike Stoker, on his way into the kitchen stopped, listening to Chet. Shaking his head as he leaned against the doorway, “Seems to me, I remember a direct order from Cap about that very same thing.
Something about if he ever caught John doing that again, especially with a knife in his hand John would have latrine duty for the rest of his career here at 51.” He went and got a cup of coffee. “Now you wouldn’t he trying to set John up so you’d be off the hook?”
“Yeah, he’s right Kelly, Cap did tell me that. Just ‘cause you have 3 more shifts of latrine duty don’t try to get me in trouble.” Johnny had been hoping everyone had forgotten that incident Mike was talking about. He finished peeling the potatoes and after slicing them started them to fry. He ignored Chet as he started the rest of the meal and then set the table while it was cooking. One by one the others wondered in as the smell of the onions, green peppers and tomato sauce simmering spread. He slipped loaves of homemade sour dough bread into the oven to warm.
“John that was a good meal.” Cap said as he finished the pineapple upside down cake Johnny had surprised everyone with for dessert.
Roy looked over at his friend grinning at the praise his friend’s cooking had gotten. Neither paramedic had much of a reputation as a cook. Marco and Mike were really good cooks and Cap made an awesome calm chowder. Chet was…Chet was creative. Johnny hadn’t really ever had anyone to teach him about cooking or even encourage him to learn until Lee. “Junior, you are a man of hidden talents.” Roy said contently. “Does that concoction have a name?”
“Lee calls it Spanish hot dogs.” Johnny. “Hector claims he invented the recipe.”
Dishes were done, the crew settled down for what they hoped was a nice peaceful evening. Of course, no one said it aloud, tempting fate. The cold drizzly rain had continued all day and the temperature had dropped to the low 40’s once the sun had went down. There wasn’t really anything on TV that he wanted to watch so Johnny decided to call Lee then go read. She answered on the third ring.
“I was hoping you’d call.” She said. “Did you have a good day?”
“Not bad. Idiots forget how to drive in the rain…but mostly minor stuff. How you doing?”
“Just being fat and sassy and lazy. I have gained 5 pounds since Christmas. I need to start swimming at least 3 times a week.” She smiled at his laughing. “I know you like me the way I am. Just remember that when you’re lifting me and your back starts hurting.”
“The guys liked dinner tonight and I didn’t tell anyone about the cake until it was time to eat. So there were no missing pieces.”
“That’s good. I love you my darlin’ boyo…” She had been thinking about what the fire chief from Lame Deer had said earlier. “I got the packets ready to mail to Montana. I haven’t talked to the doctors but I did to Collin Sullivan. I’m not real sure he believes we are really doing this.”
“Probably finds it hard to believe a crazy half breed… “He started then stopped at the sharp angry intake of air hissing in the receiver.
“So help me John Roderick, you are gonna get your mouth washed out with soap.” Half laughing, half-serious. “He did say his wife was always fond of you and thought you’d grow up to be a ladies’ man. And I told him to tell her you did and how proud I am to be your lady.”
The SCU woke Johnny and the others a little after five. Johnny groaned as he pulled his suspenders into place. The cold dampness that lay over the station matched his mood.
They followed the engine neither speaking. Roy concentrating on the wet surface, Johnny watching for motorist who weren’t paying attention.
A crew from the city’s water department had been sent out to a small older pumping station when alarms had sounded at the main station for the area. The heavy rains had sent an excessive amount of trash into the holding pond clogging the vents. The water had backed up and spilled into the building, shorting out an electrical motor. One worker had gone out to clear the debris. He tripped on an underwater branch and fell hitting his head. Luckily for him, he landed on top of another pile of branches and trash, keeping his face out of the murky water. His partner had called for help then went back into the building to shut down the electrical system. He could not reach the control box before the flames drove him back out. There were burns on his hands.
“Just relax; this is gonna help ease the burning.” He poured the sterile water over the man’s hands then draped the bandage lightly over it applying more water. He gathered the man’s vitals and asked about the pain level. He sat the biophone on his seat trying to protect it from the misty rain.
“Rampart this is Squad 51.”
“Go ahead 51,” Mike Morton responded.
“Rampart, we have 2 victims. The first is a male approximate age 40 with burns on his hands and lower arms. We have washed the burns with sterile water and applied protective covering. They appear to be first degree burns.” He gave the vital signs. “The pain level is 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.”
“Squad 51 transport as soon as possible.” Morton instructed. “What are the vitals for victim 2?”
“We have no vitals available at this time.”
“We’ll be standing by 51.”
Roy had the man swing his legs into the squad and once he was sure he was ok went over to help Johnny. The rain was starting to pick up again as was the wind.
Johnny had waded into the murky smelly water. The bottom of the pond was slimy making the footing difficult. The water department worker was twisted at an odd angle so Johnny had a good idea what part of the problem was. Once he had made his way to the pile of vines, brush and broken limbs Johnny felt the man’s pulse in his neck. The beat was steady. He felt the man‘s neck and upper back and arms. Nothing seemed to be broken or out of place as he ran a practiced hand over the body. The man began stirring under Johnny’s touch. The man pulled back frighten by the figure bending over him.
“Now just stay still…I’m a paramedic. I am gonna move over and see if I can get your foot out. What’s your name? Mine is John.”
“Chad Wilson. I think it’s broken.” The man’s pain filled voice was low. “Feels like all my weight is on the side.”
Balancing carefully Johnny squatted down and felt around the foot and ankle. He frowned when he felt the bone sticking up like a needle.
“What you got?” Roy asked as he came up to the men.
“The ankle is broken…splintered. The foot is caught in some roots and vines. We’re gonna have to cut it out.”
“Cut my foot off! NO WAY” Chad panicked and tried to turn away from the paramedic. While holding onto a branch one handed, the frighten man tried to shove the paramedic away.
“Now just calm down,” Johnny snapped at the man. “No one is gonna cut your foot off. We‘re going to cut the vines and roots holding your foot. Now, stop shoving me.” Johnny was trying to keep his balance. It was disgusting enough to have his legs in the dirty smelly water. “Roy we’re gonna have to use the hand saw. That foot and ankle are too swollen we would never get the jaws in position… I should be able to cut the roots and vines and we can move him…See if one of the guys can help hold him steady.” Johnny stood up and looked around. It wasn’t his imagination the water was rising. He went back over to Chad who had managed to calm down some. With a smile and a nod, Johnny got the vitals for Roy to call into Morton. As much as he could he began clearing the trash from around the swollen ankle.
“Cap, we’re going to need some help getting this guy out.” Roy explained what was going on and what they needed after he called in the vitals. Before going back to Johnny he stopped and checked on his patient sitting in the squad.
“Chet, you help Roy hold him steady…Marco can you hold this branch back…” Johnny told them w ith a sigh, he got down on his knees and began clearing away as much of the trash before he began using the small hand saw. The wood was wet and slippery and the smell was bad. Chad let out a scream as Johnny touched his leg just below the knee to steady it.
“Cap, see if Morton will ok some MS to deaden the pain…He is jerking too much.” Johnny said between clenched teeth. He was fighting the waves of nausea the smell was sending over him. Cap relayed the message and soon Roy had administered the shot.
Johnny worked as quickly as he could being careful not to get the saw too near the swollen flesh or put too much pressure on the area around the break. Once there was a cut in the root, Johnny pulled the cut apart. On the third pull the root snapped. Two things happened, the movement caused Chad to scream again before going limp and falling against Johnny. Johnny lost his balance and went backwards into the filthy water. Roy and Chet got a better hold on Chad’s body with some help from Marco.
The ambulance had arrived while they were getting Chad free so Roy splinted the ankle and they got him and his partner, Tom, into the ambulance. With two slaps on the door, Cap sent the ambulance off.
“You ok to drive, Pal?” Cap asked seeing the look on Johnny’s face and noticing the off color.
Before he could answer Johnny went paler and a shiver went thru him. Moving as fast as possible, Johnny went off by himself and threw up.
When he rejoined the others, Mike handed his a cloth and a bottle of water. Johnny smiled his thanks. He rinsed his mouth out several times before finally swallowing some of the water. He saved some to pour on the cloth and wiped his face off.
“You ok to drive, John?” Cap said looking closely at the wet filthy paramedic. His color was a little better but he was still shaky.
“Yeah, I think it was the smell and the jolt when I landed on my hip.”
“I can have Marco drive the squad?” Cap suggested.
“No need…you guys need to get back to the station and get some coffee and showers to warm up.”
Before getting into the squad Johnny covered the seat with several of the yellow sheets and threw one around his shoulders.
The ride into the hospital was uneventful. The ER was busy as several other squads had been called out on a MVAs about the same time. Most of the injuries were minor but still had added to the sheer number of patients.
Roy was at the nurses’ desk drinking a cup of coffee when Johnny came in. Carol wrinkled her nose at the smell. Roy raised his eyebrows at Johnny’s shrug. Several other nurses gave him rude looks and a few comments were heard.
“You need to get those hands checked out.” Roy said as he handed Johnny a cup of coffee. There were several scrapes and small cuts.
“They are ok. After I shower I’ll put some salve on them from the first aid kit.” Morton came out and gave Johnny a disgusted look.
“Gage, what did you land in?” He said.
“Just a bed of roses, Doc.” Johnny quipped.
“Get out of here and go get cleaned up.” Morton ordered not appreciating the attempt at humor from the stinking man.
As they walked out, Johnny turned to Roy and smiled. “You might want me to drive since the driver side is a mess.”
“Thanks for the warning.” Roy rolled his eyes at his partner. When they were in the squad Roy appreciated Johnny’s attempts to keep the seat clean and told him so. As they backed into the bay, “Go get in the shower while I clean the cab. Maybe we should have left it outside to air out.” Roy told his miserable looking partner.
“Couldn’t open the windows in the rain.” Johnny answered as he got out.
Before leaving the bay, Johnny slipped off his shoes and socks, grabbed some heavy duty trash bags to try to keep the stink from the wet clothing contained. As he was walking he could feel the scratches on his back burning. By the time I he had gotten lathered and washed his hair twice the hot water was pretty much gone. He felt bad since Roy probably wanted to shower too. However, it had taken two scrubbings to get rid of the smell. He was going to ask Roy to put some antibiotic salve on his back. He could feel the one scrape in particular stinging.
Just as he was tying his shoes, the SCU sounded. Grateful he had an extra pair there; he quickly went to the squad.
The run was for a woman who had fallen and hurt her hip. Roy rode into the hospital with her and Johnny followed keeping the windows open now that the rain had stopped. By the time Johnny had gotten there Roy was ready to go back to the station. As they were walking towards the door, Kel stopped them.
“Did you need to see me?” He asked frowning at Johnny. His arms across his chest, his eye brows raised he waited for Johnny’s answer.
“No. Why?” He really had no idea what Brackett was getting at.
“Why the limp? You’re favoring your left side…”
“Am I? I hadn’t noticed. Must be from where I landed on my hip earlier.”
“Is that where you got the scratches?”
“Yeah, it’s all good. I had a hot shower and I’ll get some aspirin when I get home.”
“Did you let anyone know you fell?”
“Nawh. Besides Morton was too anxious to kick me out for smelling up the place.”
“He landed hard then was throwing up,” Roy added his two cents. He had not been too happy to hear about the episode after he had left. Or the way the ER resident and nurses had treated Johnny.
“I smelled so bad it was making me sick to my stomach…I’m fine. I just want to get home and get some breakfast. Come on, the guys are waiting for their squad.” It was now 8:15.
Lee was drinking hot chocolate and reading the paper when Johnny got home. He thought she looked like a little girl with her hair tied back and wearing a flannel granny gown. He had bought the gown for her when they were in New York after Thanksgiving. It was a small blue, purple and pink flower print with lace around the collar and cuffs. She looked up from the paper as he got a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. He took a sip and made a face as if he tasted something bad.
Surprised he had not kissed her when he first came in like usual, she looked closely at him He seemed ok but his eyes did looked like he was working on a headache.
“Rough night, Boyo?” She asked softly. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“We got called out about five …It wasn’t a hard rescue but there was an awful smell …It made me sick to my stomach. I went back and got a shower then we had another call. They were easy…except for that smell. I showered and brushed my teeth but I still can taste it. Can you smell it?”
“No.” He had gone over to her and was squatting down next to her. She gently pushed the damp bangs away from his forehead. “Why don’t I fix you some tea and toast? Then you can take some aspirin and get a nap. Maybe when you wake up you will feel better. Did you let anyone at Rampart know you weren’t feeling good?”
“No. It is gonna be ok, honest.” He kissed her lightly. “You just sit there and I’ll get a glass of milk. I don’t think I want any toast right now.” He shook his head slightly. “Man I hate that feeling when you have water in your ear.” He stood up and went to the fridge.
“Poor darlin’. Drink your milk and go get some sleep.”
“What about your plans for the day?”
“My plans were to hang out with my favorite guy. I have some paper work I can do.” Johnny kissed her, went over, and got a glass of milk starting into the bedroom. “Boyo, sweet dreams.” He stopped and turned giving her one of his wonderful crooked grins.
“If they’re about you they’ll be good.” He blew her a kiss and gave her a wink.
Johnny woke up a little after 1:00, feeling better. That taste had faded from his mouth. He was a little stiff but not aching like earlier. And he was hungry. He got up smiling at the sweat pants and shirt laying on the dresser. They were still warm from the dryer. Maybe that was what had woken him, her coming in with the warm clothes. That and the smell of bread baking.
Lee was curled up on the couch reading when he came into the front room. He stood there looking at her before going over to her. Bending down he kissed her. She giggled.
“What’s so funny?” He sat down on the floor, Indian style, so he was facing her. Without a word, he gently repositioned her left leg. “Are you supposed to be sitting like that?” Arching his eye brows and pursing his lips he began massaging her calf.
“Probably not but it’s comfortable for the time being. You taste like the toothpaste commercial that was just on…Minty fresh and inviting to be near,” She reached out to him. “If you let me up I’ll fix you something to eat. Want breakfast or lunch?”
“Either one sounds good. You’ve been busy, the bread smells good.” He ignored her hand and kept working on her calf. He could still feel the knotted muscle.
“That is sour dough baking now. The garlic cheese bread is ready to eat.”
“Does that mean you made French onion soup?” He smiled as the knot dissolved underneath his probing fingers. He stood up easily unfolding his lanky frame. He moved the chair over so she could transfer.
“Yep and chicken salad. Yesterday I made apple walnut cake with caramel icing, put some rolls in the freezer to make pecan sticky buns with and some regular dinner rolls. This morning I did the breads.”
“Ok, what were you upset about?”
“I just had a lot of energy…” She turned her chair towards the kitchen. “You never answered me, breakfast or lunch?”
“Whatever you want to cook is fine. Or I can take you some place.”
“You just get in your recliner and rest.”
Twenty minutes later, she went back into the front room. Johnny was asleep in the chair. She went over and softly touched his hand. “Your lunch is ready.”
“Smells good.” He pushed her out to the table. “Looks as good as it smells.” There was the soup and homemade bread, a platter of fruit, chicken salad, tomatoes and lettuce and cheeses. While they were having dessert. “OK, now tell me what you had so frustrated. And don’t say nothing.”
“Just a lot of things…Stupid people who ask for money for stupid reasons, people who don’t read directions or expect you to know what they mean when they can’t write a coherent sentence. Then act like you were the one who did something wrong.”
“Sounds like some of the runs we have been on lately.” He smiled at her. “And?” Knowing there was more and having a good idea, what it was.
“People who don’t return phone calls even when you tell them it’s important. I want to get these grants for your parents set up so they can start helping the people you wanted to help. From what I have been able to find out the doctors at the clinic are over worked, under paid and could use a bigger building and updating on what they have.
“Is Dr. Handly still there?” Johnny asked softly. When she saw the sadness in his eyes she was sorry she had even brought the subject up. She also noticed he was rubbing his ear again.
“Yes. He and Sean Carlton are listed with a county health nurse available occasionally. Maybe with the grant they can hire a part time nurse or a physician assistant.”
“You’ve spent a lot of time on this, more of your time than we thought it would be.”
“I know how much this means to you. That makes it a priority. Maybe I should go ahead and send the papers without talking to the doctors at the clinic. I mean, it’s not like the grant isn’t going to get approved…”
“Not really more like sinus pressure. Anything you want to do today?”
“Just hang out with you. I checked in at the office with Nell and everything is fine. Tomorrow I may run over for a little bit if that’s ok with you?”
“How often is anything you do, not ok with me?’ He laughed and went over and kissed her. “ How about tomorrow we plan on going to your office then out to lunch and a early movie?”
“It’s a date. You, my love, need to go relax while I clear the table and load the dish washer. Then I am gonna settle down and finish my book…so I can start the next one.”
“I’ll put some music on to read by…any request?”
“Nope just whatever you want.” She smiled at him glad to see he was looking more relaxed.
A half hour later, he stood up. “You mind if I go down to the dark room? I want to develop that film I took last week. I’ll turn the intercom on, ok?”
“Sure. If you happen to see it will you make me 2 copies of the picture of Stacy and Jen on their skis? Kathy and Jo both wanted extra copies.”
“Sure. We need to do that again before the season is over. Chris and Jimmy were really getting good.” Roy and Jim and Kathy had went out on the beginners trail with the boys while Johnny and Jo had stayed with the girls on the bunny hill. Lee had been out with them for awhile before going back into the lodge’s glass enclosed observation deck. The week end had been part of Johnny and Lee’s Christmas present to their family.
“Yes, I’m trying to reach Mrs. Gage.
“This is Mrs. Gage.” She did not recognize the voice.
“My name is Steve Handly. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I spoke with Collin Sullivan. He said you had some very definite ideas about what we could use the money for.”
“I’m glad you called, Doctor. We have some guidelines but they are very flexible. Of course, you and Dr. Carlton have different needs than Chief Sullivan. May I ask how much he told you?”
“That your husband was giving the fire department a substantial amount of money for improvement of equipment and training. That the only thing it couldn’t be use for was salaries and administrative cost.”
“In your case, we may need to rethink that. If it would be more acceptable to tribal leaders and the women on the reservation, money could be used to hire a nurse or female physician assistant for OB-GYN care.” She had talked with Johnny about this and he liked the idea.
“What would you like, Mrs. Gage?” Dr. Handly was curious about her. She sounded very professional yet so detached. It was as if she had no emotional attachment to the project she was talking about.
Yet, Collin, had said she sounded so in love with John when they talked.
“I want whatever makes Johnny happy. As I told Chief Sullivan, Johnny does have some good memories about Lame Deer. He has good memories about his parents. He loved them very much, he still does. If I was telling you and Dr. Carlton how to spend the money the first priority would be the children. Seeing that they had the medicines, food, clothing and shelter they needed to be healthy and SAFE. Perhaps there could be additional money provided for education and training for single mothers especially.” Lee had formed an instant dislike to this man. As she heard his voice, she was seeing the hurt in Johnny’s eyes as he talked about Lame Deer. This man was a doctor for God’s sake, why hadn’t he had done something to protect a child? He had seen the broken bones, the bruises, the emotional and physical abuse and done nothing.
“Do you and John have children?” The doctor inquired.
“No.” Lee answered sharply. “There are a few questions I need to ask for the paper work. She asked the questions. “Do you have any questions?”
“Is the reason you and John don’t have children his Asperger’s?” Steve Handly wanted to know how much this young woman knew about her husband. More important, he wanted to know how accepting she was of him and the events of his childhood.
“No. The papers will be in the mail in the morning.” The iciness in her voice left no doubt the conversation was over as far as Lee was concerned.
Lee filled out the papers and looked at them. With a sigh, she called a messenger service, making arrangements for them to come pick up the papers and send them off at once. She wanted them out of their house now. She wanted this over and done with and never have to hear about that place again. She wanted to erase all the bad memories from Johnny’s mind and heart. Even as she was having her own private Gage rant she knew it was totally unrealistic but didn’t care. When Johnny came up from the dark room she was in the kitchen pounding chicken breasts into flat rounds. He sat backwards on a kitchen chair. His arms folded across the chair back, his chin resting on his folded arms.
“What did that poor chicken ever do to you? And those onions must have been really strong, I can still see the tear stains on your face.” There was a dish of chopped onions and green peppers sitting on the counter. “Talk to me.”
“I’m making dinner…And then we are going to watch television and make plans for tomorrow.”
“What are you so upset about? Did I spend too much time down there and mess up your plans?”
“No. I am just frustrated, I sent the packets off to the people in Lame Deer. It is so wrong! It feels so wrong and disrespectful to you and your parents. It is as if you are rewarding them for being bigots. Oh yeah his uncle beat him so bad it broke bones and gave him nightmares for 15 years…Yeah you deserve $50,000 for being such wonderful caring doctors. You put a cast on him and sent him back into hell. Oh yeah, you let him hang around your fire station. Let him help polish the trucks, knowing he was going to get a beating for hanging around with white men. You deserve a gold star and lots of money for being such humanitarians there at your fire station. I hate them! I HATE ALL OF THEM!” She slammed the meat mallet down on the chicken.
“You don’t ever hate anyone on my account, understand? Hate is ugly and destroys whatever it touches. I don’t want you to ever feel that ugliness when you think about me for any reason. If you do not want to do this …it is ok. That is an awful lot of money to be giving away.” His voice was firm but gentle.
“No, that isn’t the point…we have the money and we need to do something in your parent’s memory. But you don’t have anything to prove to that bunch of bigots.”
“Do you hate my cousins?”
“No, they aren’t worth the energy it would take to think about them.” Lee answered.
“Do you hate my aunt Rosemary?”
“No, she’s a nice lady…you know I don’t hate her. I’m grateful she did what she could to make your life better when she found out about how you were being treated.”
“Well there were some people in Lame Deer who did what they could for me. This money is given to remind people in that town that my parents loved one another. That they loved their son. And that me and you are proud of that love they shared. That they had every right to be in love and their love is part of the love we share.”
“How did you get so smart?” Lee said ashamed of her outburst because it had caused Johnny hurt and unhappiness.
“I had a good teacher. Roy taught me it was ok to trust other people that, basically they are good. Not to let the ones who are idiots and bigots to destroy the ability to love and trust others. Roy taught me it was ok to open your heart and emotions aren’t something to hide from in fear. And a few times he taught me that friends don’t always agree and that sometimes things happen to test that friendship and trust. But it’s worth it and not to let the haters win.”
“He had a wise pupil who listened and learned well.” She giggled.
“Put it in the freezer and use it the next time you make chicken soup.”
“You feel warm…are you ok?” Her hand was on his cheek.
“I have about half a headache and my ear is stuffy. I took some allergy pills for it.”
“Allergy pills aren’t going to help an ear ache, are they?” She questioned.
“It’s like a sinus pressure builds up. Since you have the veggies all chopped why don’t you call and order a pizza and make us a salad to go with it?”
“That’s a good idea. That movie Cisco was telling us about is on tonight…Breaker Breaker…some of his martial arts buddies worked on it…Said it’s just the kind of movie you watch when you don’t want to think about what you’re watching.”
Two days later, Johnny and Lee got up had breakfast then both left for work. Lee asked about his ear and he said it was fine but she noticed he slipped the allergy pills in his coat pocket.
Cap went over the day’s assignments and plans and announcements. Johnny had to concentrate on what he was saying more than usual.
“Earth to John,” Roy said as he put the cases back in the squad. “You asleep or deaf this morning?”
Still no response so he went over to him., putting his hand on his partner’s shoulder. “Are you ignoring me for a reason or just on general principle?”
“Hum? What?” Johnny said startled by his friend’s touch.
“I asked you the same question three times. Did you check the O2 bottles yet?”
“Sorry, I must have been day dreaming. Yeah they’re fine.”
“So, what or rather who were you thinking about?” Roy inquired sure, he knew the answer.
“Lee…She got all the paper work sent out to Lame Deer. She’s still upset about me going there by myself. She’s afraid that things haven’t changed that much since I left there.”
“Then don’t go alone. We were planning a fishing trip once the weather got good. So instead, I and you go to Montana. The money you would have spent on her ticket you can spend on mine.” Roy usually did not let Johnny pay when the couples did things together. However, like Lee, he did not think it was a good idea for him to go to Montana alone. “You told me you knew some good fishing places there.”
“Yeah, that could work.” Johnny smiled at the possible solution. They finished up there and went on to their assigned chores. As the morning wore on Johnny’s headache worsened and his ear went from a dull ache to a sharp pain when he moved his head too quickly. And it was getting harder to hear clearly. Like the sound was being muffled by a wad of cotton. If it got worst, he would ask Cap to get a replacement.
They were doing ladder drills after lunch. Cap was timing how fast they set the ladder up and then climbed to the top.
“John, move it…” Cap said concerned about how slowly his usually hyper paramedic was responding to his orders. “Get up the ladder and retrieve the victim.” In this case, a rag doll.
“Gage, you deaf or something?” Roy looked up at the irate Chet Kelly, hearing his words from earlier being echoed. Finally, Johnny began going up the ladder.
Roy quickly moved at the soft-spoken plea. He was up the ladder before the others realized what was happening. “I’ve got you, Junior.” He put his hand over Johnny’s white knuckles. He felt Johnny’s body stiffen then relax as he understood. Roy was there, he was safe. He leaned back resting into the safety of his friend’s touch. “Let me guide you.”
“Marco, get the trauma box and biophone.” Cap ordered. “Chet get a blanket on the floor.” Cap made his way over to the radio. “Dispatch, this is station 51. We have a Code I here at the station. We need an ambulance. Also, Squad 51 is stood down until we receive a replacement paramedic.”
“The ambulance has been dispatched, 51 and will relay request for replacement paramedic.”
“Thanks Pally. Don’t feel very good.” Johnny said after they laid him on a yellow blanket. “Dizzy and have a temperature….” Johnny said keeping his eyes closed hoping the room would stop spinning. “Ear hurts badly.”
“Rampart, this is County 51.” Roy said as he nodded thanks to Marco for the towel which he put on Johnny’s forehead.
“Go ahead 51.” An unfamiliar voice responded.
“We have a 27 year old male who is experiencing dizziness, has a 104.2 temperature. He is in complaining of severe pain in his left ear. Be advised the patient is John Gage.” Roy gave the information in a precise, professional manner.
“51 begin cooling measures.” Dr. Kelly Brackett said with a shake of his head.
“We have …Vitals are….BP 147/ 95, pulse is 115 and respirations are 24. Victim was assisted off a ladder when dizziness made it difficult for him to move on his own.”
“Did he lose consciousness, 51?” Kel questioned. “Start Oxygen at 6 liters and an IV of normal saline.”
“No, Rampart he didn’t. He is awake but lethargic.” Everyone froze at the cry of pain that filled the bay when Roy touched the area near his ear. Roy had pushed very slightly as he wiped the sweat off
“Transport soon as possible, 51.” Kel and Dixie had heard the cry of pain also.
Kel was waiting for Johnny and Roy in treatment room 3. The dark haired doctor was frowning as he wondered what bug Johnny had picked up. Since a drunk hit and run driver had cost Johnny his spleen, his immune system had been compromised.
Johnny held onto Roy’s hand as the ambulance made its way to Rampart. Each bump in the road sent the pain level higher.
“If … stroke…doesn’t … no… machine… Lee… love her…yo…Jo…kids…donnat wannta… die…so..rry…He..ad…’pl…ode…” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
Nell wasn’t working so Lee switched her answering machine on. She stopped to talk with her friend Lois then went on down to her car. As she was driving to HQ she wondered if she should have left word with someone where she was going. After the meeting she decided not to go back to the hospital but over to WBS and do some foundation work. Something besides the Lame Deer grants. She did feel bad about the hurt look on Johnny’s face at her outbursts.
Tomorrow she would make it up to him. She hoped the ear ache wasn’t the start of something more serious. If it was still bothering, him in the morning they would go see Kel. She suddenly decided she wanted to get the agenda and minutes typed up for the next advisory board meeting. It seemed really important to her to change her plans and go back to the hospital.
Lee pulled into her parking spot just as an ambulance was unloading. She saw Roy and smiled. Maybe she would have a chance to see Johnny and check on how he was feeling. She waited till the ambulance was gone before getting out of the car. She went in and decided not to go up to her office but wait to see Johnny. The ER was busy so she went over in a corner so not to be in the way. Betty saw her and waved her over to the desk. . Lee wheeled over as quickly as she could.
“They called your office.” The nurse told her. “A several times. Admitting needs to see you.”
“Johnny? Where is he? I need to be with him.” She looked towards the treatment rooms.
“The doctor is with him. You’ll have to wait for him to come out, you know you aren’t allowed in the treatment room.”
“Roy, did he tell you when this ear started bothering him?” Johnny was still restless but the strong pain medicine was finally allowing them to touch his face. Dr. Brackett said as he picked up the otoscope.
“No, but, I haven’t talked to him since last shift. He didn’t say anything then.”
As soon as he felt, someone touching his head Johnny tried to turn away. The pain was still there even if it wasn’t as bad. If they touched his ear, it would get bad again. His head would explode if the pain started again.
“Roy, hold his head still and talk to him,” a frustrated Dr. Brackett said. “With as much pain meds we gave him, he should be out.”
“Not to me. Just said his ear felt like it was stuffed full of cotton, only because I asked him about the allergy pills I saw him taking.”
“Look at this mess…”Kel moved and handed the otoscope to Roy. “He is going to spend a night or two here so we can get some antibiotics into his system.” They started the IV TKO. “Nurse, will you see if Lee is out there yet?”
“Lee?” The new nurse was nervous enough and now to be asked to get someone, when she had no idea who he meant…
“I’ll go. Don’t think Nurse Connolly has met Lee yet.” Roy went out to the waiting area. He had seen the look of fear on the young nurse’s face. He had seen it on others the first time they had worked with the no nonsense heard of the ER.
“Roy, is he hurt bad?” Lee said assuming he had been hurt on a run. “What happen? Can I see him?”
“He’s sick…a really high fever from an ear infection.” He was squatting in front of her so he could look her in the eye. “They are going to admit him so they can give him the antibiotics through his IV. He is pretty out of it with the fever being so high.”
“I told him that the allergy pills wouldn’t help an earache. He kept saying it didn’t hurt, it was just stuffy. Why didn’t he tell me?”
“He probably didn’t realize how bad it was. When did this all start?”
“After the last shift…He complained about having water in his ear. Then he said it was feeling like it was full of cotton. He complained of a headache more, said it was like sinus pressure... I should have made…”
“Ok, now stop…You know and I know how hard headed he is…Once they get the fever down and the antibiotics start working he’ll be ok.”
“Tell him I ‘m here and that I love him.” She gave him a weak smile. “Tell him I’ll see him soon as they let me.”
“On the way in he gave me a message for you. He loves you.” He saw no need to tell her Johnny had thought he was stroking out when he said it.
Roy went back into the treatment room. “He has been complaining about it feeling like he had water in it and being stuffy. Do you think he got water in it the other morning when he slipped in that holding pond? His head didn’t get in the water but he made a pretty good sized splash.”
Kel questioned. “That was the morning he was limping? Did he say anything about his ear?”
“No I think he was pretty embarrasses about how he was smelling. There were some comments made and looks…I wanted him to let Dr. Morton look at the cuts on his hand but he wouldn’t stay…said he just wanted to get a shower. After his shower we used the antibiotic cream that was in the first aid kit at the station.”
Johnny opened his eyes at the sound of Roy’s voice. “Pally.” Then closed them again. The meds were making it hard for him to stay awake.
“I am going to have to lance that ear. I want to get a good dose of antibiotics in him first. Lee can come in and visit for a while. I want him to stay as still as possible.”
“Doc, on the way in, he …He thought he was having a stroke…Could he have had a small one? His blood pressure was higher than I ever remember . Even when he was sick other times.” They usually had the opposite problem with him, his blood pressure dropping too low. The worried blue eyes never moved from his kid brother’s face.
“I would guess it was the pressure on the ear drum making him feel like that. But once the fevers and blood pressure is down we’ll check on that. Honestly, I don’t think that is a problem.”
Roy went out and brought her into the treatment room then excused himself to go make phone calls.
“This is my fault, I should have made him come see you.” Lee told the doctor as she gently laid her hand on Johnny’s arm.
“Lee, John is an adult. He is responsible for his actions. He is getting some general antibiotics right now. I am not even going to try to swab that ear until he is under anesthetic. Then we’ll lance and clean out his ear drum as much as possible. The lab can tell us more once they get a culture. We’ll be keeping him over night at least. I’m going to let you stay with him for about 15 minutes. We’ve given him some pretty heavy duty pain meds…I want to give the antibiotics and the meds to bring his blood pressure down time to work. His temp is down to 101.7 and his blood pressure is down. Call the nurse if there is any problem.” He left.
“I’m here Boyo, you aren’t alone.” Lee told the sleeping man. “I promised you that you would never face another illness or injury alone…Just like Roy promised you before me. Ah, darling, why didn’t you let me know bad you were feeling? Was it all the talk about Lame Deer? Did it bring up too many of the old fears? Were you afraid of being a burden if you were sick?” She remembered him telling her about his aunt’s slapping him hard in the face because they had to spend money on the doctor for him one of the times he had been ill.
Nurse Connolly came in and took his temp and checked his blood pressure and the IV. She didn’t say a word as she went about her business. After she finished, she smiled at Lee. “The fever is down another degree and his blood pressure is better. Dr. Brackett will be back in soon.”
“Thank you.” Lee said returning the smile.
“Station 51, Captain Stanley, speaking.”
“Cap, its Roy. They’re keeping him overnight. He has a severe ear infection. They have him on heavy-duty antibiotics and are going to have to give him an anesthetic to lance the ear. Lee’s with him now. Have you heard about John’s replacement?”
“Gill Rogers will be leaving here in a minute or two to pick you up.” Cap was glad to get news on John’s condition. “ Thought he was over hiding it when he was sick or hurt?
“I don’t think he realized it was so bad till the fever spiked.”
“My boyo, why didn’t you tell me you were feeling so bad? I should have made you come see Kel or Joe instead of just taking the allergy pills. Forgive me for not seeing how bad it was.”
“Not your fault,” he said weakly. She jumped at the sound of his voice She thought he was asleep.”Don’t cry.” He winced as he moved his head.
“Is the pain bad? Do I need to call a nurse?”
“No, don’t hurt much…What Doc say?”
“You have a very bad infected ear canal…he is going to lance it and then you are spending the night here so you can keep the IV in for another round of antibiotics.”
“Wanna go home don’t hurt much.” He pouted. “Get pills…go home.”
“No arguing, Boyo. Your temp spiked dangerously high…You need to get that medicine in your system as fast as possible.” She could almost laugh, he looked like a little boy pouting. “You’ll get the medicine and you’ll behave. Then when Kel says you can come home I’ll fix you all your favorite meals and spoil you to my heart’s content.”
“That sounds like a pretty fair trade off.” Kelly Brackett said as he stood in the door. Neither Lee nor Johnny had noticed him coming in.
“Don’t hurt now. Go home now.” Johnny argued sleepily.
“Behave yourself, John Roderick. I’ll see you soon as Kel will let me.”
“This shouldn’t take long but then it’s Johnny we’re dealing with. He likes to keep us guessing what he’ll do next.”
“Kel, I’m going up to my office…Call me when I can see him.” She looked at him. “Please help me stand up.” Kel went over and helped her get her balance. She leaned over and very gently kissed him on his forehead. “I love you my Boyo.” Kel helped her sit down and opened the door for her to leave.
“Kel, you’re sure he will be ok?”
Lee watched from the side as they wheeled him to the elevator. “God be watching you over you all.”
She went up to her office and tried to get some work done. Then giving that up she wrote a long letter to Matt then started one to Jeff. Matt’s was full news and tidbits about how her work at the office and WBSF was going and about the grants being set up in honor of Roderick and Kathleen Gage. She didn’t mention the fears she had nor the arguments that she and Johnny had over his going there alone. She wrote about the fun times with their Station 51 family and Jim and Kathy, news about the Alvarez family. Jeff’s letter was different. She was more open with him.
I did something so terrible I can’t tell you in
a part of what makes Johnny so special, his loving and
Take care and stay safe. Love always,
The nurse assigned to Johnny in recovery smiled as she went by his cubical. The restless patient who had been pulling at his IV as he was waking up had calmed down soon as his wife started talking to him. His vitals were better and she was confident he would soon wake up.
“Well, it’s about time you woke up, sleepy head. They need this bed.” She teased as he looked around. As he became more alert, he watched her closely.
“You k?” He whispered. His throat and mouth were dry and had a metallic taste. “Water now?”
“”I’ll ask the nurse” Lee wheeled over to the nurses’ desk. “Excuse me, my husband is awake and asking for a drink.” The nurse had been doing some charting.
“The lab reports won’t be in until tomorrow but I think we can say there is at least 3 different bacteria growing in that ear. Why didn’t you say something about getting water in your ear the other night?” Kel said after taking a new set of vitals.
“I don’t think I even noticed it…The smell was pretty strong, I threw up then we went back to the station . I showered a long hot one to get rid of the smell then we had a run. That is when I saw you…”
“Dr. Morton didn’t check on the scratches or cuts you had on your hands? Were limping when you got to the ER the first time?”
“No…and I never even noticed I was limping till you said something.”
“I see…No problem with any of the scratches or cuts being infected?”
“No, the one on my back itched some but Lee kept putting antibiotic cream on it.”
“Let me see it.” Johnny moved so Kel could look at his hip. The sudden movement made him dizzy.
Kel frowned at the sound he made. “You never mentioned a sore throat….Do you have one now?”
“It’s just dry and I still have that funny metallic taste.”
“Kel, can, he have some sherbet or a milkshake? He hasn’t had anything since breakfast, Roy said he didn’t eat much lunch.”
“I think that would be ok. No nausea or any severe dizziness?” He checked, knowing Johnny’s usual reaction to anesthetic.
“Nope. Just that metallic taste. Are you sure I have to stay here tonight?”
“Yes I want to keep you on the IV till in the morning. Your temperature is down for now. Your blood pressure is still a little high for you but it’s in the normal range. I just want to make sure we have a good handle on this. “
“Doc, will you tell this crazy lady I’m married to that she doesn’t have to stay here with me. I am probably just gonna sleep especially after I get the next pain meds.” He was holding her hand. “She has this notion I have to have someone with me all the time when I’m in here.”
“Maybe because she has seen some of the nightmares you have, mijo.” Cisco said as he strolled into the room. “Little sister, if you need me later call the station. I need to get back there.” He gave her a kiss on the forehead and shook his head at Johnny before giving his shoulder a squeeze.
“How did you know we were here?”
“Dixie, I guess she thought I was here to see you.” Cisco said as he pulled his long salt and pepper hair into a ponytail.
“Why were you here?” Johnny asked. “You ok?”
“Yeah I brought a punk in that thought he could make a few bucks stealing an old lady’s purse. They had to set his broken wrist. Stupid punk thought he could scare me with a switchblade. A patrol unit just took him to the jail.”
“Did you have grandda Michael’s Arkansas tooth pick?” Lee asked with a giggle.
“Yes ma’am I did. Like I said I have to get back and do some paper work. Call if you need me.” He started to leave but stopped when Kel asked a question.
“This may sound like a silly question who is Michael and what’s an Arkansas toothpick?” Kel asked.
“Ma’s dad who was a Texas Ranger. He gave me his Bowie knife the day I graduated from the police academy and began working under cover. Grandda always claimed it was his grandda’s and been made about 1850. Some people say the Bowie and Arkansas tooth pick aren’t the same thing but grandda said they were kin. Grandda taught me and Lee how to shoot and how to throw a knife. Jeff and Ma wouldn’t let her learn how to fight with a knife. I’m the only one of the boys that wanted to learn all that. You were what about 10 when you learned to shoot?”
“Because Cisco did it you wanted to do it too. “ Johnny said looking at Lee in surprise.
“Yep. I started learning martial arts when I was 13. Cisco thought it would be good if I was going to be on campus at UCLA.”
“You never told me that.” Johnny said. “You learned to shoot and do kung fu?”
“You never asked.” She smiled a little sadly. “I keep telling people my youth was misspent hanging around private detectives and cops.”
“You have had a very interesting upbringing.” Kel said shaking his head and laughing.
“Hey, that’s why I’m never boring, right Boyo?” She gave Johnny that look she reserved just for him.
“And now in your old age you’re hanging around with a hose jockey who didn’t have sense enough not to fall in love with a hell cat.” Cisco chuckled. “I’d bet even out of practice she could still out shoot some of the cops I know.”
“Get out of here before you tell all my secrets, “ Lee told him. A little worried what Johnny would think about what he had just learned.
“Maybe next time that Chester B starts ragging on you I should mention the fact you’re a crack shot.”
“I think he has learned his lesson, at least when you’re around. I think watching you do that exhibition at the community center gave him some things to think about.” Lee was smiling but she knew Cisco really wasn’t an fan of Chet and his so called humor.
“Nawh, his kind never learn unless it’s the hard way.” Kel and Cisco left the room after Kel said he was ordering something to help Johnny sleep be added to the IV about 8:00.
A little after 7 Roy came up to Johnny’s room. He was sitting up reading. Lee was writing using the bed tray as a desk.
“You two look comfortable.” Roy was glad to see his friend looking so much better.
“I feel good, they should have let me go home.” Johnny stated.
“Boyo, don’t go there…You needed the IV’s with the antibiotics in them.
“Wish I had time to be bored.” Roy joked. “We no sooner got done with one call before we get another. So what did Kel say?”
“It seems as if Johnny is a walking incubator for bacteria. Three that they have named so far…the other cultures are still growing. But unless something happens over night he can go home in the morning. Then probably a week of keeping me company.”
“Think you can survive that?” Roy teased.
“The question is can he.” She chuckled. “Cisco was filling him in on my less than savory past. Good thing he waited till after we were married or John Roderick might have changed his mind.”
“Not a chance of that happening, Baby girl. You need to be thinking about going home.”
“I don’t understand why you are trying to get rid of me. Thought you liked having me around.” Only half pretending to pout.
“You know I do. But you need to get home, get something to eat and out of that chair. And weren’t you planning on swimming today?”
“I can swim any time…I want to be with you.”
“Go home and get some rest…I think Doc is planning on giving me something to make me sleep remember?”
“I know I just want to stay as long as I can,” she answered.
“Go home and call me so I know you’re ok…Then I can sleep. In the morning you can bring me some clothes and we’ll be together. Honestly, I’ll rest better knowing you’re home safe.”
“Ok. I am going home…but you better behave. Remember I love you and will be thinking of you. So you really won’t be alone.”
“I will.” She gave him a kiss and left. Roy left a few minutes later.
“A wise man told me it’s good to know you can do it alone. It’s even better to know how and when to ask for help and accept it when it’s offered.” Johnny had told her. That was one of first times she really realized how much Roy and Jo had taught him and how important they were in his life. Not just friends but surrogate parents and family.
This was before she knew about the other problems and the therapy sessions and a lot of the history between the two. She waited until 7 then she left for the hospital. She went up to her office got some coffee to go with his snack , left a note for Nell then went down to the third floor. Susan Boyd was on the desk along with a new nurse.
“Susan, do you know if he is awake?” Lee asked .
“He was at bout 10 minutes ago. Reading and complaining about being hungry. He had a good night.”
“That’s good. I’d hate to think what kind of mood he’d be in if he had to stay in here another night.
He was ready to go home yesterday evening.”
“I didn’t think patients were allowed visitors before 10.” the new nurse looked confused.
“They usually don’t but Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early always say she can go in any time. So can Roy DeSoto . And yes she usually takes him food.” Susan laughed. “It’s just one of the perks she gets around here. You couldn’t have a better friend or a worst enemy than Lee.”
Johnny watching TV when Lee went in. He smiled at her .”Hey, Beautiful, what are you doing here so early? Kel won’t be in until after 8.”
“I was up and had my housework done so I thought I’d bring you some breakfast. Well, at least a snack. An egg sandwich made on some soda bread. Lightly toasted. Besides, I missed you.”
“An angel of mercy as well as beautiful.” He took the sandwich . “Roy called a few minutes ago. He said to call him if you think you’ll need any help getting me home.”
“Are you having any problems with being dizzy? That is the only problem I could see. And I know you will be honest with me about that.”
“As long as I don’t move my head around a lot I am fine. I got up too fast earlier and got a little dizzy…but I know better now. Yesterday the pain and the dizziness was really bad, I won’t lie to you about that. But once they cleaned the ear canal out and the meds knocked the fever down I felt fine.
Like I do right now. We’ll go home and I’ll just lay around and let you wait on me and until you get tired of me being underfoot.”
“That will never happen, my darlin’ Boyo.” She answered him.
“Not that time but the first two times. Between the IV and all the water I was drinking to get rid of that taste…It wasn’t bad enough I was gonna fall or anything, honest.” Sorry he had said anything about it, she looked so worried. “I promise I will be more careful and knowing you, you’ll be keeping a very close eye on me.”
“Maybe we should have Roy meet us at the apartment or Cisco.’’
“If that makes you feel better.” Johnny was surprised that Miss Independent was suggesting she get help.
“It doesn’t but your safety is more important than my pride,” she answered. She reached for the phone and dialed the station.
“Station 51, Cap. Stanley speaking.”
“Hi, Hank. Could I talk to Roy?”
“Sure hold on.” She heard him call for Roy. “How’s John this morning?”
“He says he is feeling good. His color is better and he is eating…I brought him breakfast.”
“Here’s Roy. You call if you need anything, understand?” Hank said using his fatherly tone.
“I will. Give my love to Emily and tell all the guys we said hi.”
“I will.” He handed the phone over to Roy. “Hi. Johnny said you offered to help get him home.”
“Yeah. He said he thought Doc was going to release him pretty early this morning.”
“Hopefully. Would it work for you if I called your house when we were ready to leave here and you meet us over at the apartment? Or I can call Cisco. He said he got a little dizzy this morning when he was up and I just think maybe it would be a good idea if someone was there when I get to the apartment.”
“No problem…Call when you’re ready to leave. I’ll stick around here a while…if you haven’t called by 8:30 I’ll go on home or swing by there.”
It was 8:05 when Kel came into the room. Johnny was sitting on the side of the bed looking very impatient.
“If I didn’t know better I’d say you didn’t like my company.” Kel joked as he checked the chart. Let me have a look at that ear.”
‘Doc, you’re welcome to the apartment any time, I‘d much rather offer you my hospitality than accept yours here.” Johnny answered with a grin.
“It still is inflamed and pock marked. I want you to go home and rest, take the antibiotics and pain meds. No swimming, when you shower make sure you’ve put some packing in to keep the water out. No climbing, lifting and keep the bending over to minimum. If the pain gets worst or the fever spikes get back in here. You may notice a slight sore throat but it shouldn’t be too bad. You may still have some dizziness and some problem hearing but that should clear up by the end of the week. Let Lee do the driving for the next week. I want to see you in here a week from today and we’ll talk about when you can go back to work.”
“He will be a perfect angel. Won’t you Boyo?” Lee challenged him.
“Sure whatever you say Doc. She is worst than Roy when it comes to me following your rules.” He grumbled.
“Did I hear my name mentioned?” Roy said as he came through the door.
“Yeah that Lee is even a tougher nurse than you are.”
“Why don’t you get dressed and then Roy can bring you down and Dixie‘ll give you the papers and the meds .”
“And while Roy helps you get dressed I am going to run up to my office. Meet you downstairs.”
An hour later they pulled into the parking lot. Johnny had kept his eyes closed most of the way home. He had sat there quietly while Lee got her chair from its place behind her seat and transferred into it. He was wondering about the walk up to the front door.
“Lee, why don’t you let Junior push you. You keep your head up and look straight ahead, not down.” Roy instructed. He had noticed that Johnny‘s color was a little on the pale side and he wobbled slightly getting out of the car. The ride up to the apartment was horrible for Johnny. Roy helped him get settled and stayed with him while Lee went down to the storage area and brought up several bottles of 7UP and ginger ale.
She was getting Johnny a glass of soda when Roy came out to the kitchen. “I can stay here for awhile if you need me.”
“No, we should be okay…Roy, do you think he should have stayed in the hospital another day?”
“If Brackett hadn’t thought he’d be ok he would never have let him come home.” They took the 7UP into Johnny.
“Feeling any better?” Lee watched him closely after he drank the soda.
“Yeah it was just all that traffic and then the elevator”
“You need to get home. Jo’ll be worried, and you need to eat and get some sleep.” He looked over towards the kitchen where Lee was putting dishes away and puttering around. “Besides, if I don’t do what Doc told me it’ll make this harder on her.”
“Why didn’t you ever use that logic when I was taking care of you?”
“You’re cute but not as cute as she is. Plus I was young and foolish then.” He laughed but then got really serious. “Roy, you and Jo , knew then and know now how much I appreciated you all caring about me, right?”
“Sure we knew. You always made sure of that…And now you both do.”
Lee came into the room with a basket. “Here is some rolls and brownies I made for you all. Tell Jo I thank her for loaning you to me this morning. Now, go home and relax. We’ll be fine.”
Johnny was in bed watching her get ready for bed. “That was a quick shower.”
“Doesn’t take long when I don’t wash my hair. You know, maybe when you take your shower tomorrow you should use a shower cap and that would protect your ears. And maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sit down…Just in case.” She finished brushing her hair and went over to the bed.
Johnny watched her feeling guilty he could not help her. As if reading his mind, she turned over so she was facing him.
“I am going to sleep so much better knowing you are here beside me. And don’t feel bad for not helping me…I am proud of the things I can do. I worked damn hard to be able to do them. There are some things I do the doctors said I never would. Like it or not, the doctors are probably right. I am now officially in what they call the maintenance stage. The nerves and muscles aren’t gonna get better so we work at keeping them at the level they are now. That means I use them. So you see it’s good for me to do things for myself.” She leaned over closer and kissed him. Now we both need some sleep. Luv ya.”
“Love you . Sweet dreams.”
“Hi… We were wondering if you had plans for lunch.”
“No. Johnny ‘s still having some balance problems so we aren’t going out.”
“Well, would you like some company for lunch? Which we are bringing.”
“That would be fine. I have coconut cream and butterscotch pie for dessert. About what time?”
“Is 11:30 too early?” Jo inquired. “Roy figured Johnny was getting bored by now.”
“He’s asleep because he’s bored with TV and having trouble reading. It made him dizzy this morning. Actually 11:30 will work out great with his med schedule. He did copies of the ski pictures the other day so the girls can make their scrapbooks. We need to do another week end trip. The forecasters are saying the skiing will be good until mid March.”
“You know the game shows are almost as boring as the soap operas and the talk shows are the worst.” Johnny complained. “I’m bored with everything.”
“Well, Roy and Jo are bringing lunch over in about an hour and a half. Sorry you are so bored with me.”
“It’s not you, it’s me. I can’t even read for more than 10 minutes without getting dizzy. Doc said this would clear up in a week. My ear still is draining…not as much but …”
“Tomorrow you see Kel. While you are seeing him I’m gonna be up in my office unless you want me to stay with you.”
“No, I’m a big boy. And I will tell you everything Kel says. I don’t think I’m going back to work next shift .” He looked so sad and defeated, her heart was breaking for him. “Can’t be a paramedic if you can’t bend over or climb into the squad.”
“John Roderick, if your ear is still draining then you still have an infection in it…”
“The dizziness and balance thing is getting worst not better. Before even when I was impatient I knew things were getting better.”
“Patience is the only virtue you are lacking my love…Well if we are having company for lunch I need to change clothes…anything you need before I do?”
“How about a kiss? I still can do that without getting dizzy.”
“Your kisses make me dizzy. Tomorrow, maybe Kel will have some answers.” After they kissed she went into the bedroom and changed into a nice sweater and slacks. She sighed as she brushed her hair, It had gotten too easy to just slip on sweats when she knew she wasn’t going out of the house.
They had a nice lunch from their favorite Chinese restaurant. Seeing Roy and hearing about the guys seemed to improve Johnny’s mood. They had all called and Cap and Emily had stopped over for a few minutes one night bringing Johnny some of Emily’s beef and noodles.
“Bring me the first aid kit and a towel.” Jo left the kitchen and went to the closet where the kit was. Lee grabbed a kitchen towel from the drawer.
“Yes, in the freezer in the pantry.” Lee answered as she started towards the pantry then stopped.
“Jo, will you get it? I think he moved it to the top shelf.” Jo gave Roy the kit and then went to the freezer. “How bad is it?”
“I’m ok.. .don’t ….fuss.”
“Don’t tell me not to fuss when you’re bleeding all over the place.” Lee said with a nervous giggle.
“John, hold still.” He had put a 4x4 on the small cut and was trying to look into his eyes. “I can call the squad or I can take you to Rampart.”
“No… not going. Can’t make me.” Johnny was trying to sit up. “Staying home.”
“Honey, please, listen to Roy. For me?” Lee was trying very hard to stay calm and not add to his distress. “You have to go see Kel anyway tomorrow…just think of it as a rescheduling…And I will call to make sure its Kel or Joe…Ok?”
“For you --- Call----- Doc.” Lee went over to the phone and dialed Rampart. No one answered when she tried the office so she had the call transferred to the nurses’ desk in ER.
“Rampart Emergency, Nurse McCall.”
“Dixie, thank God…Johnny fell…he won’t come in unless he can see Kel or Joe.”
“They are both here. Do you need an ambulance?”
“No, I think Roy can manage him. Roy and Jo were here for lunch…”
Dixie waited for Kel to come out of treatment room 3. Dixie motioned for him to come over to the desk.
“What’s up?” He was looking through a chart. “You look worried.”
“Lee just called. Johnny fell and they are bringing him in. Roy and Jo were there for lunch. Said he wouldn’t come in if you or Joe weren’t here. She sounded pretty frazzled.”
“Set up in treatment 4... And make sure there is pneumatic otoscope in there. Sounds like there maybe a problem with that ear…He was suppose to be in for a checkup tomorrow”
Lee and Jo were up in her office while Roy was in the treatment room with Johnny. Roy had told Dixie that Johnny’s anxiety level was high and she had suggested to Kel it was probably a good idea to let Roy stay.
“Ok, what happened?” Kel asked as he checked the 2 inch cut above Johnny’s eye. “You’re going to have a nice multicolored eye for awhile. But I don’t think it needs stitches.”
“I told them I was ok.” Johnny was still pouting. “I moved too fast and got dizzy. That’s been happening a lot this week. Sometimes I think it’s getting worst not better.” Kel could hear the frustration in his voice. “Even reading is getting harder. Riding in the elevator stets off the dizziness and nausea. And I don’t dare try the steps Do you have any idea how frustrating it is not to be able to tie your shoes without getting dizzy and sick to your stomach?”
“I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but I think we need to get you back in here and hooked up to an IV. Before you say no, hear me out. What if you stay here a couple of hours at least until we get one bag of antibiotics in you. I’m going to send more fluid down to the lab to get cultures on.”
“Johnny the longer this goes on the harder it’s gonna be to get cleared up. Not to mention the possibility of damaging your hearing.” Roy said as he added incentive for him to stay. “Lee can stay and work or I can take her home and come back for you later today. In the long run what’s going to be best for you and her.” Roy knew it wasn’t playing fair using Lee against him. But he also knew it was the best way to get the pouting paramedic to cooperate.
“Ok. But not the night.”
“Fine we’ll move you up to an observation room. Roy’ll let Lee know and once we get you settled she can come visit you.”
“Doc, if this thing doesn’t clear up. Could I lose my hearing?”
“We aren’t going to let it get that bad.” He left to make arrangements for the tests and room.
“Pally, go talk to her…tell her I’ll see her soon.” Laying there with his eyes closed so the room would stop spinning. “Lee…she’s been so supportive but there is something sad in her eyes…even before this ear crap.”
“Once she knows you’re ok she‘ll be fine.”
“She’s worried about me and all this talk about Lame Deer. She was afraid it would make the nightmares come back.”
“Have they?” Roy sat down on the stool.
“One or two. More than the nightmares is the old insecurities. Remembering how my aunts would act if they had to call in a doctor, complaining about how much it cost to get medicines, feeding me…clothes...making fun of my stutter and how I shamed them being a half breed and how I killed my mom…I almost wish we had just sent the checks and plaques to Lame Deer. She never says much about it anymore.”
“Maybe when you feel better you two need to sit down and talk about it.”
“Yeah I think so. Need to make her understand why I have to go back…Didn’t before but now it’s time.”
Lee and Jo were reading grant applications. It was the only thing Lee could settle down to do. Jo was a good sounding board for her, asking good questions and making good comments. Lee smiled for the first time since they had been in the office.
“Would you like a job? Working for WBSF as one of my personal assistants?” Lee asked. “Vi is moving to Arizona, her husband got transferred. Nita only works part time since she is going to school and is getting ready to quit since she’ll be doing her internship …I could really use someone I trust. You could work from home and do as much or as little each day you wanted…On days Roy was home I wouldn’t expect you to read.”
“I’d have to talk to Roy before I could say yes.” Jo was finding the prospect interesting.
“I’ll set it up like I did with the other two, salary rather than by the hour. Some weeks they got more to do than others so it made it consistent for them. $200 a week if that sounds fair to you?” (Lee took no salary since it was figured into the foundation budget, she paid her assistants from that.)
“More than fair.” Jo looked her friend. “You know it’s gonna be ok. Roy would have called the squad if he thought it was serious.”
“I’m scared, I’m tired of being scared but I think I have forgotten how not to be scared. It’s a different kind of scared. It’s like something I did is going to come back and ruin everything.
Something that I did…that he won’t forgive me for.”
“You are just letting your imagination run away with you. There is nothing you could do that would ruin things between you. Even if you walked away from this marriage he would still love you and take all the blame. And we both know that isn’t going to happen.”
“What isn’t going to happen?” Roy said as he came into the office.
“What did Kel say?” Lee asked ignoring his question on purpose.
“He is getting an IV of antibiotics but is not staying the night. They swabbed the ear to get another culture and he is up in one of the observation rooms.” He didn’t say anything about the talk they had. It was more like one of their therapy sessions. And that was Johnny’s call if he shared it. “Told him I would take you home or you could stay here and work and I would come back for you later.”
“Go on home. The kids will be home4 soon and I’ve already ruined enough of your day.”
“How did you ruin our day?”
I should have been able to get him here on my own. I’ll talk to you all later. What room?”
They went down to the room together as Jo wanted to say good bye to Johnny. Jo wanted to go say a quick goodbye. They left with Lee promising to call later.
“So, do you want me to bring down a book for you to read or some tapes and the little tape player?”
“No, I’m ok. Kind of tired.” Johnny answered truthfully. He had had a restless night. “You getting a lot done up there?”
“Yeah…There is some new information in I need to log in and run the numbers on. So did you get stitches?”
“Nope not this time. You mad at me?”
“Never …never for being sick or getting hurt. Especially, when it’s not your fault. It’s my fault, the only person I can be mad at is myself.”
“How is any of this your fault? Sometimes I don’t understand you and the way you think.”
“But you always love me?” She gave him one of her special smiles.
“Always. Tell me how this is your fault?” He opened his eyes and looked straight at her. “Is that what has made you look so sad?”
“Didn’t know I did. I broke a very important promise I made. And then something bad happened to you…so it’s my fault.” She put her hands over her face. “I made God a promise and asked if I did break my promise He would punish me not the people I loved when I did. I guess He decided the best way to punish me is to hurt those I love.”
“I don’t think God makes bargains like that. Besides, I can’t imagine what you did that was so bad.”
Johnny watched her face, she looked like a scared six year old. “Did you break one of your marriage vows?”
“NO!” She gasped. “How could you even think that?” The tears that had been threatening flooded her eyes.
“Lee, I was teasing…It was a bad joke…Please, Baby girl, don’t cry.
“Thank you for loving me so much that you can forgive me for my bad temper .”
“Thank you for loving me enough to worry about me. You, Roy, Jo the guys at the station…That’s my real family and has been for a long time. Aunt Rose she tried but there was too much pain in me to really let her. You know, since we’ve been talking, I think a lot of that old hurt and distrust is gone. We’re gonna get through this Baby girl. All of this…your broken promise, my ear infection and the Lame Deer trip.
“Why did you distrust her?” Lee asked amazed they were having such a serious conversation under the circumstance.
“She was so kind and good…reminded me of my mom and my dad. I guess I was waiting for her to leave me too or get feed up with all my problems. I’d hear Tiffany and Josh talking but it was if it were my aunts just in different bodies. The words and the feelings were the same.”
“I wish I had a magic pill or something that could erase all the bad memories. All I can do is hopefully make enough good ones for you that’ll replace the bad ones.”
“You’ve made a good start of it.” He said yawning. “Let’s see if I can sleep without any bad dreams, just dreams of me and you.”
“Go to sleep, sweet and peaceful dreams , Boyo.”
An hour later Kel came in. Johnny was asleep Lee was reading.
“You look tired.” Kel said as she closed the book. “That should be done in another half hour. “
“Kel, why is he so tired all the time? He has slept more this last few days I ever remember him sleeping. Everything just seems to be such an effort.”
“He still has an infection in his system. His white blood count is still too high. If it’s not better in a week we may have to consider a transfusion. Two of the bacteria responded well to the other antibiotics but two haven’t. The ear is still pretty tender and there was a fluid buildup which was probably causing most of the dizziness.”
“I think he runs a low grade fever at night sometimes. He has been restless and achy.”
“These new antibiotics should help and we’ll have you bring him back in three days…If we need to we’ll lance the ear again. I can recommend a ENT specialist if you want.”
“No, he wouldn’t be happy with that. He wasn’t coming in today if he couldn’t see you or Joe. In the mood he was in there was no way he was going to let Mike near him. He mentioned how Mike and some of the nurses acted that day. Would it have made a difference if Mike had checked him out?”
Once the antibiotics had been administered Johnny and Lee went home. Roy had came when they called and he had made sure Johnny got into the apartment and settled in his recliner, Lee made them some dinner then cleaned the kitchen . She went into the bedroom expecting to find him asleep but he was sitting up watching TV. She quickly got ready for bed. He turned off the TV and laid down as she got into bed.
“Think you can scoot over this way? So you can put your head on my shoulder Or do I need to move over?”
“You’re perfect where you are.” She let out a contented sigh as she snuggled into the hollow of his shoulder. His arm going across her puling her tightly to him.
“Now, Mrs. Gage, we are going to finish our conversation from this afternoon.”
“Do we have to? I just want to lay here and feel so safe and loved…like nothing can ever hurt us again.”
“That’s why we need to have this finished. I think its keeping things inside that gives them the power to hurt us. Once I started talking about the feelings and the fear and sadness they lost the power to hurt. I still have the nightmares once in awhile but near as often. Now tell me about the promise you broke.”
She snuggled down even closer to him moving so her ear was over his heart. “When I was little we had a nanny who helped my mom with me and Sara. Momma did it most of the time but with being the colonels’s wife and the teacher…any way Kalii liked Sara better than me. She said I was a bad child with no respect. I wasn’t a really bad kid, I was just independent and curious.”
“Imagine that.” He kissed her lightly. “Go on.”
“ Anyway, she thought the world resolved around Sara. And when momma and daddy and Sara went to Paris I stayed with Kathy’s parents. Kathy was with her grandparents in California at school then. Her mom and dad were my parent’s best friends. When they were getting ready to get on the plane I gave my mom a hug and Sara but I wouldn’t give my dad one. I told him I hoped he had a terrible vacation and he would be sorry he left me. And I turned my back and wouldn’t watch the plane leave. I didn’t know that was the last time I would ever see them. After Kathy’s dad told me I just sat there. I couldn’t cry…It was like there was nothing but cold blackness.” She shivered and he tightened his hold on her. “Then Kallii started screaming at me. I killed her missy Sara…I put a curse on them because I was bad evil child…I was jealous because Sara was so pretty and I was so plain. Lily and Bill sent her away and told me she was just a superstitious old woman. Lily would read from my mom’s journals to me, especially the parts where she talked about how much she loved me and how they thought I was so smart and beautiful…Then Jeff came and got me and him and my grandfather and Matt became my family. And you know about Jeff going to court and fighting for me when the social worker wanted to take me away from him and he hired Maria. ...One day Bobby Nathanson was teasing me calling me little orphan Lee the girl no one wanted. Cisco hit him...told him not to talk about his little sister like that…that’s when he started calling me little one or little sister.”
“So where does this promise fit in?”
“The day of the wreck. Jeff picked me up and we were going to go buy a car. I wanted a red mustang and we were going to go pick it up. We never got there. But on the way I was arguing with him. I was so mad and was being such a brat. I had gotten in trouble when he found out I had went sky diving.
So he had made me wait to get my car. We were arguing because I wanted to go to a party at the frat house where one of the guys I tutored lived. I told Jeff he was being mean and unfair. That he didn’t want me to have friends and be popular. That was so unfair to him. He had always done whatever he could for me.
He taught me to ski so I could go on ski trips with kids I went to the academy with, he would go surfing with me, he was even teaching me to play the guitar. He was paying attention to me and trying to drive and he didn’t see the man with the gun. Maybe if I hadn’t been such a brat he would have been able to avoid being shot. Even afterwards when he was hurt so bad he was worried about me…I remember he kept telling people to take care of me first.
They told Maria and Hector they didn’t know if he would survive the second surgery and when they told me…I prayed and promised God I would never again get so angry at someone I loved if He let Jeff live. I thought my punishment was to be in that wheel chair and because I was jealous and mad at my baby sister I could never have a baby to love And then I met you and knew you wanted a family so bad…And then I broke my promise, was so mad at you for wanting to go to Lame Deer without me I didn’t care what you would think or feel if I walked away from you.”
“And I was so mad I didn’t care…I just wanted you to understand how I felt. I broke my promise and you got so sick.” She had moved so she was laying with her head on his shoulder. He turned so he was looking down at her.
“None of this is your fault. None of those things were your fault. It’s all going to be ok. Kel said this infection is stubborn but we’ll beat it. And the Lame Deer stuff…that’ll work out. Now, let’s get some sleep.
End Part 1
To be continued
Post to Site 03/13/13
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